Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wind and clothing

I spent this morning paddling. I have had very little time to paddle in the past few months. In part because my free time has been spent editing video, which I will be doing more of tomorrow morning, and in part because I have been working a tremendous amount. I only had a little time this morning and when I got to the water it was cooler and windier than I thought it would be. I was under dressed and the majority of my paddling clothing was at home. I would have put my dry suit on, if I had it with me, but I didn't, so I had to improvise.

There was a fleece in my car but while that would keep me warm it wouldn't protect me from wind or water. I had a shell jacket - the eVent Shuksan jacket by REI - and I decided to try it out as a paddling jacket. I put it on, then my skirt then my PFD. It was absolutely the perfect layer. I wish REI would make a paddling jacket out of this wonderfully breathable material but alas, they don't. It was light, and comfortable and with the cuffs velcro'd tight it worked well as a paddling jacket.

And it got me to thinking about paddle gear. While I have lovely paddling pants and jackets that I sometimes use instead of my dry suit - in the in between seasons like it is now in the American south they work beautifully - what if your new to paddling, and you don't want to spend what could easily be several hundred dollars on paddle specific clothing? A lot of the clothes you have for other outdoor activities could work double duty. As I mentioned the shell jacket I had worked really well. A pair of rain pants could work as splash pants, though I would put the bottoms of the legs inside a rubber boot or mukluks of some sort because they will absolutely get wet on the inside which wouldn't be too comfortable. Under my dry suit I already wear non-paddling-specific base layers. Patagonia capilene works beautifully, as does smart wool or the REI power dry. I have always used mid weight base layers designed for hiking, when I paddle and they perform amazingly well. Wicking moisture, insulating and drying quickly. Paddling in Alaska close to glaciers I go to a heavy weight or capilene 4 as the water - and therefore the interior of the kayak - gets much colder.

This morning I spent my time - what I had of it - playing in high winds. Those of you who have read this blog know that I like to play in the wind on my local waters. I find that it gives me a higher level of comfort when the water gets big to have spent time learning how my kayak performs, and in short 'acts' when subjected to wind from all points of the compass. I enjoyed seeing how she paddles and how strokes that I use work and didn't work when 17 feet of kayak is getting pushed by high winds. For instance the cross bow rudder that I use frequently for quick turns wasn't as nearly effective trying to turn a kayak that is getting pushed around by the wind. I am watching the wind and how it effects the surface of the water, and the trees on the shore. The noise it makes, the sound of the leaves. Over time this will give you reference to what conditions feel like when you hear and see certain things. I also like to look for wind lines created by land because it gives me a good 'edge' of wind and no wind to play with. How much will my kayak jump when I hit that line? This was useful in Alaska when we crossed the entrance to the Stikine river. We could see the line, where the ocean and river met, and while I wasn't sure, it looked like other lines I had paddled through, and in fact ended up being very similar in feel. You have to spend time in your kayak, in all kinds of water, and weather, and wind to get a feel for how your kayak - and you - will react. Remember the ten thousand hours. More video in a few days.

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