How To Manage Risks Of Watersports In Winter
Winter is almost upon us so for many of you watersports enthusiasts, that means it’s time to lay up the equipment for a few months until the spring. However, for others this is when the fun really begins as some actually enjoy the challenging conditions, quieter waters and bigger waves the colder months bring!
Having said that, there are a number of reasons why you need to take extra precautions in winter. Here, we’ll go over the main dangers of watersports in winter, as well as covering how you can mitigate those risks.
The biggest and most obvious danger when engaging in winter watersports is the colder temperatures. During winter, the water temperature drops significantly, which is the main reason many choose to wait it out for a few months.
For those who are unprepared for ice-cold temperatures, this can be a dangerous time to get in the water and the risk of hypothermia is real.
To prepare you for the colder waters, wear appropriate thermal gear, including a well-insulated drysuit. This will shield your body from the cold. Insulated gloves and socks can also keep your hands and feet warm, which can make all the difference to your comfort and safety.
Monitor your body regularly to check for signs of numbness or shivering. If you start to feel excessively cold or confused, get out of the water immediately and seek shelter and warmth.
Bad Weather Conditions
As most of us are all too aware, winter weather can be unpredictable at the best of times, with storms, snowfall and high winds seemingly becoming an increasingly common occurrence.
If you’re out on the water, these adverse conditions can create some turbulent waves, which is part of the appeal for some. However, if you’re inexperienced or underprepared without the right watersport equipment then these challenging conditions could start to become dangerous.
Keep an eye on the weather forecasts before you head off on your watersports adventure. Although strong winds could make for a great day on the waves, if heavy storms are predicted then safety should always come first.
You should also ensure that all of your equipment is suitable for challenging weather conditions and always have a reliable means of communication. For this, a waterproof phone case or radio which you can use to call for help if needed is crucial.
During the winter months, visibility can often be poor as a result of fog, rain or low light due to the sun going down earlier. This limited visibility can pose a danger, especially if you’\re partaking in watersports where there are obstacles such as rocks or cliff faces.
Likewise, if there are other people in the water who you need to navigate around then this could be a risk, too, although this is less of a concern in winter!
To counter poor visibility, there are a few precautions you can take that should make your time on the water much safer. First, equip yourself with high-visibility gear with bright colours and reflective elements so you can be easily seen.
You should also carry with you a waterproof torch to help you see in case visibility is especially bad, and always check what time it’ll go dark before you go out. Having a watch or waterproof phone so you know what time it is will ensure you’re not out on the water when it goes dark.
If you’re looking to make a full day of it, winter isn’t the best time to partake in watersports. That’s because the shorter days will inevitably cut short your time on the water!
Moreover, as we’ve already learned above, diminished visibility during dusk and dawn can increase the risk of accidents.
Our advice to help counter the shorter days is to plan your watersports activities to conclude well before the sun goes down. As pointed out above, always know what time the sun is due to set and have a way of knowing the time.
If you plan to be on the water during low-light then always have a reliable torch to help you see properly.
Although this doesn’t necessarily relate to watersports, we thought we’d include it anyway. When the temperatures are particularly low, water on lakes, rivers or ponds may ice over.
Some may be tempted to skate on this ice, but this can be extremely dangerous as it might not be thick enough to support your weight. If the ice breaks this can put you in a life-threatening situation and drowning is a real possibility, so never skate on this ice under any circumstances
There are no ways to minimise the risk here. Just don’t do it – that would be our only advice!
So those are the main risks that come with participating in watersports during the winter. As you can see, there are a few reasons why you must take extra precautions, including cold temperatures, bad weather, poor visibility and shorter days.
For some, the challenging conditions and big waves that come with winter make this the ideal time to enjoy the water. However, for others, this is a time to lay up the gear for a few months and head out when the weather has improved a little.
Ultimately, it comes down to personal choice, but having the right watersport equipment and taking these precautions should help to keep you as safe as possible.