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March 13, 2007


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This is the perfect time of year to be posting this stuff, too - it's the warm air that really lulls people into letting their guard down, but the water's still...oh, I think the official description is freakin' cold.

I had a lot to learn about cold water, having grown up in Hawaii, my idea of "cold water" was a little skewed - basically in Hawaii, "cold water" is when you don't feel like swimming for more than half an hour or so.

It's funny, too, my old Hawaiian standards of cold are apparently still alive & well right alongside what I've learned over the last few years of frostbite paddling & sailing. I'd almost moved back out there once, and last night I was telling TQ about how I'd planned to pack up my Romany & take it out there, figured it would be nice for winter paddling - and I used the phrase "and I'd be all snug and warm and all the surfskis & sitatops paddlers would be all jealous as they are freezing their okoles off"...and TQ started laughing at me, and in a second I realized what I'd just said & was cracking up myself. You can take the girl out of Hawaii...

Yeah, I had a thing or twenty to learn about "freezing" when I started paddling in the wintertime. Lucky for me, the first time I was ever out on water that was probably getting to cold-shock cold (and btw COMPLETELY underdressed for it, lake paddling in PA on a lovely warm October day), it was a friend of mine who was wearing a wetsuit who flipped. It was a class, this was my first year, we were practicing edging & bracing while the instructor taped our practice for discussion that evening (when we were dry, warm, and had post-paddle drinks in hand). Edging & bracing drills like that frequently lead to capsizes if you're really committing. She came up yelping but OK with the wetsuit. I woulda been miserable in my shorts & swimsuit! I was impressed - I think it was immediately after that trip I bought my first wetsuit.

I also didn't get as much out of that class as she did 'cause once I saw that, I got very timid about pushing my own limits. Was great when I had the right gear 'cause then I could get back to some serious playing.

That must have been tough, only being able to swim for a half hour in those cold Hawaiin waters.


Several years ago an Aruban windsurfing instructor named Armando was a teacher at a Long Island windsurfing clinic. He didn't own a wetsuit, and even though the waters were beginning to cool off in late September, he didn't want to borrow one. He proclaimed that he would not fall for the entire two day clinic, and taught in shorts and no shirt.

He fell, of course, and howled in the water (we were all in 3/2 steamers.) On day two of the clinic he arrived in a wetsuit.

Good story. Any ribbing ensue?

I think those of us who have the good fortune to grow up in the tropics really just don't have any way to comprehend just how cold water can get until we either fall in ourselves, or (luckier version) watch somebody else do it for us!

When sailing alone in wide open water (especially cold water), I take great comfort in being sure to bring a cell phone (and being sure that there's good coverage where I sail...)

How does that work with the cell phone (ie where are you carrying it, and does it work when it presumably gets wet once you take it out of its case (while you're sitting on or clinging to your board)? It seems like a great safety move...I'm just trying to picture the execution.

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