This is a very common question the answer to which depends on a few factors, such as the time of year, the risk associated with the activity being undertaken, your susceptibility to the cold, and how accident prone you might be.
Let’s start off with how accident prone you might be.
There is no doubt that learning to kayak or canoe for some people can be a very wet experience, yet it is reasonable to say that most people who go out in a canoe or a kayak seldom ever fall in, odds should be stacked against the beginner, but that is not always the case. If falling in often, is what you do, we will have failed if we don’t get you falling in a lot less by the end of your first lesson.
What really matters to us is what happens if you do fall in, what impact will this have on you, and are we exposing you to unacceptable risk?
Let’s now look at your susceptibility to the cold.
It has always surprised me how many people can jump in a cold lake or even the sea and claim how warm it is, some of us can cope with cold water and some of us can’t so it is reasonable to assume that we are all different and if you are one of us cold bloodied types then you will need to wrap up warmer because you are more susceptible to the cold, and if you are anything like me, you don’t need to get wet to get cold, a gentle breeze is sometimes enough.
Activities that increase your need for a wetsuit.
I can assure you if you are Rafting you are getting wet, SUP boarding highly likely to get wet, kayaking less so and an open canoe least. We are selective as to which activities we offer and when we offer them. It would be irresponsible of us if we exposed you to unacceptable risk, we also want you to have an enjoyable experience, this does not include you getting hypothermia on your first visit, equally we would not wish you to get heatstroke because we have recommended you wear a wetsuit on the hottest day of the year.
So, when is it acceptable to wear a wetsuit?
We will supply you a wetsuit when we know the water temperature is too cold, in case you fall in. We will also supply you a wetsuit when the activity you are doing is likely to result in you falling in too frequently, as most of us can cope with one swim but might not cope to well with repeated swims.
If you are doing an activity where you are likely to be a distance from the shore or where there is an increased risk that you will be in the water for longer than one minute, then we will supply you a wetsuit. We will also supply you a waterproof jacket that you wear over the wetsuit and finally a buoyancy aid that will keep you warmer still.
We would recommend wetsuits for Rafting and Sup Boarding in April, May as the water is slow to warm and October as the water is also slow to cool. Whatever the temperature your instructor will advise you whether you need a wetsuit and if they deem it necessary, they will supply you a wetsuit for your activity. This does not prevent you from bringing your own wetsuit, though we recommend a wetsuit with no arms, as armless wetsuits are the easier suits to paddle in, as they do not restrict shoulder movements.
We have access to an extensive range of wetsuit sizes, so it is important to select the right size, the suit should be close fitting otherwise when you fall in it won’t do what it’s supposed to do, and you will quickly become cold.
How does a wetsuit work?
Wetsuits are made out of neoprene rubber and are designed to insulate you from the cold and keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water between you and the suit, therefore you should avoid wearing anything more than a pair of nylon shorts, swimming costume and a rash vest under your suit as clothing capable of absorbing water will absorb more than a desired quantity of water which your body will struggle to make warm.
It is important to recognise when fitting a suit that it is reasonably tight across the chest, but not so tight that it restricts breathing, and not baggy in the legs as this will encourage flush through of water instead of trapping water in the suit. Any warmed water will simply be replaced by more cold water, and you will get cold.
People who get cold doing watersports don’t have so much fun, and our aim is to maximise your enjoyment by keeping you warm throughout your activity.
If you have any questions about wetsuits and whether you should wear one on any particular day, ask your course or activity instructor before you get changed for the session.
Equally if you become cold during a session let your instructor know, then they can do something about it.
Remember to stay warm and have fun!