Wake Forest, North Carolina — When winter offers a few mild to warm days, some water sports enthusiasts take out their canoes and kayaks. It could be a risky decision for the unprepared. Falling into cold water can quickly turn into a life-threatening event.
Water sports safety advocates warn that the air temperature above the surface of the water has nothing to do with the cold below.
On Christmas Day 2021 in Wake County, the air temperature was 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Underwater at Falls Lake it was between 50 and 60 degrees. This is half the heat the body needs to survive for six hours. Between 35 and 45 degrees underwater, the chances of survival decrease by half.
“In winter, we’re probably talking about 40 degrees Fahrenheit water right now, and water removes heat from your body much faster than air,” said Larry Ausley, who teaches and writes about safety. water sports.
He understands what can happen after a fall in freezing water without the proper protective gear. “The first is a gasp reflex that you have absolutely no control over,” Ausley said.
He says you quickly lose control of your muscles. “And after that you really start thinking about hypothermia and losing core temperature.”
Ausley recommends wearing a lifejacket whenever you’re on the water and a drysuit over warm clothing in colder seasons. He says it’s essential in cold weather if you want to be out on the water.
“In a drysuit you can really stay in the water and stay in that exposure a lot longer than you can in a wetsuit,” Ausley said. Staying warm, dry, close to shore and close to others is key to a great paddle sports experience.
The Carolina Canoe Club and Carolina Kayak Club are offering cold water safety clinics Saturday, February 5 at the Falls Lake Community Center and Sunday, February 6 on the Cape Fear River in Erwin.