Although the warmth of summer is prime time for kayakers to flock to the water, it’s important to protect ourselves from sun exposure and extreme heat while we kayak our hearts out in the sunshine. Don’t make the mistake of getting heat exhaustion, becoming dehydrated, or acquiring a sunburn this season. Follow this guide to keeping cool, hydrated and protecting your skin during a kayaker’s favorite time of year: SUMMER!
Time of day
Choose a time to paddle outside of mid-day, or between 11AM or noon and 4PM (this can vary depending on your exact location). This can also be a good strategy for avoiding crowds. Consider a dusk or moonlight paddle to be fully protected from UV rays. Plus, the waterway may feel like a totally different river or lake in such different conditions and lighting. Other benefits to morning or evening paddling are a better shot at wildlife sightings and less speed boaters and jet skiers if motorized vessels are allowed.
Freezing a water bottle is also an option. Or, bring liquids in an insulated canteen like a Kleen or Hydro Flask which keeps beverages colder. Try the wide mouth option so that ice chunks can be included in the beverage as well. Drink up to double the amount of liquids you would on a less hot day. If you choose an electrolyte beverage, be sure to consume water two parts to every one part alternative beverage. Be cautious with caffeine as it dehydrates.
Food on and off the water
To prepare for the heat, eat well before you paddle and while you paddle. Foods with potassium, sodium and magnesium like bananas, melons, citrus fruits, avocados, potatoes, winter squash, leafy greens, almonds, figs, yogurt and seeds are ideal. There are many others. Be sure to eat quick nutritious snacks while paddling so you don’t get light headed or dizzy. Another on water food option is to freeze fruit, especially melon, in advance and bring that along on your paddle.
Clothing and Sunscreen
Clothing with high UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings are ideal. A sun shirt or hooded sun shirt with thumb holes is ideal for arm, torso and head coverage. Even a helmet, if not necessary for rapids, provides great head coverage from the sun and good insulation for cooling. Leggings or lightweight hiking pants are perfect for the lower half of the body. Close toed shoes, gloves, a sun hat or ball cap and a facial scarf or neck gaiter are accessories that can protect your appendages and face. For sunscreen or areas that can’t be covered by clothes, choose mineral heavy and water proof 50 or higher sunscreen and protectants. Remember to reapply the sunscreen regularly.
If you know how to roll, use this technique to cool off in the water when you get too hot. Hang out in the water for a bit until you're ready to surface. Rinse and repeat as many times as needed during your paddle outing! If you aren’t ready for a roll, use the dip and immersion strategy. Whether yourself, your hat, your shirt or your hands and toes - dip it all in the water as frequently as you need to stay cool.
Given the opportunity to paddle through a forest of mangroves or on the open water, choose the most shaded area possible. On lakes and rivers, occasionally there are trees along the shore. Traverse these spaces and enjoy the shade.
Paw protection, puppy sunblock, doggy dunking and never leaving fido in the car are just a few ideas for keeping your furry best friend safe in the sun too. Read this article from Dogs Monthly and apply it to paddling to keep your best friend safe while kayaking this summer.
To better understand the science behind staying cool on hot days, check out this article from the National Center for Cold Water Safety - Keeping you cool in the heat.