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Cold Water Immersion Workshop

The Kayak Academy has started a tradition of starting off the new year cold. Jan 1, 2010 was the second year that they got a group together down at Lake Sammamish for a “cold water immersion” workshop. Twenty-eight of us showed up to brave the cold temperatures. The day was actually fairly warm, 42-48 degrees, (which is warm when decked out in kayak gear) but the water was chilly, around 38 degrees.

We started out practicing rescues with no gloves on. Brrrrr! It is amazing what a difference gloves can make. The second my hands hit the water the first time they were prickly with the cold. After all the rolling I’ve been doing over the last year it was strange to actually wet exit! It was good to practice rescues again and Richard did a good job of getting me back in my kayak.

After a bit of practice it was time for a longer immersion: we all walked into the water to see how long we could last in the cold (photo from Barb Sherill/Gronseth).

Group immersion

Everyone was allowed to wear what they felt would keep them warm. I wore what I would typically wear while kayaking so I had a fleece liner on inside my dry suit. I did also wear a short sleeve poly pro top under the fleece to help keep my core warm.

With all of the Greenland style kayaking I’ve been doing, I decided to wear my tuilik. So on top of my dry suit I wore an inflatable PFD and then my tuilik. It is a pretty thick neoprene and covers me pretty well from head to knees. I had a lot of air trapped inside my tuilik so I bobbed near the surface easily (I'm not standing!). (Photo from Barb Sherill/Gronseth) 

Tuilik Immersion

I typically have a problem with cold hands and toes so I wasn’t surprised when those start to get cold. I was wearing neoprene gloves and my hands were much warmer than they were without gloves previously. One of our fearless leaders, Bob, had us doing things that might cause us to be colder. At times we had to keep our hands under water, we had to swim around or keep our feet straight down, and also dunk our heads as if waves were washing over us.

Everyone managed to stay in the water for at least 20 minutes. The record last year was apparently 22 minutes (the air temperature was a lot colder last year) but the record this year was about 40 minutes. I actually stayed fairly warm. After about 30 minutes I was ready to get out of the water, but I definitely think I could have lasted a lot longer. In my tuilik was pretty warm in general. To keep my legs warm, I pulled my knees up into the tuilik and pushed my toes into the rim of the tuilik, the part that goes around the cockpit. With such thick neoprene the cold didn’t penetrate too badly. I do wonder how it compares to wearing the typical life jacket and spray skirt. (Photo from Barb Sherill Gronseth)

Richard immersion 

After the immersion exercise, we warmed up a bit then went back out to practice a few more rescues. This time, the goal was to get the swimmer out of the water as quick as possible. Richard did an awesome job of this, having me get on the bow of his kayak while he dumped the water out before I got back in. (Photo from Sean Watson) btw - if you're hoping to learn from the photo below, just leave your feet in the water, you'll balance much better, I was just playing around and keeping my toes warmer by keeping my feet up.

Cold water rescue

I was also impressed that when I decided to pretend that I was unconscious. Richard managed to get me back into my kayak rather quickly with no assistance from me!

Overall it was a fun day and great practice for cold water. It certainly wasn’t as cold as Greenland, but then I didn’t get in the water for long periods of time over there.

For additional footage of this event, you can see some video another participant posted:
CmdrKayak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKE7vx7kQ2k