Q: Is there an age limit? A: We currently only take paddlers 12 years old and above out onto the water. Paddlers between 12 and 17 years will need guardian's signature on the waiver form prior to the first practice. Other than that, there is no upper bound to how old you can paddle. We've had paddlers who are 78 years old and counting!
Q: What shall I wear to go paddling? A: Paddling is a water sport and you will get splashed. Wear shoes that can get wet. Wear layers to help stay warm in the cold weather - cotton is not recommended. If it is cold or raining, then rain gear is appropriate. In the colder months, bring gloves that can get wet - many paddlers use neoprene gloves, but any gloves will help to keep your hands warm. Bring along dry clothes to change into after paddling.
Q: Where can I buy appropriate clothing and gear for paddling? A: Some people start off buying their paddling clothing at a thrift store! Until you know what works for you and whether paddling is a sport that you'll stay with, this makes a lot of sense. But when you're ready, you can find great paddling clothing and gear at places like the following online resources: http://www.nrsweb.com/ http://www.mec.ca http://www.rei.com
Q: Isn't it dark when you go out evenings in the winter? A: Yes - it is dark by the time we get on the water, the lights of the city are beautiful and the water is generally calm. We have lights on the boats when we go out during winter evenings.
Q: Do you go out in any type of weather? A: We paddle rain or shine. Although if there are severe storm conditions, then practice will be canceled.
Q: What special things should I know about paddling in winter and gearing up for winter? A: Here are some winter paddling tips:
Take extra care in and around the boats and docks in winter. Things can be slippery and even icy. Pay particular attention on the dock as well as the ramp down to the boats. The moss gets slippery on the docks when wet, and the ramp to the dock can ice up quickly without looking like there’s any ice on it at all. Use the hand rails provided and s-l-o-w i-t d-o-w-n.
Use the "Buddy System" in and around the parking lot. Make sure no one is ever left alone after dark while changing or getting ready to leave. Hang around and make sure you leave together.
When you're thinking about gearing up for winter, the first tip is to find a larger gear bag. Experienced paddlers just bring all their gear and then make an on-site decision about what to wear out on the water. Think about dressing for temperatures 20 degrees warmer than what the outside thermometer is telling you. Using this rule-of-thumb will help you avoid over-heating in the boat once underway. Don’t worry about getting wet. You cannot stay dry in this sport because you’ll be perspiring inside of whatever waterproof covering you put on over the top. The goal should be to remain comfortable in wind, rain and chill. Stay away from anything containing cotton. When cotton gets wet and cold it has the same effect on you. The old adage among outdoorsy types is: “cotton kills”. Keep your head warm with a hat of some kind. Fleece or wool stocking hats are good. Remember, you can lose up to 40% of your body heat through your head.
Dress in layers. It’s best to have something tight next to your skin, preferably a dry-wicking fabric of some sort as a base layer. Then try a fleece vest or top over that. If it’s raining a Gore-Tex parka is always good, but anything that will cut the chilling effects of a cold wind will work too, even a lightweight wind-breaker. There are also long-sleeved dry-wicking tops (as well as pants and shorts) available. These are often thicker than base layer pieces and are fuzzy on the inside for added warmth. You can make it through the winter nicely with a long-sleeve mid to heavy weight dry wicking top and a waterproof parka.
Any kind of shoes will work in the winter. One common option is to continue wearing water shoes or sandals, but add a pair of neoprene socks to the mix.
Gloves are easy. The water in Lake Union remains fairly temperate through most of the year. You can get by with garden-type gloves for about 75% of the year. Some paddlers never bother with them. When we get into freezing temperatures, however, you may want to pick up a pair of “Eagle Claw” or “Sterns” neoprene gloves available at larger sporting goods stores. Another product called “Seal Skinz” will keep your hands even dryer. Whatever you choose, just make sure your gloves have a good "grip" when wet or they'll give you problems gripping your paddle on the water.
You will be at your coldest while we’re stretching and warming up before practice, and then after practice when you get out of the boat and head for your car. Think about having a change of clothing available. Another option might be a warm-up type suit for the ½ hour we spend stretching and talking at each practice…something that can be quickly and easily removed.
Finally, things don’t dry out as quickly in the winter. If you let your damp gear sit around it can develop some really funky odors. Best solution is to wash your gear regularly with Oxy-Clean. Neoprene material and shoes should be soaked in the stuff overnight prior to washing. Don’t forget to rinse off your PFD with a garden hose occasionally too. That’ll keep it somewhat fresh and clean. Hang your stuff up to dry or toss it in the dryer. Wet stuff lying around can smell really funky in a short period of time.