When water temperatures start to rise and ice leaves the lake, many who participate in water sports head out to the open water to once again enjoy their sport of choice. Regardless of where you live in the United States, there are many water sports that can be enjoyed in the spring. Some of the most popular activities include canoeing, kayaking, surfing, scuba diving, and fishing. You do not necessarily need 70-degree water temperature for these activities. Making some adjustments to gear and clothing, and you can enjoy water sports in cooler temperatures.
Kayaking and Canoeing
Kayaking and canoeing are some of the most popular sports to participate in, year-round in North America. Sea kayaking is particularly popular in the cooler months because, although lakes and ponds freeze, the ocean and bays will remain accessible. Spring is an ideal time to kayak or canoe. Sea kayaking off the coast will afford opportunities to explore waterways with migrating animals, breathtaking beauty and less human congestion. Potential wildlife sightings are a real draw to the sport. During the spring, whales, birds and seals migrate up the west coast back to Alaska. Gray whale sightings are particularly likely, as they move leisurely and tend to stay within 5 miles of shore. Anywhere off the coast of Oregon or Washington is an ideal location to spot migrations. Inland, with the ice melting on ponds and streams and snow melting, running rivers and streams in rafts, kayaks and canoes is some of the most exciting paddling of the season.
The North American coastline is quite extensive, varied, and experiences large tidal ranges. Great surfing conditions exist year-round, with winter bringing more consistent waves and summer bringing sporadic, but far warmer swells. Springtime can provide a balance between these extremes, which is why it’s an enticing season for many surfers. The best cold-water surfing is in New England. Rhode Island gets particularly great swells and has many small surfing communities along its 40-mile coast. Warm-water surfing is ideal in coastal California as there are many spots for varying skill levels and experience. Central California coast is particularly good for spring surfing, as waves are decently sized and only a thin wetsuit is required.
In addition to having great surfing places, New England also has some of the country’s best places to sail. With a dry suit and proper gear, heading out to the ocean as early as March is definitely an option. Alternatively, warm Gulf or California coastlines also provide a nice breeze and you don’t need cold water gear. This year’s America’s Cup is being held in San Francisco, and racing trials have already started. So, if you live nearby or are traveling to California, be sure to check out the event’s progress or even jump into a boat and test out the waters yourself!
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
In North America, diving or snorkeling can be done year round, with the proper gear. Cool climate locations include the Great Lakes, sections of the Pacific, and inland rivers and quarries. These cool-water areas often have some of the most biologically productive environments, and are also home to lots of great shipwrecks and man-made sites. Moving south, Florida and the Carolinas provide great underwater spots. Florida Springs includes over 600 freshwater springs to be explored, while North Carolina is home to the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and ragged tooth sharks. Remember to bring all necessary diving or snorkeling gear, in addition to either a wet or dry suit, depending on water temperatures.
Springtime snowmelt means fast flowing, warm, oxygenated creeks and streams. After months of ice fishing, grab your rod and head out into the nicer weather. Many fish such as walleye, bass and salmon thrive or breed in these months. Make sure to check on local regulations for licensing and other restrictions, and then head out and catch dinner!
Spring Water Sports Apparel
For all types of water sports, including kayaking, canoeing, surfing, and sailing, similar basic gear is needed, including a dry or wetsuit, layers, and extra clothes. Regardless of the sport, there are several things to remember. First of all, making sure that your body core is well insulated is a must. Secondly all clothing must retain very little water, the temperatures in spring are still cold and the water temperatures are low. Both of these conditions are prime conditions for hypothermia.
In early spring, wearing layers is often helpful to properly regulate body temperature. It’s best to wear a base layer of light, sweat-wicking fabric, a mid layer fleece for warmth, and an outer waterproof jacket or dry suit to keep water from splashing onto your inner layers and making you chilled. Depending on the sport, you may choose to wear a wetsuit instead of a dry suit. Thicker wetsuits can be used in early spring in colder water temperatures, while thinner wetsuits can be used for warmer water temperatures. One of the most important aspects when considering a wetsuit is the neoprene thickness. Thicker neoprene means more warmth, but less flexibility. If activity levels are high in a sport (such as kayaking) a thinner wetsuit is suggested, as your body creates heat from moving and your limbs need greater mobility. Fit is important to assure that a wetsuit or dry suit will work at its best. Size charts often give height, weight as well as waist and chest size. A proper fit will mean better warmth when in colder water.
Overall, cotton should be avoided as it soaks up water and reduces body temperature significantly. Hats, gloves and booties should also be warm since your body devotes a lot of blood to your head and not so much to your feet and hands. Otherwise, a cold head cools your core, and cold hands and feet become numb and painful. Packing extra clothes in a dry sack is also a good backup plan, just in case your clothes get wet or you happen to flip over in a kayak or boat. As spring progresses and the air and water temperatures warm, you can cut down on layers and switch gear. It is always important to consider the weather and time of year, and ensure that you are planning properly for conditions on the water.
Whether you are looking to get into shape before bikini season, you’re surfing in California with friends over spring break, or you want your kids to see migrating whales so close they can almost touch them, springtime water sports are your solution.