I recall starting my first Hawkesbury race in 2001 with the mercury hovering around the mid thirties, and duly setting off in a short sleeved rashie, sweating pouring down my face as I plodded along in the first couple of hours of daylight.
By the time I reached Wiseman's Ferry about a thousand hours later and hopped out of my boat I was dangerously cold. In fact, flying in the face of all we know about treating mild hypothermia I went & stood under a hot shower in the campground for half an hour in an effort to get warm again. Don't try it at home….but it seemed to do the trick!
I then put on an old bushwalking jacket & set off on the final leg through the chill of the early morning, only to arrive at the finish line as close to nude as I could manage due to the heat of the post dawn sun. See photo of above, Osama Bin Sundin, & notice the piles of clothing all over my deck, discarded layer by layer as I got colder & then hotter....
My experience is typical of a lot of first timers in the race, most paddlers don't realise just how bloody cold it can be at the foothills of the ranges overnight, and the cold does get a few every year.
This year I hope to be done & dusted before the hot sun gets a second shot, but even so a race of this type, run overnight through a part of the world which traditionally has very still, cold nights, presents some curly problems for paddling apparel.
Reed Pre-Bent PantsA few ski paddlers have been into EK buying gear for the race, and they have the extra complication of exposure on their legs & feet that we are spared in a decked kayak.
Reed Pre-Bent Long Pants have been popular for these guys, as unlike wetsuit type pants they offer a wind barrier & the same degree of insulation as a wetsuit. Another consideration in a ski is cold wet feet in a footwell with an inch or two of cold wet water for 12 hours. I reckon I have the perfect answer to that in the NRS Boundary Socks I've been using all winter on my ski.
NRS Boundary SockThey are completely waterproof, warm like a pair of socks & generous enough to allow full foot movement, without being too big to cramp your surf ski footstraps (I can't wear any form of booties in my ski due to my wide sand-friendly Polynesian feet). We don't carry these in stock but can bring them in at the same price they're advertised on the NRS site in the US, without the expensive freight to get them here.
NRS Hydrosilk PantsKayakers are at a substantial advantage in that the bottom half of our bodies are protected by a spraydeck. For me, compression and insulation are all that is required down below, so I wear NRS Hydrosilk Long Pants. They're light, tight, and unlike sports compression garments don't have an exaggerated evaporative cooling effect, in fact the opposite. I wore them on the North Reef & ODS paddles & for me, I know they work.
I'm going to race in my NRS Ninja PFD, because I love the minimalist cut & light weight. I've checked & it's also compliant with the race rules!
NRS Ninja PFDThe real thinking has to be done up top however, where your particular paddling style & output will dictate what you should wear. If you're out to finish and plan on paddling to get to the end in one piece my guess is that a barrier shell worn early on in the race would be unlikely to come off until the finish line. Our full-on sea cags like the NRS Stampede & the Reed Touring Cag are probably overkill, designed as they are for breaking seas & a wet ride.
NRS Endurance JacketThe NRS Endurance Jacket on the other hand provides a shell jacket that is designed for paddling (no underarm seams etc), is light, has a water unfriendly wrist cuff system and (and it's a BIG AND), can be put on over the top of everything you're wearing, including your PFD. I will have mine in the glovebox to pop on the moment I start to get wet & cold.
I always layer with a base Merino T, because they're warm when wet & tend to stick with you when they're moist rather than rub as you move.
On top of that I still haven't worked out if I'll start the race with a Hydroskin Jacket or a Hydrosilk Rashie. That will all depend on my two or three 4 hour shake down paddles in the fortnight leading up to the race. I am developing a plan based around my likely heart rate for the race & won't really know whether I get too hot on the Hydroskin at that rate until I've done a decent paddle over a decent period of time.
NRS HydrosilkThe other way to make sure you don't get cold of course is to fuel up. Nobody freezes in a house when the fire's going.
The products I've listed above are all available through our online store, but there are similar items in the market. Whether you buy them from us or elsewhere, or read this article & decide you've got it covered, make sure you at least have a think about what you're going to wear & of course test it thoroughly, as often as you can in the remaining time before the Classic.
I'm really enjoying the challenge of preparing for this race & can't wait for it to come around.