How to survive winter kitesurfing

“If I hadn’t realized my zipper was open, I would not be here.” – Marko Marjamaa

My previous article, Extreme Winter Kitesurfing, shed the light on the freezing conditions some Kitesurfers put themselves through just to get out on the water (or the ice, in some cases!) I interviewed these brave Kitesurfers again, and asked them how they survive these conditions and how they motivate themselves! I got cold just writing this!

 

Marko Marjamaa, Finland

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I believe the key to happiness is to have some opposites. The food tastes the best when hungry. The ‘normal’ life feels better after some kiting. It takes some learning to develop that kind of mindset that you can feel the cold and be rational about it. But still, if my hands get cold and once they get warm again, it’s really a painful feeling. I also do some kayaking, rollerblading and floorball but kitesurfing is nr1. It was pure joy when I started kiting again last December.

There has been one close call. I was in Hanko Tulliniemi alone and I was about to get into water but felt like something was wrong and I could feel too much fresh air inside my drysuit. My drysuits zipper was open… I had my kite high and asked some jogger to close the zipper. Then I rode a while, and my power line snapped off and I was quite far out, around 700m from the shore. My kite was still up, but I could not steer it. So I just used it to drag me slowly (there was not much wind) to the shore. If I hadn’t realized my zipper was open, I would not be here.

 

 

An Ja Fux, Austria

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How do I survive it? Yes that’s a good question … sometimes I can’t even explain this to myself! On super cold days I only go for one session, as long as I can stand the cold. Sometimes this is no more than 30 minutes up to an hour. It depends on what you wear – I tried it with sometimes a drysuit the last seasons, but to be honest I don’t like it at all, because I feel like a TeleTubbie in it and I can’t move properly, so I suppose I’m cooling down even faster with a drysuit. So I prefer a normal 5/4/3 wetsuit with gloves and thin neoprene socks and my boots (which feels much warmer than straps!). And I always wear a special neoprene lined surf beanie. Having your head protected from the wind helps a lot! And also when kiting in cold conditions I have to eat more, especially carbs which make me feel very comfortable and refill my energy. One very important tip is to hide from the wind when you’re out of the water, otherwise the wind-chill will cool you down immediately. I’m always jumping around when I’m on the beach, just to keep me as warm as possible. And then after the session I get into the warmth – in the preheated bus or a café or whatever.

Usually I don’t need to motivate myself for kitesurfing, because even in the winter I prefer it to snowboarding or skiing! The only thing that really gets on my nerves is that in the cold you can’t really progress because practising new tricks is not very wise as it’s super dangerous when you have to swim and collect everything together in the cold water. So it’s more about reeling off your standard program and just enjoying the ride, being one with nature and especially enjoying the stoked feeling afterwards! Compared with summer sessions it’s much more adventurous to kite in the cold. I’d say I never had a chilly session which was not worth it.

(Check out her handmade surf beanies here: www.haubinger.at)

 

 

Imants Felsbergs, Latvia

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Since we all enjoy kiting it is not that hard to get motivation. And once you have right attitude and gear – there is not much difference.

Although only a small fraction of Latvian kiteboarders kite when temperatures are super low. The secret to winter kiting is just doing everything quick (getting gear on, pumping, going out and kiting), doing no breaks during your session to keep yourself warm and most importantly getting the right gear on. Regarding the gear there are 2 main categories – Drysuit people and Wetsuit people. The reality is that wetsuits have gotten so good, for your 2h session you don’t really need a drysuit. It is just an unnecessary expense and if it leaks it is even more dangerous as you might quickly freeze in water if you end up without your kite. The photo above was the first time I tried a drysuit, but for me a wetsuit still works much better and is overall safer. As regards to gear – I feel that currently the best options is to go for something like Mystic majestic 5/4, Rip curl flash bomb 5/4 or similar wetsuit with wool lining inside; same for boots, gloves and hood. It is also really helpful to get a special thermo layer for watersports under your wetsuit and a windstopper jacket on top, which really allows you to maintain heat vs wind chill. And don’t forget your vests – it’s safer and also warmer.

Now with all that gear the only thing making you uncomfortable is the icey water splashing on your face and cold wind, but you get used to it quickly and then it does not bother you at all.

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