Why Winter Paddling Blows

 In Adventures
Photo: Spencer Lacy

Written by: Michael Kearns

Yesterday I got off the river and couldn’t get out of my PFD, the buckles had frozen shut, my board was covered in ice and I had no feeling in my toes. When we arrived at the put in beside Bow Falls, the wind was howling and the thermometer boasted a chilly-16.   One of our air pumps had no interest in working and it wouldn’t be long before my camera let me know it wouldn’t be tolerating these conditions either.  On more than one occasion, we had to portage hundreds of meters around ice jams (not an easy thing to do with frozen fingers).  New rapids had formed as a result of the ice and significant undercuts lined the banks.     So why did we bother driving 20k up stream for a solid session of type 2 fun?    Well, if you are reading this then you are likely a paddler and you probably love exploring new lakes and rivers on your board.   It’s tough to match the feeling of being on a new body of water and discovering it for yourself.

Being on the river in winter is a little like paddling it for the first time.  Everything is different.  The trees, the mountains and the river itself all look a little different than any other season.   And if you really love paddling and you live in Canada then winter is an annual reality.  Some of us can’t stomach the idea of going 6 months without getting our boards in the water.  Now don’t get me wrong, winter paddling definitely sucks and you are more than stoked to see your car at the take out.  But when you finish something that is a little more challenging than the norm, it always feels worth it.

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