Summoning The Motivation To Paddle In The Winter

by | February 15, 2017

Summoning the motivation to paddle in the winter

Paddling and surfing in the winter is quite common here in Missoula, Montana, and, crazy as it seems, it’s one of my favorite times of the year to enjoy the river. There is a feeling of hardiness when you slip on your wetsuit or cold PFD while snow is at your feet, ice is floating in the river, and the air you’re breathing is frosty. Wintertime paddling is not for the faint of heart. But once that cold water splashes you in the face, you get a sudden sense of appreciation and self-awareness that reminds you that it’s all totally worth it.

Here are some creature comforts that will make paddling in the winter much more enjoyable.


No doubt, the right gear makes all of the difference. It also makes winter river sports enjoyable. If I’m cold, I’m miserable.  

Winter kayaking gear (on top of the year-round essentials): skull cap, drysuit, synthetic layers, neoprene mittens, and paddle wax.

Winter surfing gear: 5/4 wetsuit, 5/4 booties, and 5/4 mits.  


It’s definitely harder to motivate when you’re rolling solo in the wintertime. Finding a friend to go with is not only a good idea from a safety standpoint, but is also great for holding you accountable when you might want to bail.


Your body is working hard out there to stay warm. Having some hot tea or coffee at the truck sure is nice for after your icy surf session. If beer is your thing, there is nothing more enjoyable than a warm PBR on a cold day.


Having a dry surface to stand on is clutch for getting dressed and changing. Really, any barrier between you and the ground will work. I recommend using an old foam sleeping pad, door mat, or car mat. It’s also a great way to keep your gear clean and in good shape.  Of course the changing robe (aka, the snuggie) is also a great piece of gear to have. It serves as a towel and private changing room, all in one.  


It’s cold! So don’t beat yourself up if your winter sessions aren’t as productive as your summer sessions. Just be stoked that you motivated to get out on the water.