Rick Drew from Main Beach Surf and Sport (N.Y.) shares some winter tips for being prepared for Cold Water and gives us an Update on Surf Conditions Post Hurricane Sandy
By Rick Drew
Living by the water on Eastern Long Island we are blessed with a bounty of paddling opportunities. I often think our local waters are greatly under rated when compared to other well respected paddling locations. Ocean, Bays, Inlets, Back Water, Down Wind, Salt Ponds, Rivers you name it we got it.
Photo credit - John Todaro
Yes there are 4 paddling seasons in the Hamptons and each one has a special character and beauty. Many folks paddle only during our famous Hamptons Summer months and truly miss out on so many year round paddling opportunities. Stand up Paddle (SUP) has opened the door to the paddling season early for many folks and it is refreshing to see more and more people out on the water during the quiet seasons.
Remember, it is important to dress appropriately for all watersports activities, particularly during the colder weather months. Wets suit and Dry Suit technology has come a long way with beautiful, light weight and stretchy suits being available at all price points. With Flatwater, Fitness, Touring, Racing and Training disciplines, SUP is leading the charge with the fastest growing watersport on the market. Kayaking is staging a solid comeback with strong family interest and a new interest in Kayak fishing offering a green and very nature friendly way of tackling the big ones. We usually stock a few beautiful canoes as well for the purests out there. Surf has always been the eminent domain of the hard core watersport athlete and that holds true today. Great sand bars and awesome point breaks define surfing on Eastern Long Island..
Paddles are key to any paddlesport serving as the engine to your craft. The new lightweight and superfast carbon paddles from Werner, Kialoa and Quickblade are game changers and have elevated the game of many local athletes and paddling enthusiasts. Fitness and flexibility training are important components of any paddling routine, working with a local trainer or signing up for some winter yoga classes are a great way to get ready for the upcoming paddling season.
Cold water technology has evolved to new levels in recent years. Just when you think Wet suits are so stretchy and so comfortable and so warm that you would never consider a Dry Suit, someone comes along and introduces an insane dry suit. So what is a year round Hamptons water sports athlete to do?
First Question: What water sport are you considering ? Surfing, Stand up Paddling or Kayaking. Surfers primarily use wet suit technology for their cold water needs. The tight fitting, stretchy neoprene is well suited to the dynamic nature of wave riding and ripping, while dry suits may have too much fabric to handle bigger waves and the inevitable close outs and hold downs. Kayaking has typically been the domain of dry suits and semi-dry suits, but lighter weight, stretchy wetsuits can work. Stand up Paddling which brings the disciplines of surfing and paddling together can be well served by either Dry Suits or Wetsuits.
Second Question: Are you paddling on the Ocean or the Bay? When paddling on the ocean, we must accept the fact that we will be in the water nearly as much as we are on top of it. This coupled with water temps ranging from the low 60's down to the mid 30's dictate that we need warm, high quality protection when on the ocean. When on the bay, the calmer, protected waters of the local salt ponds and the peconic bay estuary, allow us to wear lighter weight gear. That being said we always must dress for water temperature, regardless of how nice the day is. High quality 3/2's, 4/3's and 5/4's are commonly used on the ocean, while lighter weight 3/2's paired with a paddling semi-dry jacket are common on the bay. A good quality dry-suit can be used in both environments.
Third Question: What is your paddling season? Are you are summer only water sports participant? Do you participate in Spring and Fall? Are you a hard core year round water sports athlete? Summer only athletes will typically require a lightweight wet suit for any of the 3 most popular local watersports. During May, June and July a 3/2 mil wet suit is used by many surfers and stand up paddlers. Kayakers may use a 3/2 or a paddling jacket with pants and booties. Early May can still be chilly so make sure you are properly protected. During August, Spring style Wet Suits with short arms and short legs are popular with surfers, while stand up paddlers and kayakers may require only a Neoprene rashguard or UV top. Spring and Fall things start to get interesting with more waves sessions, amazing paddles and downwinders. Higher quality 3/2's, versatile 4/3's along with semi-dry suits are best for spring and fall watersports. Come winter all bets are off, heavier 5/4 or 6mil wetsuits and full dry suits are your best bet for warmth and safety.
Photo Credit - John Todaro
Now after all that groundwork, we can discuss the pro's and con's of drysuits versus wet suits.
Dry Suit Pro's: In spite of all the improvements to the flexibility of wetsuits, I still find dry suits more comfortable. Whats better than getting into your long johns, smart wool socks and then slipping into a beautiful Gore Tex Dry Suit. I find dry suits have a great range of motion in the shoulders and that is probably why they have been popular with Kayakers for the past few years. While some of the earlier Dry Suit models resembled something out of 20,000 leagues under the sea, some of the latest models are very stylish and super comfortable. The Soul Dry Suit from Ocean Rodeo is a great choice, buit for SUP and Kayaking. The Soul has a built in jacket with detachable hood which protects the zipper and really helps retain your heat. The jacket also has hand warmer pockets and an opening in the front to attach a tow rope, inflatable pfd, or kite harness. The suit's plastic zippers never leaked and were easier to open and close than those of other suits. The Soul was flexible, comfortable, and was less baggy than most suits which also made it easier for swimming. Retail on the Soul is $849. As an option to a full dry suit are Semi Dry tops and Semi Dry Pants. Immersion Research offers the Zephr Jacket and the Zephr Pant for Men and Women. The Jacket is priced at $149 and the pants are $129.
Dry Suit Cons: A high quality dry suit is a fairly expensive investment, however, if comfort and safety are high on your winter paddling priorities, I would suggest you consider a Dry suit for your requirements. In the surf zone some dry suits can be a little baggy and make it tough to swim when caught inside.
Wet Suit Pros: A wide variety of wet suits are available at a wide variety of price points. There are truly wetsuits for everyone at every price point. Wet Suits are very fitted and stretchy making them excellent choices for surf centric activities.
Wet Suit Cons: If you have too light or too heavy a wet suit for the activity and conditions your are undertaking, one can get chilled or over heat. It is imperative to have the correct wet suit for your activity and conditions. Some people find it difficult to get into wetsuits.
Hamptons Surf Scene Post Sandy
Hurricane Sandy may be the greatest natural disaster the Mid Atlantic region has ever faced. The Jersey shore, New York City and the Western South Shore of Long Island bore the brunt of this massive storms fury. Catastrophic damage and loss of property have over whelmed many inhabitants of long standing coastal communities. The severe environmental damage continues with enormous amounts of untreated sewage and polluted runoff pouring into the bays, inlets and coastal surf zone waters of Western Long Island and New Jersey. While the visible damage to Eastern Long Island was considerably less, many local residents experienced fairly severe erosion and flooding to their properties. Extensive tree damage, lost power, gas shortages and related challenges plagued our community for several weeks. Subtle environmental damage to local wetlands, ground water, bays and estuaries due to extensive flooding has happened and should be addressed by local municipalities.
Photo Credit - East Hampton Star