Early spring boating is peaceful without the crowds and provides a great workout.

Early Spring: The Perfect Time to Paddle

Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you can’t paddle. That’s the message from boating and fishing enthusiasts, who want you to know that paddling is a year-round sport (unless you live where everything freezes over).

Here are some of the reasons that early spring is the perfect time to go canoeing, rowing, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

Peace and quiet. Spring boating is peaceful before the summer crowds arrive. You will have even the most popular waterways almost to yourself.

The animal kingdom comes out. You have better chances of spotting wildlife. Deer are down from the hills, and more timid wildlife like fox and rabbit are more likely to come out when there are fewer people.

You’re cold anyway. When sea kayaking or paddleboarding, you probably wear a wetsuit anyway. So it doesn’t make as much difference as you might think – especially if you’re working up a sweat.

No boating traffic jams. Areas with heavy recreational boating are much more fun to kayak and canoe when you aren’t navigating harbors and docks crowded with other boats.

The perfect warm-up. You might even find yourself paddling longer or harder with the incentive of keeping warm.

Fun with feathered friends. In many areas, birding is excellent in the early spring, when cranes, geese and other migrating waterfowl are passing through. Other birds are nesting in willows and other trees and bushes along the water’s edge.

More exciting rapids. The higher, faster-moving waters of spring offer an exciting challenge for advanced whitewater kayakers though rivers high with snowmelt are too dangerous to run.

If cool-weather boating doesn’t appeal to you, spring is the perfect time to take a kayaking trip further south. For example, many kayakers head for Baja, where it’s whale calving season and you can get up close and personal with humpbacks and grey whale mamas and their babies.

And winter sees many fishermen head down to Florida. Many aficionados consider sail-fishing on the southeast Florida coast to be as good as it gets. And truly hardy souls can try ice fishing, a proud tradition those in the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region.

Cool-weather paddling does require some special gear:

  • Neoprene or wool gloves (not cotton, which holds cold) or pogies, neoprene mitts that wrap over your hand and the paddle
  • A warm hat that covers your ears – if you’re whitewater kayaking choose something thin enough to go under your helmet
  • Wicking fabrics
  • A wetsuit; the Farmer John, or overall style, is a timeless winter favorite
  • OR a Gore-Tex drysuit
  • Neoprene booties, waders, or waterproof boots

Don’t get casual about it and allow yourself to get chilled. Take cool weather seriously and suit up.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.