Benefits of Kitesurfing in Cold Water
I have already wrote about kitesurfing in Scotland during the winter but it’s good to look at some of the benefits this brings, aside from tons of stoke! If you read around you will quickly find out that cold water has been well known for its therapeutic qualities for quite a while now. Some of the health benefits are highlighted in Sebastian’s Kneipp’s book ‘My Water Cure’ published back in 1886. Kneipp has found that cold water has helped to treat his tuberculosis. But surfing in the cold has a lot more benefits.
First of all it significantly boosts your immune system. Think of it as a workout for your system and a practice round for fighting off the infections. It has been proven that submerging in the cold water significantly increases your white blood cell count. It may not feel like it at first but I have found out first-hand how much less often I fall ill with minor cold or flu symptoms ever since I’ve came back to kitesurfing and SUP’ing in the cold.
Even the ancient Indians have found water’s curing and therapeutic capabilities which they called ‘ishnan’. It’s the moment when you start to fight off the effects that cold water has on your body. It’s when skin’s capillaries are opening and then closing, rushing blood back to the vital organs. And you will also learn that you can get ice-cream like brain-freeze from a proper wipeout when the water gets under your hood in the process. Makes you feel so much more alive! Nah, ok it sucks at times but you warm up quite quickly with the right hood.
Kitesurfing in Scotland isn’t really that extreme either. Yes, you will get numb fingers from time to time and cold flushes. And you might get super red cheeks from laughing and cold. But our winters are nothing to face compared to those heading out in the cold of Norway and Iceland. If they can get out kitesurfing so can we.
In 1984 a wetsuits manufacturer Billabong has trademarked a slogan “only a surfer knows the feeling”. And they’ve hit the nail on the head. I’m getting asked a lot about what drives us to head out there when it’s cold and miserable. Leave alone the cold yet sunny days in the middle of January. We’re talking about the cloudy, nasty, yet windy days. And it’s really hard to explain to someone who has never experienced the euphoria of either one of the forms of surfing. It’s the feeling only we know. For a lot of us kitesurfing is almost like a ritual, a place of Zen combined with endless adrenaline kicks. I can’t imagine a life without it and the same goes for most active kitesurfers. No matter what’s your level, if you catch the bug you will never look at the weather like you used to. Trees are going horizontal? Time to drop whatever it is you’re doing and head out.
Also, I don’t know about you but I really don’t like going to the gym. And unless the weather is really dreadful I prefer to burn off calories and keep myself active in any other way possible as long as it involves the outdoors. When you’re kitesurfing you’re in fact doing a full-body workout without even knowing. It improves your cardiovascular fitness, legs, core, chest, shoulder and back strength. There’s no reason to break this up because it’s a tad cold outside, is there?
So what’s with all the side effects? Well the numbness in your fingers and shivers you’re experiencing are your body’s self-defence mechanisms are trying to protect the vital organs. The issue is that it’s typically triggered by our system too early. It has been designed to protect us in more of an African type of cold and we haven’t evolved fast enough to adjust to the temperatures we’ve got in the Northern hemisphere The main issue with this too early reaction to cold is that it isn’t helping us when we’re in the water. Quite opposite actually – our reflexes are slower, we loose some of our strength and our mind becomes foggy.
This is why we always say to our kitesurfing students to get the right gear for the winter. A proper wetsuit, boots, gloves and a hood – check our our guide to winter kitesurfing kit here. Make sure you eat a solid breakfast before the session, that you have something warm to drink before heading out and make sure you do a warm up beforehand. Also, try kitesurfing in either on-shore or at least cross-on conditions. So if something goes sideways you’ll end up on the beach and not drifting away to Norway. And never go out alone. If there are no other kitesurfers at the beach it’s better to drop it and come back the other day. Also, know your limits. The moment when you feel cold it’s the moment to come off the water. After few months of kiting you will recognise this moment when you start doing stupid, uncontrolled stuff. It’s the right time to head back ashore. See more tips on winter kitesurfing in Scotland here.
Kitesurfing during winter is an amazing experience, it helps to seriously boost your immune system, adds to your badassness, provides you with an awesome workout and supplies your soul with tons of stoke. Especially if you get some cool snowy backdrop like we often do in Scotland. Make sure you’ve got the right kit, that there’s more folk kiting with you and just head out there. Cold is no excuse not to score some shredding when the wind blows! Oh and having a thermos full of warm (not hot!) water to pour on your head after a kitesurfing session is almost as good as peeing in your wetsuit. Just bar the bad smell.
And if you know of someone looking for kitesurfing lessons in Scotland you know well where to direct them! See you out there and give us a shout if you want to learn more about kitesurfing spots around Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen or the Highlands. We kite a lot and we teach a lot. So if there’s wind chances are we will be out there too. And we’re always happy to help!