At one time in everyone’s paddling life, you will paddle in a destination that is just bloody hot. As a paddler who has been instructing for nearly two decades living in Australia and having successfully followed the summer between the southern hemisphere and northern hemisphere every year allowing me to have an endless summer for 16 years I feel I have had my fair share of hot paddling sessions and can qualify in talking about this topic. Most people have paddled in 30c degree heat, however it is not unusual to paddle in 40c+ (100f) heat down here in Australia and paddling at Georgia’s Columbus whitewater park in the summer is just as warm. The picture is from the Columbus park at night which is one really easy way to keep cool, but if you don’t happen to be able to paddle at a fantastic whitewater park at in the cooler hours at night time under lights, I thought I would share my top 10 tips of how to keep cool and paddle in the heat.
10 Eat a good diet which includes foods which contain potassium, sodium and magnesium and a keeping hydrated, foods such a bananas, melons, citrus fruits and avocados are potassium-dense fruits, while potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash are your go-to veggies for potassium, vegetables that are dark, leafy greens. Almonds, figs, yogurt and cheese for calcium and eating beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, bananas and dark, leafy greens for magnesium.
9 Look for shady spots and use them. Somewhere on the river there has got to be an eddy with a tree overhanging the water. These provide a great spot to stop and have a chat, have a breather or if you are instructing a great place where your group will feel more comfortable and listen to what you are saying more.
8 Fill up a water bottle the night before and place it in the freezer. Then you get cold water all day long. How cool is that. (Pun intended) I love this tip and has become a lifesaver for me most days.
7 Have a think about placing some fruit in the fridge or freezer for use on the water. For me there is something amazing about eating cold grapes on the water, it just hits the spot. You get a sugar hit from the fruit, it cools you down, and fruit will be a better sugar hit than an energy drink as it lasts longer. It really is one of my most favourite foods to have on a hot day.
6 Take plenty of sunscreen and use it, apply and reapply. I find a spray on sunscreen does cost more however I tend to use it more than the liquid, so I feel that this cost is worth it. However no matter what sunscreen you use, make sure it is at minimum factor 30+. As a famous song said, “take my advice, wear sunscreen.”
5 Wear a helmet that provides great sun protection as well as safety protection. A helmet with a peak and something that comes over your ears is a great idea to give you just a little bit more sun protection. Low profile helmets are great for big waves and play boating, but if you are on the water for an extended period of time in the sun, rethink what protects your most valuable asset, your head.
4 Wear appropriate clothing. Most will go skin to wind when your in a hot destination however if you continue to do this your arch nemesis, the skin cancer fairy might pay you a visit. If you paddle down here in Australia where we have a problem with the ozone layer, skin cancer is one of the highest forms of cancer. Think about a long sleeve rash top, it is thin enough to still be cool but provides you with a sun protection layer that I think is quite important.
3 If your getting hot, roll. Sounds simple but you would not believe how often I see people on the river sweating from the heat. When you feel that bead of sweat start to come on, just roll over, get cool, reduce your core body temp and continue to do this throughout your trip.
2 Take plenty of breaks and get out of your boat. If you allow your body to rest just for a bit, you will be able to perform way better than if you try to push on. Get out of your boat, sit in the water for a bit, cool yourself down and then when you feel your body temp is better then jump back in your boat.
1 Drink plenty of water, and if you are paddling for an extended period of time in the heat then drink two bottles of water to every one sports drink. Sometimes water alone is not enough to keep you supplemented with all the required electrolytes, energy and minerals, however drinking nothing but a sports drink also won’t give you enough liquids to satisfy your body. The ratio of 2 or 3 water bottles to every one sports drink is key. If you are not peeing clear liquid then you are not drinking enough, if you are feeling thirsty then you are already showing signs of dehydration, keep those fluids up.
I hope you have enjoyed my top ten tips, keep paddling but don’t forget the little things. If you get heat stroke then your paddle could take a turn for the worst. Keep hydrated, keep cool and enjoy your time doing the best thing you can enjoy on a hot summers day.