Nouria Newman paddles through ice in her kayak.
© Nouria Newman

This is why you’ll want to kayak in the winter

Most people put their paddles away when the winter chill arrives – but to do so means missing out on some of kayaking’s most amazing experiences.
Written by Will Gray
4 min readPublished on
There’s no one better experienced at hitting the rivers year-round than kayaking star Nouria Newman, so we grabbed a rare moment with her (before her next adventure in Argentina) to chat about her off-season experiences and how to prepare for them.
Nouria Newman paddles in Canada from the Clendenning glacier

Nouria Newman paddles down the from the Clendenning glacier

© Nouria Newman

OK, so why would anyone want to go kayaking in the winter?
The rivers are super quiet and there's a very special atmosphere, with beautiful landscapes: snow on the banks, ice stalactites hanging from rock walls, mist on the river and crazy beautiful light. Also, instead of carrying your boat to the river you can tow it on the snow or use it as a sled! And a warm hot chocolate is the best way to end a kayak session.
Towing kayaks through the snow.

Getting to the river can be much easier in winter

© Nouria Newman

What are your best experiences of winter kayaking?
Paddling on the Clendenning glacier was one of the most stunning times I’ve had in a kayak. It’s pretty special to put in right on a glacier and follow the water all the way down. It was so cold it was hard to hold my paddle, but the scenery was so breathtaking it made that issue easy to ignore.
Nouria Newman kayaking the Clendenning glacier in British Columbia, Canada.

Nouria Newman on Canada's glacial Clendenning

© Eric Parker

What are the down sides?
Paddling is way harder than in the summer because you lose a lot of energy trying to stay warm. You get brain freeze when you go upside down and a long swim can easily put you in hypothermia. You have to deal with slippery banks, floating ice blocks, ice undercuts and siphons, you get cold hands and your gear freezes – sometimes you have to wait for it to melt before you can put it on! But, although it may not always be comfortable, it’s totally worth it.
What have you learned from cold weather kayaking?
Firstly, I’ve learned to be prepared – I always bring warm gear for the river but also for when I’m not paddling. I always take a spare puffy jacket and base layers. Second, when it’s really cold I wear hand protection. You lose sensation wearing it but poggies, gloves or mitts are better than cold hands – and if I’m warm I can just take them off. And finally, when I wear a Gore-Tex drysuit, as long as I’m not cold when I get out, I keep it on while running shuttle, loading boats, and so on because it lets perspiration escape one way without letting water in so my body heat dries it out ready for the next morning.
What are your top tips?
Always go with people who are super motivated. A positive attitude is key. Replace your water bottle with a thermos of tea that will warm you up and also be a treat for your hands. To avoid hypothermia try to stay on the move and keep paddling or running to warm yourself up. And always wear good gear.
What gear's most important and do you have recommendations?
A good drysuit will change your life in winter kayaking – Gore-Tex drysuits from Sweet Protection are great. The other important items are poggies, gloves or mitts – I like NRS Toaster Mitts; a skullcap – any neoprene one that fits you well is fine; and some super-good wool socks. Use Merino under layers or a nice onesie and for me the best boots are Astral Rassler.
What if you're on a tight budget?
Don’t be cheap on the drysuit, it’s crucial. But you can go to a thrift shop to find good under layers and if you don’t, get a 100 percent wool pullover and shrink it in your washing machine to make your own. You can use thick hiking shoes – they'll probably never dry, but with a good drysuit it doesn’t matter. And neoprene skullcaps and gloves aren’t super expensive.
Nouria Newman of France during her run in the finals of the Adidas Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championships at Oetztal, Tirol, Austria.

Good gear is crucial for keeping warm

© Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool

And what's the most important thing to remember?
Never assume you’re tough. Make sure you'll be warm enough and that you’re running a river that matches your skill set. Winter kayaking is not the right time to step it up.
Want to see more epic winter kayaking? Check out Into Twin Galaxies on Red Bull TV.

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Nouria Newman

French kayaker Nouria Newman combines a surprising adeptness at playing on white waters with an endless thirst for discovering new horizons.

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