Lessons from cold-hand gurus

7 years ago I was THAT guy. It was the middle of March, 65* out and I’d still be wearing poggies. I did grow up in Mexico paddling warm water, so this new cold water topic was tough. 

Fast-forward to this winter, I managed to stay away from using my poggies, except for only a couple of freezing days. My goal about this blog post is not bragging about my newly acquired cold-hand skill, but to share some stuff I’ve learned on this topic. 
a) I beater more with poggies. Why? because I do find them heavy. For some reason I feel like I have clumsier strokes when I use them. They tend to get heavy with water. 
b) There is a learning curve. I’ve actually put a large effort to stay away from poggies, and I’ve noticed myself progressing in this fine art of numb hands. The more I push myself to do it, the better I feel eventually paddling without them.
c) The key is circulation, not heat. I feel like I’ve spent countless eddy-waiting sessions just blowing warm breath into my hands. And it was my friend and cold-hand-guru Kyle Hull that taught me to focus on circulation. So whenever you are paddling forward, there is a couple of seconds that you can manage to wiggle your fingers around with the top hand that is out of the water. Same as the waiting periods- focus on circulation, not just warmth comfort. 
d) Loosening my paddle grip helped a lot. Its related to the circulation factor- the harder your grip on the paddle, the less blood flows through your wrist (I think). 
So, if you’re up for the challenge, don’t just give into poggies. The battle against cold hands is worth the reward in smoother lines and style points. Next winter season start by paddling without them once (you can even keep them in your boat, just in case). And slowly experiment with pushing your own limits. 
Clean boofs and happy numb hands,
 
-Rafa Ortiz
 
Pics by Richard Hallman & myself

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