Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Double forearm layers kill

My lovely wife and I both have the same favorite wind range: mid to upper 20s (mph). So with a forecast of west winds near 25 all day, and matching wind meter readings in the morning, we just had to get out. Air temperatures where a bit above freezing (35º F, 2º C), but the sun was hiding behind clouds all day, so it felt much colder than the last time we were out in similar temperatures.

We decided to sail Skaket Beach in Orleans, which has an excellent fetch in all westerly directions, and promised side-on winds. We started near high tide; both Nina and I wore our Ianovated wetsuits, and a neoprene shirt underneath. My short had short sleeves, Nina's long sleeves, and that ended up making a lot of difference. When I zipped her up, I noticed that the shirt was bunching up near the hands under the wetsuit arms, but did not think much of it.

I ended up having a lovely little session, but Nina did not. At first, she thought that she was way overpowered, because she could not hold on to her rig. That, however, seemed unlikely, since I was just nicely powered on my 5.5, and her 4.5 should therefore have been just right. After not being able to hold on to her gear in the small shore break, though, she discovered that it was not the wind - she simply did not have the power to hold on to her gear. Shortly after the session, her lower arms starting hurting, like they might perhaps after very long regular session.

It appears that the two layers of neoprene severely impacted the blood circulation in her lower arms. I had experienced the same problem a few times: once when I also wore a long sleeve neoprene shirt under a semi-dry suit, and a couple of times with new wetsuits where the lower arms were too tight. Gloves or mittens were not the problem in any of these cases - Nina wore only open-palm mittens today that she has used without any problems many times before, and the same was true when I had problems. The Ianovated wetsuit that she wore today has very wide upper arms, but it has to become narrower at the lower arms. Even small additional constrictions from a neoprene shirt can have a much larger than expected negative impact (Nina actually wore my shirt, with arms that are too long for her and therefore bunched up a bit near the wrists).

Since it seemed so chilly today, I actually did my first few runs with nylon mitten shells on top of my open palm mitts. That kept my hands nicely warm and worked great with the wetsuit tubes, but I could definitely feel that my forearms started to get sore much quicker. So I ditched the nylon shells and kept sailing with only open palm mittens, but I added a couple of short breaks to shake the blood back down into my hands before they got to cold. After perhaps the second or third time, I could feel my hands getting nice and warm, and they remained warm afterwards. Even after a bit longer swims in the ice cold water, breathing through the tubes for a minute would be enough to get the hands warm and comfortable again. Nina, who spend more time than I did in the water, but who also has more "normal" hands that do not get cold as quickly as mine, only used her tubes at the start of the session, and was perfectly warm afterwards. Even though I have used the suit a few times now, I am still amazed how warm it is, and how well the hand warming system works. The only part of me that got cold today was the exposed part of my face - and that bothered me only during the first few minutes (and not any more than it would at a regular skiing session, where the air is often a lot colder).

So, the year 2013 is off to a good start, with a decent session at least for one of us, and the first lesson of the year: avoid anything restrictive on the lower arms, like double neoprene layers.

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