Dry Suit Protection for Sliding Seat Rowing


Gail Ferris


From prehistoric times dry suits have been used by kayak paddlers in the Arctic.  Also there are full dry suits created of walrus intestines for umiaq rowing and paddling and for rain clothing in Arctic regions. 


However here in this day and age when I talk to most open water rowers I find that they cannot imagine and do not want to entertain the reality that rowing during the winter is taking a completely unnecessary risk.  “Oh that doesn’t exist” or “it is too expensive.”


I use the well-known drysuit of Gore-Tex, Teflon coated nylon. I paddle all day in it and find I hardly notice any lack of flexibility from the fabric or the special personal cut of the suit.  Kokotat http://www.kokatat.com/product_detail.asp?code=wsno via phone had me measure my body in flexed positions to allow the suit to have sufficient room for rowing and paddling.  I never paddle on cold water without wearing this suit.

My Kokotat has latex neck and wrist seals protected with neoprene cuffs and has Gore-Tex booties.  The knees and seat is double fabric.  I have worn a hole in the knee on some sharp rock.

I never use any crèmes or sunscreen on my skin because this decomposes the latex.  For sunscreen I use fabric balaclava on my head and gloves on my hands.  The fabric protection works all day without fail preventing me from developing the proverbial cold sore on my lip. www.nkhorizons.com/UltimateSunScreen.htm  


For a mere six or seven hundred dollars a proper fitting dry suit is available manufactured by Ocean Systems sold by CMC Rescue via Better Products through Daniel Meloche at Better Products at rescuealive@charter.net 1-800-423-0686.

Danial Meloche teaches ice water rescue in Massachusetts.  He teaches survival technique of just at the moment the rescuer or boater is hitting the water with his face dry drowning can be reduced by covering his mouth and nose with his hand, something I did not know before.


An old friend of mine who also likes to be on the water in challenging conditions has found this resource.  Frank likes to row sliding seat in 30+ knots of wind anytime throughout the year.  Believe me his carbon fiber sculls get a full work out.

This suit is designed as para-jumper surface diving swimming in ice water rescue conditions. 

The maximum flexibility in this suit is created by adding gussets on the arms and legs. 

There is a front entry dry zipper and relief zipper with neoprene protective cuffs over the long life latex seals, and with Cordura nylon reinforcements for slip and wear resistance on wear points.


The important reason for Cordura reinforcement being necessary is because ice, especially frazzle or skim ice, is razor sharp.  Any ice can have sharp areas on it.

I saw a jagged chunk of ice riddled with sharp cutting edges pop up to the surface just inches from my kayak when I least expected it.  This was a very threatening moment for me.

For me this is a huge break though to find that there really is a suit designed to accommodate the full range of flexibility a sliding seat rower must have.

$600.00 is hardly any money for cold water safety when cold water boating is a passion.





Gail E. Ferris 1/16/05  gaileferris@hotmail.com  www.nkhorizons.com