Steffi Wahl is a tough woman. Windsurfing in freezing temperature requires a certain dedication. For Steffi an air temperature below zero and a water temperature around zero degrees is no excuse to skip windsurfing. We hooked up with Steffi to speak about cold water windsurfing.
“We love windsurfing so much that we just can’t resist to go on the water just because it is „winter“ or a little bit cold.” (Steffi Wahl)
Continentseven: What attraction does winter windsurfing have for you?
Steffi Wahl: I would not call it attraction, it is just the fact that we live at the Baltic Sea and we love windsurfing so much that we just can’t resist to go on the water just because it is „winter“ or a little bit cold. The last 7 days where the best days of the year so far for us. Sailing at home is always something special: not much driving and now the days are getting longer and we can squeeze in a little after work session. The scenery is so unreal: ice, snow, storm and frozen rocks. Really beautiful. Beeing on the water inbetween this stunning nature is the best.
Where do you get changed?
For me it’s super important to get changed inside. My fingers get cold pretty soon and I always wear gloves. If we go by van the heating system is running and if we can sail at home, I change inside.
How do you prepare for a winter windsurf session?
I rig my stuff in normal clothes. The skiing trousers are essential here in the north of Germany and in Denmark. Not only now, almost the whole year (not in summer though). I think the most important thing is to go sailing with a completely heated up body. If you have already cold fingers from rigging then they won’t get warm in the water. I carry my gear to the water in normal clothes and then I change and run to the beach. That’s it. It’s super warm in the wetsuit. I use body warming oil on my arms and legs. The stuff triathlon guys are using. I like it when it starts to burn. Every muscle is warm by the time I arrive at the beach. And some sunscreen in the face…
Do you double check your gear?
I think it’s essential to use quite new ropes and a new base. And more important is to not sail far. Just stay around the distance you are still able to swim back, if something breaks.
How long do you usually stay on the water?
I’m not cold at all. Not when I start and not when I stop. This afternoon we sailed 2 hours and stopped because the wind died.
Braving the cold // Steffi Wahl
Camera & edit by bulgenslag.de
How cold was it during the filming of this video?
Water temp: 1°C || Air temp: -4,5°C || Wind strength: 30 knots, I sailed with 4.0 || Wind chill: -15°C
It is no secret that cold weather can cause some physical pain. Do you already feel some damage on your body from the cold water sessions?
Right now I can still move and I’m quite flexible as well. As I’m not getting cold and my wetsuit is more or less dry when I get out I don’t have the feeling that I damage my body. I keep myself really warm because I hate cold fingers and freezing in general. I wouldn’t go if I would get cold.
What is the temperature limit for you?
This week the coldest was -6,5°C on the thermometer. For myself it was not a problem. The problem was the gear. The whole boom and the whole sail was icy and super heavy after a while. So you had to jump into the Baltic Sea to get the ice washed off. But it came back pretty quick. But it was still fun.
When and were was your coldest session?
I think my coldest sessions where when I was not using proper gloves some years ago.
Do you apply any special after care?
It’s like after skiing. The cold air is very dry and the face need a lot of moisture. There is not much difference.
How do you celebrate your cold water session?
We are just so happy that we can go sailing and do what we love the most. Playing outside in nature. A beer is always in the fridge and a lot to eat. I’m super hungry after being outside in the cold. It reminds me of my days when I was skiing a lot. The body needs a lot of energy after skiing/surfing, because the heating is on in full power mode.
Do you have some tips for windsurfing in cold water?
The most important thing is to stay warm before the session. If you stand at the beach too long then it’s already over….. It is important to not overestimate your own skills and to sail only short distances.
Steffi’s cold water kit
Wetsuit: Xcel Infinity X2 6mm
Base layer: 2mm
Gloves: 7mm full gloves, just the thumb is lonely.
© Continentseven 2018