Ready for that first spring ride?
Does it feel like spring is taking far too long to arrive? Is the ice barely off the lake and you’re champing at the bit to ride your PWC? Is there a warm and sunny early spring day in the forecast? Early spring riding in Ontario can be good fun, however you need to be well prepared. Spring weather can be mixed. As winter changes into spring, temperatures will fluctuate, winds can still howl and a sunny day can quickly turn against you.
What do you wear? What gear do you need to take with you? How else should you be prepared? I’ve made a list of important things you need to have and what to watch for out on the water—plus a few suggestions on the best places to ride right now!
What to wear for early spring riding on your PWC
If you have a drysuit, wear layers underneath. Drysuits are waterproof suits that keep you dry but you will want to wear warm layers underneath such as long underwear, leggings, fleece wear and warm socks. Mustang Survival, Kokatat, and Level Six all make good-quality drysuits at different price points. Some have integral booties so you can wear warm socks underneath and a pair of neoprene boots or other rubber soled footwear that doesn’t hold water in. You want footwear that allows water to drain out. And don’t forget riding gloves to keep your hands warm. Neoprene PWC, motocross or diving gloves are all excellent choices.
If you don’t have a drysuit, a good alternate is a 7mm thick full wetsuit. Add 7mm booties and gloves, a wind proof jacket and pants to keep the wind out and you will have a comfortable ride.
Top it off with either a neoprene or fleece balaclava to keep your head warm. If you have a motocross helmet, that can work well. Either a full face or open face helmet with goggles will keep your head warm. Don’t forget your PFD. It’s another layer to keep the cold out and you afloat if you were to end up in the water.
Check if marinas are open and selling fuel
Many may not be open early in the season so call ahead. It is better to know fuel is not available than to show up and finding the marina fuel dock closed and unstaffed. Some waterfront restaurants and other businesses in waterfront communities may be open, however many don’t open until mid-May and the Victoria Day weekend. Call ahead to confirm what is open and operating.
Now that you’ve got your riding suit on and your safety gear stowed in the PWC it’s time to head to the water.
check the weather
Pay attention to the weather using an app such as Windfinder on your smartphone. Remember to tell someone on land where you will be going and when you plan to be back. Enable the Find My app on your iPhone and share the live location with someone so they can see your location updates.
watch out for debris
You may be the first rider to use the boat ramp this this season—check it first and clear debris away before backing your trailer down the ramp.
Early spring riding means water can be flowing faster than mid-summer. Snow and ice melting into the lakes and rivers combined with spring rain can cause water levels to rise and currents to move more swiftly. There will be debris, tree deadhead, and other floating and partially submerged hazards. If you’re out very early in the season there still may be ice floating in places.
watch for new hazards and use your gps
On the water you need to be aware of changes that have happened over the winter. Buoys and channel markers may have shifted or completely disappeared from their locations. Use your GPS chartplotter to help navigate as it will have the correct locations of channel markers, buoys and hazards noted.
Ride with a buddy
Riding with a buddy who is on their own PWC is a fun and safe way to be on the water in spring. Using the buddy system, if something were to fail, you will have another running PWC to tow the broken one back to the launch and to help each other in an emergency situation.
Ensure your PWC is easy to reboard
Being in cold water for any length of time means hypothermia is a risk. Keep the rear deck free of obstacles. Use the boarding step to help you climb up if your PWC has one. The rear grab handle is there to pull yourself back onto your PWC. If you get wet and are feeling chilled, head back to the launch point to dry off and warm up.
enjoy spring riding in Ontario!
Planning ahead and being well prepared for your early spring ride makes for a good day on the water. Dress according to the weather, know what is available, what route you’ll be taking and how long you plan to spend on the water. When you get back from your day on the water you can share your adventures with others.