It was mid January here in Upstate New York; a squall of heavy snow was expected to roll in. For some time, I had contemplated winter photo sessions but everything looks all the same here in the winter. Snow topped trees make nice photo subjects, but aren't out of the ordinary. Snowboarding would be an adventure worth photographing, but our mountains are merely just large hills.
I watched the snow from our dining room window, and sitting on our patio was my kayak. Since becoming a parent, also being a student, it has been difficult to get out on my kayak. I called up my good friend, Mike, and asked what he was doing with his next few days
Two mornings later I pull up to his house wetsuited up, hat and gloves, kayak on the roof of my car. He's already suited up and ready by the time I got there. As you've already guessed, we were about to go kayak in the dead of winter and a storm was about to hit.
Everyone questioned us. Friends, family, and all of the drivers on the road that gave us odd looks. Lots of people asked "Isn't that dangerous?" "What if you tip?". My usual response was simply "It isn't all that much more dangerous than kayaking in normal conditions."
We were already familiar with the waters, which is always fairly slow moving. We knew that if we can kayak there in the warm seasons, there is no reason we can't do it in the cold ones. The only difference was the shelves of ice that created pathways for us to follow through the river.
In fact, these improvised channels through the river are part of what made this out-of-the-ordinary journey worth it. To test your skills in narrow breaks in the ice, to make sharp turns and turn-around oddly felt more natural than kayaking on open water. It was like a game of chess.
The brisk air on our faces, the white ice surrounding us, and water like glass was a refreshing change from the norm. As I kayaked my way through the river, I kept thinking about why everyone was so shocked about what we were doing. Is it really that crazy? I didn't think so, but I can't speak for everyone. However, my question to them is "Why AREN'T more people doing things like this?". Humans don't like things that they aren't used to doing. IE: Jumping out of planes, doing backflips, eating exotic foods and so on. Though many times, when these same people step outside of their comfort zone briefly, they often find out things aren't as scary as they seem. Actually, it isn't so far fetched to say that these things become activities that they will revisit again at some point in their lives.
So as long as you don't underestimate mother nature and overestimate your abilities, you will usually remain (relatively) safe. Kayaking in the winter is no different, but always take precaution, have a plan (take a buddy), and never attempt anything that you have the slightest notion to be out of your skill level (the skill will come with time!). In summary, go out and give it a try if it interests you. Just be safe about it.