We’ve had some crazy cold weather in North Devon and the rest of the UK this year already and we’re only just half way through our winter. It’s nice to have a bit of variety, but not -15! It’s not often we get snow on the beach, as the sea temperature and salt keeps it away… but not this year. We’ve had all kinds of problems… but the one I didn’t expect was hypothermia.
I’m afraid since becoming a mum I’ve also become a fair weather surfer. I love the sun and heat and I find it difficult to talk myself into organising some surf time when it’s so bone shatteringly cold. It wasn’t always like this. I first learnt to surf in October and all through the winter and I know what it’s like to suit up at home before a surf then run back afterwards and jump in the shower. However, Roy has kept it up and still goes out when it’s good no matter what the temperature is… if he can get away from work and us lot for more than 5 minutes. But the last time he went in he told me some very worrying things that he and his mates went through and now, after a bit of internet surfing, I think they had quite bad hypothermia.
In mild cases you get the shivers, pale skin, low energy and feel cold (sounds like me and the kids most of the time in the winter!), but symptoms become a bit more serious if you don’t catch them in the early stages. You get violent shivering, unable to concentrate, confusion, loss of judgement, difficulty moving, feeling afraid, memory loss, bad coordination, drowsiness, slurred speech, indifference, slow breathing and weak pulse. Because of the symptoms it likely that those suffering from them are totally unaware of it, but it isn’t hard for anyone else to spot. Especially those like me, not happy to brave the severe weather.
Hypothermia starts when the body temperature falls below 35 degrees C. In other words if you are in water 10 degrees or less then you will die within an hour. Our water during the cold spell was 7-8 degrees. Yes winter wet suits protect you for a while but the one thing not on the surfers side is time. So after Roy was in the water for an hour with a wind chill enough to freeze the tail off a polar bear, he came out suffering from moderate hypothermia, and some of his friends were even worse than him. The worrying thing is that if you jump from being moderately to severely hypothermic you can die in just a few minutes and the weirdest thing is you may not be aware of it. This is because as a part of the brain shuts down which can result in blood rushing to your extremities and away from your heart, making you feel warm even though you are dying of cold. You’ll also get a desire to burrow into a small space, just like an animal hibernating and will be so confused you won’t be aware of the danger.
It’s all scary stuff, and I will never try to talk myself into going out when it’s that cold again. I’m definitely not dying to surf… well, not until the spring anyway! 🙂