A chilled out seabass.

A chilled out seabass. Photo courtesy Charles Volkens.

Chill Out: Why You Should Invest in Wonderfabrics for Kayak Fishing
After choosing the wrong sweatshirt, author Charles Volkens was well on his way to hypothermia
By Charles Volkens

Why am I so cold?! I thought my hooded sweatshirt from Old Navy would do the trick but I was so cold and couldn't stop shivering. La Jolla was supposed to be warmer than this, yet as we unloaded our gear onto the sand the nighttime mist clung to everything, including my bones. I had never done a night launch and I was wondering if my nerves had anything to do with the shivering.

"Have some coffee," Eric said.

Instead, I decided to do some jumping jacks and in short time had a light sweat, ready to go. Even in La Jolla though, where waves aren't of significant size, they come frequent, and my timing made me take two rollers over the bow. I was going to wear a dry top but the lack of breathability made me go with dry pants and a layering of cotton tops.

Into the dark we paddled till we found some kelp and anchored to a thick group of stems. We baited up and sent down our offerings. Then we sat and waited, and that light sweat I had earlier was causing my body to cool. I began to shiver again.

I've had hypothermia before and knew I was not there yet but was well on my way. I said to Eric, "Hey man, I'm so damn cold I can't stop shaking".

He said, "Are you wet? Do you have a dry towel or rag in your gear?"


"Take off your shirts, dry your skin then put this on." He handed me a lightweight hooded sweatshirt.

Within a few minutes I stopped shivering.

"What's this thing made of?" I asked.

"Some kind of new stuff," he said. It turned out to be a Patagonia R1 Hoodie. My teeth stopped chattering just as the clicker started buzzing, and a few anxious minutes later there was a 46-pound white seabass sitting in my lap.

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It was an epic outing but if I wanted to do it again I would need the right clothing. I started looking at all these new "Wonderfabrics". Northface had the Primaloft, Arc'teryx had Coreloft, Patagonia Capilene, Ice breaker Polartec and of course Smartwool had Merino wool blends.

This might sound like a lot of work but I was having a great time learning about the strengths and weaknesses of all of these different fabrics. The knowledgeable sales staff were quick to share their expertise. It was like asking a Trekkie what Spocks' Mothers' maiden name was.

"Well sir, Merino wool is a sustainable fabric, it's also biodegradable and if you're not moving around a lot, that would be a good choice but if you're more active, synthetics are the way to go." Now mind you, a lot of these garments are pricey but for me they've been worth every penny. They are warm, breathable, versatile and fashionable. I wear them on the water, camping, backpacking or hiking. Today, so many companies are experimenting with new blends and the prices vary so my advice would be to ask questions and find out what's best for you.