50/50 Rule

What is the 50/50 Rule?


Swimming in a wetsuit is hard to do without a PFD.


A wetsuit or drysuit is a must for cold water riding.


A PFD or personal flotation device is strongly recommended during winter riding.

This is the rule the KST Association developed for it’s members as a guideline for kiteboarding during the winter time or stormy conditions. The first 50 is the temperature of the water, the second 50 is the chance of thunderstorms or lightning. We the KST Association developed this rule from experience and discovered that in 50 degree water kiteboarding can be miserable with your eyes crying and nose running plus it’s hard to move or even swim in a wetsuit or drysuit and any skin not covered stings. Storm and frontal kiting can be fun with strong wind and big waves but lightning is no joke it can kill from miles away without being cloudy or even seeing it. So use this 50/50 rule as a guide and remember to be prepared for the conditions you are going to kite in.  Lastly many people kite alone even I do from time to time but winter is not the time to do that so use the buddy system. Below are a bunch of facts about surviving in cold water and hypothermia.

How quickly a person becomes hypothermic depends on a variety of factors, including personality, behavior, physical condition, clothing, and environmental factors. Everyone reacts differently to the cold, even under the same conditions. Generally, children lose body heat more quickly than adults and thin people lose body heat faster than overweight people.

Survival depends to some extent on…

  • Individual Differences: swimming ability, body size and build, cold tolerance, shivering response, body fat, alcohol levels
  • Behavioral Response: psychological makeup, will to live, activity, posture
  • Technological Factors: clothing, flotation aides

How long can a person survive in cold water?

Water Temperature Expected Time Before Exhaustion or Unconsciousness Expected Time of Survival
(°F) (°C)
32.5° 0.3° < 15 minutes 45 minutes
32.5–40° 0.3–4.4° 15 – 30 minutes 30 – 90 minutes
40–50° 3.3–10° 30 – 60 minutes 1 – 3 hours
50–60° 10–15.6° 1 – 2 hours 1 – 6 hours
60–70° 15.6–21.1° 2 – 7 hours 2 – 40 hours
70–80° 21.1–26.7° 3 – 12 hours 3 hours – indefinite
> 80° > 26.7° Indefinite Indefinite

Improving Chances of Survival in Cold Water

In cold water, conserving body heat is essential for survival and for increasing your chances of being rescued. The rate at which a body cools varies with body size, age, gender, water and air temperature, waves, wind, water currents, and other factors.

Different situations affect survival time for an average-sized, lightly clothed adult in 50° F (10° C) water:

Situation & Equipment Predicted Survival Time in 50° F Water
Without flotation device
Drown proofing 1.5 hours
Treading Water 2 hours
With personal flotation device (e.g. vest or collar-type PFD)
Swimming 2 hours
Holding Still 2.7 hours
H.E.L.P. position 4 hours
Huddling with others 4 hours
With hypothermia prevention equipment
Insulated flotation jacket (float coat) 3 – 9 hours
Survival Suit indefinite


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About Richard

Addicted to Kitesurfing, kiteboarding
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