The Florida Keys, with their tropical climate and shallow interisland waters, offer some of the finest sea kayaking in the world. Though Florida Bay and the Atlantic in the Keys region are often perfectly calm, cerulean playgrounds for paddlers, there is dramatic seasonal variation---and a risk of storms severe enough for kayakers to take note.
The Keys' winter dry season---roughly October through March or April---is the ideal time for kayaking. Temperatures are more moderate, but rarely truly cold, and severe weather is uncommon---though rain and sometimes storms may accompany cold fronts descending from the north. Biting insects are also less of an issue.
While the ocean attracts paddlers during the thick heat and humidity of South Florida summers, weather threats are more formidable in this season. Thunderstorms are common, especially late in the day, and waterspouts---bad---and hurricanes---worse---are possible. In his "Guide to Sea Kayaking in Southern Florida," Nigel Foster offers this advice for keeping tabs on potentially violent weather: "Watch for storm clouds that look bubbly, like egg boxes underneath, and leave the water for shelter if you see such clouds approaching."
Time of Day
In the summer, launch early to beat the heat---and get an edge on afternoon thunderstorms. It's often best to be off the water by early afternoon to avoid the near-inevitable tempests.
Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay
Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.