-- Last Updated: Oct-21-13 12:47 AM EST --
If you're doing something at a competitive level, you're going to be working up a real sweat. If the water is in the 30s or 40s, the need to dress for immersion combined with the need to release heat while exercising makes your situation a nightmare. A breathable (Gore-tex) drysuit allows a lot of variation in layering, but you cannot change layering on the fly.
If I had to deal with such a situation, I'd wear a full wetsuit with a front zip that can be easily manipulated both above and under water, AND I would acclimate myself to the cold water by going for a swim in it every time I paddled. You can start with a brief immersion and work your way up to longer times.
This is what I did when paddling in AK and not wearing either a wetsuit or a drysuit, which went completely against most people's advice (and rightly so). I took dips in ice-cold streams that got colder as we headed farther north (the streams were colder than the sea water). Yes, my body adapted. It might not be enough, but every little bit helps.
I see people out rowing racing shells on 50-degree water wearing, basically, running clothes. Maybe you can start with warmer wear and use a thinner suit when you become less likely to capsize.
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