Leah and I had our first taste of cold weather windsurfing Sunday at Lake Waccamaw. 50 degrees and cloudy so we had the full suits on. I was toasty save for the couple of holes in the crotch of my suit. That first minute over waist deep was eye opening! Apart from that both of us were perfectly comfortable sailing so no issues with that. Only thing was Leah was having a circulation problem- I guess the suit wasn't fitting well but not sure.
Belews is deeper and of course the power plant heats it so it stays warmer longer. Even in the dead of winter it is the warmest hole around. Some of the best most consistent wind we see in this area comes Fall - Spring (yes especially including Winter in the middle). You do not want to miss these fronts pushing across Belews. Life is too short to be a wind snob so make sure you are prepared for cooler wind and eventually water.
There is a 100 degree rule of thumb- water temp + air temp >= 100F is good for windsurfing in a wetsuit. I've been in much colder and you can certainly still be comfortable enough to have a blast. My experence is the most important items to have are:
- dakine mittens (maybe use surgical gloves under)
- at least 3mm booties
- a good insulated hood
Obviously you'll want a good wetsuit too. Read this-> Andy McKinney has some interesting thoughts on choice of wetsuit. He recommends a surf cut rather than the special windsurfing suits. This is especially good for waves since you end up swimming your rig, but maybe fine for any type of windsurfing. The MOST important thing is that your suit does not cut off your circulation. If you have never experienced this it is awful- you can't grip the boom and you think you are suffering from some crazy unexplained fatigue. Manufacturers go through great lengths to measure your proportions to the nth degree. Do not buy a cheap cold weather suit. Make sure you get the perfect fit since there is no margin for error. If you love to sail you will more than get your money back out of the suit! I've sailed in the snow and sleet- snow is sweet but wind driven sleet kinda sucks ;) Right Andy?