Field Notes | Four Winter Wonderlands for Standup Paddlers

breeze turner

Who says water has to be liquid in order to SUP? Breeze Turner and her dog Marley, SUPing in the snow near Lake Tahoe. Photo: @breezeturner

Field Notes | Four Winter Wonderlands for Standup Paddlers

Interviews by Rebecca Parsons

Winter is a lot of things. It's short days and long nights, it's Christmas lights dotting the streets, it's curling up by the fire with a cup of cocoa and unfortunately for us aquatic humans, it's dropping temperatures. But if you're a committed athlete, dropping temperatures aren't necessarily a bad thing. In exchange for a few extra layers and some thicker neoprene, wintertime provides vacant views and the opportunity to score killer surf to yourself. If it's not frozen it's fair game, and there are plenty of spectacular spots where winter actually enhances the experience. We scouted out four snow-covered SUP sanctuaries and got the inside scoop from the locals on paddling them in the wintertime. —Rebecca Parsons

Misty mornings on glassy waters in

When the water is warmer than the air, mist off the surface makes for an eerie but awe inspiring wintertime paddle in Hayward, Wisconsin. Photo: Jim Montag

Hayward, Wisconsin

Avg. Air Temperature: 23.4°F
Avg. Water Temp: 36°F
“Winter paddling can be some of the most tranquil paddling experiences. Over the years, we have seen as many as seventeen eagles in one paddle. We have also seen river otters, deer, turkeys and even a wolf on the shore. The colder the air temperature, the more the water mists up into the low hanging trees on shore, creating a sparkling effect when the sunlight hits. It is truly pristine and the best way to enjoy it is through the silent sport of paddling. My safety equipment and gear consists of a standard USCG approved paddling jacket, board leash, warm knit hat, warm base-layer shirt, leggings, 4/3 wetsuit, neoprene booties with pre-warmed, air activated foot warmers and gloves.” –Jane Montag

 

Lake Tahoe's one of few places where you can ski all morning and still have time for an afternoon paddle. Just don't forget your (thickest) wetsuit. Photo: @TahoeSUP

Lake Tahoe’s one of few places where you can ski all morning and still have time for an afternoon paddle. Just don’t forget your (thickest) wetsuit. Photo: @TahoeSUP

Lake Tahoe, California

Avg. Air Temp: 27°F
Avg. Water Temp: 40°F
“Winter paddling on Lake Tahoe is great! There are no powerboats on the water and lots of high-pressure weather conditions, which make for glassy water paddling. The only real difference from summer to winter paddling is the water temperature drops about 40 degrees, which can make launching your board quite chilly. The only paddling gear we add in the winter is neoprene booties and pants. I think one of the biggest mistakes winter paddlers make is overdressing. Even though the calendar says it’s winter, the temperature on the water feels like summer.” –Phil Segal

seattle

Seattle may be known for it’s gloom and rain, but there are plenty of crisp, clear days in between ideal for a peaceful paddle on Puget Sound. Photo: Maleana McIlvaine

 

Seattle, Washington

Avg. Air Temp: 52°F
Avg. Water Temp: 49°F
“We mainly paddle out in Puget Sound. The key in winter is to go out when it's calm; we don’t wear wetsuits so not falling in is very important. If it's really cold then I wear more layers and a beanie. The beauty of going in winter is there are hardly any boats and very few paddlers. One of my best SUP outings was three years ago when it was snowing; the wind was completely dead calm and the whole scene was very surreal.” –Andrew Drake

 

rockaway

Snow in the sky means surf to your lonesome. A rare day of clean and empty surf at Rockaway Beach, New York. Photo: Amy Dima

 

Rockaway, NY

Avg. Air Temperature: 38°F
Avg. Water Temp: 49.8°F
“My favorite places to paddle in the winter are in New York and New Jersey. The ocean is an amazing place to be during a snowfall. If you turn your back to land and just stare out, it is a pretty surreal feeling. I will paddle in almost any form of weather, just as long as I know I will live through it. I have definitely had some close encounters surfing before some blizzards, but it's hard not to grab the paddle and head out when a nice swell comes through. Especially here on the East Coast; you take it when you can get it. The type of equipment that I use when I am out during the wintertime is definitely a 5/4/3 Body Glove Vapor X hooded suit with 7mm booties and gloves. When I go out surfing I try to get away with a 4/3 with gloves and booties as much as I can.” –Andrew Dima

*Editors note: Hypothermia can occur in water 70 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. In extremely cold environments, such as those described above, we highly recommend either a drysuit or a 5-millimeter wetsuit with booties, gloves and a hood. And of course, always wear a PFD and a leash, even on flat water, as the shock of submersion is disorienting and can make swimming or recovering your board difficult.

Cover photo: @breezeturner

Stay comfy on the water through winter with these tips for cold-weather paddling.

Looking to escape the cold? Look no further than Tortuguero, Costa Rica.