A real "cold start" into the stand up paddling season
As so often in life, those stand-up paddling tours which you have to get up to at first will also give you the best moments on the water. It is still cold at the beginning of the season and you have to bundle up yourself properly, but as a reward for the extra effort you get spots that are still empty and untouched. "An thin layer of ice on the board and no more feeling in my feet. How on earth did I get this idea?" - boot blogger Michael Walther shares his first SUP experience of the year:
The thermometer shows 1.5 degrees, just above zero, at least. The storm of the last days has calmed down and there are only 2 to 4 knots of wind left from the west. It's somewhat greyish, but the sun is breaking through the clouds every now and then. Especially this early in the season I am always keen to miss as few of the precious sunbeams as possible. This is how it's going to happen.
Getting prepared Quickly find a suitable river on Google Maps. As many miles on the river as possible with as little distance on the way back over land, that is the task. The river Eider in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's most northern county, is just perfect with its many twists and turns. And it is only 20 minutes away from where I am just now. So, get up and go, off the sofa and take some hot tea for afterwards. A big thermos flask is basic equipment this time of year. Finally, up to the attic and get down the SUP equipment safely put to rest last autumn...
Inflatable SUP, paddle, drysuit and woolen base-layer Wollunterwäsche sind schnell gefunden. I put on the woolen overall right away, that leaves only the drysuit to get on later in a chilly 1.5 °C outside. Though it makes me look like a navy-blue teddy-bear on the way to the spot. It earns me a curious look from my landlord on the way to my car. Slightly embarrassing but it cannot be helped. It does not really help to tell him that I just have to get out onto the water as he is all dressed up for winter in gloves and muffler.
Executing the plan Quickly, I get in the warm car and go, heading directly to my chosen spot. Just outside Kiel the country road crosses the river Eider. A good spot to leave my SUP bag, dry clothes and proper shoes and set off on the river for Flintbek. Getting out of my warm, cosy camper I hesitate briefly and think about postponing my first SUP trip for a couple of weeks. But the prospect of paddling for a few hours in the peace and quiet of pure nature fortunately vanquishes over my inner temptation.
First signs of spring, last impressions of winter I quickly put on the drysuit. Pumping up the board gets me warm in no time at all. Thermos flask and the mobile phone for emergencies go into a watertight bag and are secured to the board, and off I go! It takes only a couple of meters to make up for all the hassle. It is the beginning of March, the first shoots are already visible on the trees and bushes along the river banks. It almost smells like spring. Slowly I paddle my way down the river. But quiet a few real impressions of winter are still there side by side with the first signs of spring. One of the bridges is still lined with iciles. And I am surprised to see that the thin film of water on my board soon turns into a crisp layer of ice.
Winter challenges In town it was already 1.5 degrees warm, but out here in the open countryside temperatures are obviously still below zero. Slipping off my board and falling into the cold water, that's all I need now! So, I take care to stay on the safe side, take it slowly and enjoy turn after turn. Deer and kingfishers are to be observed on the shore and also a grey heron greets me on my way. The river is completely left on its own at this time of year and so I am not really surprised to encounter a strong tree lying stretched all across the river. One of the winter storms must have blown it over. But fallen trees are not usually a big problem as you can easily get under it or, where there is not enough space, climb over it. However, this tree poses a real challenge.
Strong branches hang low beneath it. No way to get through underneath the trunk. I have to climb over it. But the branches do not seem strong enough to carry my weight. I have to get on the trunk right from my board. I manage without falling into the cold river but my board is still down there, floating on the river. I manage to catch the leash with one foot and lift it from the water. I am surprised myself that I do not get a cramp in the leg from the effort. Getting back down onto the board on the other side prooves equally tricky but I manage in the end without major accidents.
Final approach The final bends prove longer than expected and I am quite happy when the intended destination comes into view after twelve kilometers. The cold takes its toll, more than I thought! Unneccessarily, the wind has also gathered strength from the northwest. After two hours I have finally made it and stiffly climb on shore.
The way back home After a nice, hot cup of tea, I immediately start to deflate the board, change clothes and pack up to avoid getting cold. Rolling up the board I hear the layer of ice crack. It is about a millimeter after all. But rather practicle in a way: just shake of the ice and you carry home an almost dry board. Enjoying the thought, I take on my backpack and start a four-kilometer walk back to my starting point.
Conclusions There is, of course, no need to go out on the water several times a week when temperatures are not even above zero. But particularly in early spring every single tour is a real experience. You get pure nature in return and every small sign of spring on the way is pure happiness. It is really time to get the season started.