I’ve always been curious to see what a one year view of my paddling looks like mapped out on a calendar. Finally with COVID-19 quarantine in effect, I’ve had the extra time to put it together.
Winter paddling may not be for everyone, and it is certainly not without risks, but this past year has proven that if you enjoy it enough, invest the time in developing the right skills, and own the right gear, it is feasible to paddle all year on Lake Michigan. I was fortunate that this past winter was mild and we didn’t get the usual shoreline ice build up, so the water was accessible all year. That said, we also had the 4th coldest April on record, but as you can see from the calendar, I logged a lot of miles in April.
I’ll highlight a few additional points to help better explain what may appear as a somewhat erratic paddling schedule:
- In full transparency, I’ve never been very good at following any type of actual training plan, there is no rhyme or reason to the distances or number of days that I paddle
- Any paddle over 7 miles is a downwind, all paddles less than 7 miles are out-and-backs
- I rarely paddle flat water, so 90% of the paddles shown are in at least 1 1/2 foot and bigger conditions
- My typical work schedule involves travel out of state Mon-Thurs, so you’ll notice several months where all of my sessions are clustered around Fri/Sat/Sun
- I was off work in August, so you can see I logged a lot of days then.
- I stopped traveling in Mid March due to COVID-19, so you’ll see a big uptick there
- My threshold for not going out paddling is wind chill below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but I also consider wave size and wind strength, and don’t typically go out in the winter if winds are over 25 kts and waves are over 7 feet
- This past winter I paddled the V8 Pro November through March
- I only paddle downwind in winter if I can stay within a kilometre of shore
- I paddle almost exclusively in a drysuit because it is more comfortable and easier to get in and out of. However, I don’t think it is as safe as a high quality winter wetsuit, especially toward the end of a long paddle when I am always drenched in sweat.
- I generally don’t paddle more than 5 miles in a session during winter, because I want to be sure I’m not worn down in case of an emergency that could require a sustained physical effort.
- I always have a well charged cell phone and SPOT GEN EPIRB tethered to my PFD at all times. My wife tracks me via my cell phone running Life360. She can see my speeds at any time and knows that if I’m ever floating at 1-3 mph for an extended period of time, something has gone wrong.
- To date, I’ve had my best single kilometre splits in Jan/Feb time-frame, paddling the V8 or V8 Pro in a full drysuit
- Last but not least, I don’t paddle because of dedication, will power, or discipline. I paddle because I am addicted to chasing the waves and honing my skills 🙂