I count myself very clearly among the people who don't like to freeze. The warmer the better, escape the winter in Germany as much as possible. So I was accordingly skeptical at first, faced with a self-attempt of the trend sport winter stand up paddling.
Snow, cold, and a frozen-over lake – and all that on a wobbly board. Did the editorial staff want to bully me with frost work? I let myself be talked into it, and agreed to meet with the Stecher twins Manuel and Mario at the Hotel Fischer am See in Heiterwang, Austria.
The two Allgäu natives are winter SUP experts in the German-speaking world, and gave me the most cheerful greeting in the snow-covered winter landscape. I couldn't exactly share the twins' euphoria with -3 degrees Celsius and light snowfall. Like I said: frostophobia!
After I had crammed myself into my borrowed dry suit, pulled on my neoprene shoes, and it became clear to me that a two month break from sports in the winter is not very conducive to your figure, I was thrown directly into the cold water by the Stecher twins.
Well, at least symbolically speaking. The task was worded as a polite request: "Just get into the lake up to your neck, so you can get a feel for how thick your dry suit is."
The result: dry is relative. The ice-cold water of the lake ran in slowly but steadily at the transition to my neoprene shoes, with the same dilemma at my neck. "A little bit of water is okay, it warms up after a bit and then it isn't so bad anymore," Manuel reassures me.
Well, I think to myself, after the limits are roughly defined and the water in the suit really does get warm relatively quickly, thanks to my body temperature. Now I want to get on a board this way, too.
At the shore, Mario explains to me that first I should try it on my knees – and if I feel secure that way, then standing up will be the order of the day. It's relatively simple to achieve a balance on the board, buoyant board, so after a couple of strokes with the paddle I trust myself to go completely perpendicular.
Here also: slightly wobbly, but still within reason. And with every stroke further out onto the slightly frozen lake, I understand what the boys mean by the declaration, "We love this quiet in the winter."
Aside from the faint crunching of the thin sheets of ice, the soft lapping of the paddle, and my own breath, there's nothing to be heard. I quickly gain confidence on the board, and venture a glimpse at the dream-like landscape. Snow-covered mountains, the sun that fights through the mist – simply divine.
And while we smoothly paddle back to the shore, I catch myself reflecting on when the next time I get a winter SUP trip in my appointment calendar will be.
Damn, are winter and I actually becoming friends now? Will I have to rethink my opinion on the cold once again?
Maybe so, but only under one condition: not without my dry suit!