Winter sup in the big apple!

Adventure athlete, wine enthusiast, and editor Stefani Jackenthal takes us on Winter paddleboard journey across the Hudson River!

STEFANI JACKENTHAL - Adventure travel journalist

Adventure athlete, wine enthusiast, and editor Stefani Jackenthal takes us on Winter paddleboard journey across the Hudson River!

It’s easy to forget that Manhattan is an island with incredible waterways and a thriving paddling community. Over the past two decades, the Hudson River in NYC has become my paddling playground. Somewhat of a sanctuary, it offers a mini-escape from the hustle of fast-paced city life and a chance to enjoy Mother Nature’s urban edge. The fisheye’s view of the NYC skyline and Statue of Liberty is a sight to remember.

In 1998, I learned to kayak on the Hudson River, which I needed to compete in the Raid Gauloises Adventure Race in Ecuador. I thought paddling was a one-off deal. As a former nationally ranked road cyclist and competitive triathlete at the time, paddling sounded fun and novel but short-stayed. Little did I know it would capture my heart and soul.

When the wind is down, I can hear the Hudson calling me any time of year. Admittedly, winter paddling takes a lot of effort and planning. It begins with packing all my cold-weather gear and pedaling my 1970s Schwinn, I affectionately call Cinnamon Girl, along the frigid river to our boathouse at Pier 84, at West 44th and the Hudson (about a 15-minute ride) - where I store my paddleboard and surf ski - and then getting dressed.

It always feels daunting. Yet, when I step into the warm, spacious storehouse, stacked with rows of kayaks and SUPs, I’m filled with the excitement of a kid waiting to get on an amusement park ride. And, I can’t wait to get on the water. Unlike the warmer months when the river swarms in controlled chaos with jet skis, sailboats, Circle Liners, commuter ferries, and raucous recreational boats cohabitating, it is relatively empty during winter – even peaceful.

Just before Christmas, on a calm, chilly Saturday at 9:00 am, I stepped onto my 12’6” Pau Hana SUP and launched from our boathouse dock. Clad in a banana yellow drysuit, PFD, 7mm neoprene booties, blue wooly cap, and thick snowmobiling gloves, I was warm and safe, though certainly not NYC style chic.

A thick haze hung over the unhurried Hudson River as I reached forward and dug my long carbon paddle deep into the sub-40-degree water. I glided past the massive Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, which shares our bay, and headed south. The crisp air was refreshing, and I felt free as I rotated my torso, paddled past the ferry terminal, and weathered piers flanking the river. Tall skyscrapers filled the backdrop.

Thankfully, the haze burnt off, and the sun peaked out when I crossed the Hudson River to the New Jersey side. It is always a bit intimidating alone, especially during the barren winter. The shush, shush, shush of water under my board was the only sound as I continued splashing south. I waved to people walking along riverside paths and a group of fishermen casting from a pier behind an Italian restaurant.

As I passed the 50-feet Colgate Clock near Exchange Place in Jersey City, once the headquarters of Colgate-Palmolive (until 1985), the Statue of Liberty - my destination - came into view. Twenty minutes later, I skirted the rim of Ellis Island, which was bustling with tourists. Without warning, the glassy water turned swirly, big and bouncy from wakes rolling off the immense orange Staten Island Ferry and Liberty Island ferries, periodically crisscrossing New York Harbor.

When the waterway cleared, I sprinted across the bay to the base of Lady Liberty. No matter how many times I’ve seen her from my SUP or kayak, I’m always blown away by her majestic grace and dwarfing size. While delicately balancing on my SUP, I looked up in awe at her magnificence and imposing significance - and hung out with her for a while.

After a final glance, I turned my board north and paddled back to my boathouse. In all, it was a 13-mile winter aqua sightseeing expedition that left me smiling the rest of the day!


Stefani Jackenthal is an adventure travel & wine journalist, owner of NTS Wine Tasting LLC and elite endurance athlete who has competed and reported from around the world. 'Detox to Retox!' is Stefani’s lifestyle and journalistic niche.

NTS Wine Tasting LLC creates fun and informative in-person and Zoom wine tastings and classes. Each custom-crafted event features swirling, sipping and savoring wonderful wines from around the world, while learning about different wine regions, varietals and how to pair with food.

To learn more about Stefani visit and Insta: @StefaniJackenthal

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