By Marianne Hettinger
On a cold winter day you might have spotted a lone person paddling on a board on the Hudson River. It is Upper West Side resident Stefani Jackenthal, and what she is doing is called Stand Up Paddling, commonly referred to as SUP or SUPing. The Rag recently caught up with Stefani.
WSR: It was 21 degrees today not including the wind chill factor. Don’t you get cold?
STEFANI: I was the coldest riding my 1970s Schwinn bicycle to the boathouse from my apartment on the Upper West Side.
WSR: What inspired you to do SUP?
STTEFANI: I have been a competitive endurance/ultra-endurance athlete for all of my adult life, competing nationally and internationally. When I started adventure racing, I was on assignment for Conde Nast Women Sports & Fitness to write about my experience participating in the Raid Gauloise [a legendary race] in Ecuador in 1998. Although I was fit and ready to race, I didn’t know how to paddle. I learned to kayak paddle for the race from Eric Stiller, owner of MKC Kayak + SUP, and I was hooked on water sports. I started Surfski paddling and racing and, about 5 years ago, discovered SUP.
WSR: What do you enjoy about SUPing?
STEFANI: Seeing the NYC skyline is like visiting a new city each time I paddle. And, when I’m on my SUP, which requires me standing upright, I meet the nicest people on the Greenway Path. Paddling has been my rock during Covid. It allows me to escape the intensity of living in our populated city, and chill without fear of contracting the Covid-19 and enjoying the urban architecture, while on a personal adventure. I always return to my apartment feeling renewed and refreshed.
WSR: What safety precautions do you take?
STEFANI: All year ’round, I wear a PFD (personal flotation device) and carry a Marine radio. In the winter, like now, the water is below 40 degrees and hypothermic. This time of year I wear a Kokatat Gortex DrySuit, which is 100% waterproof, with rubber gaskets around my wrist, neck and booties. I also wear 7mm Henderson Booties, snowmobiling gloves, warm ski cap, Smith sunglasses, Smartwool hiking sox and several heavy lycra layers on my torso and Pearluzumi winter windproof tights on my legs, under the drysuit. It’s a production getting dressed. But oh, so worth it once I’m on the water.
WSR: If somebody wants to SUP, what type of training is involved?
STEFANI: SUP is a very user-friendly sport accessible to people of all fitness abilities. A beginner will use a wide, stable board and advance to a more nimble, slick board. The best thing to do is get on a board and perhaps, a lesson to learn a proper paddle stroke, which will make a newbie’s experience even better.
WSR: That is a big board, where do you store it at and how long is it?
STEFANI: I store my SUP and Surfski at Pier 84 (44th street & Westside Highway). MKC Kayak & SUP runs our boathouse and offers SUP & kayak lessons, as well as tours up & down the Hudson River. My SUP is 14’ 6”.
WSR: Do you need a special permit?
STEFANI: No permit needed.
WSR: Do you paddle in the summer too?
STEFANI: Yes, I paddle all year round. I SOOOOOOOOOOOO much prefer to paddle in a bikini under the sunshine. But, since I don’t live out west near a trailhead to hike or ski, the Hudson River has become my year ’round playground. Proper gear and attitude makes it all accessible – and fun. You generate a lot of heat paddling, so once you’re in motion, all is good.
WSR: What parts of the body get worked out the most and any other benefits?
STEFANI: Triceps, Lats, Obliques, Rectus, Deltoid all get worked from paddling and stabilizing on the SUP, which is always in motion. SUP is a full body workout. Emotional … A connection with (urban) nature … the water. Escaping the city. I always return, feeling like I was just traveling/away for a mini adventure.
WSR: Anything unusual you’ve seen on the water?
STEFANI: The most unusual thing was seeing the cemetery of dead Bunker Fish this summer/fall. Very sad.
WSR: Have you ever fallen into the water?
STEFANI: Yes, I’ve fallen into the Hudson many times. My SUP is very easy to remount. In the summer, no problem. In the winter though, it’s a different story. I always bring an extra set of snowmobiling gloves and a ski cap in a Ziplock that is tucked into a drybag. Last January, the tide was especially low and as I was crossing under Pier I, my rudder (the fin under my SUP in the back, which helps keep the SUP moving straight), got caught on a cement slab. First time ever, and I flew into the Hudson. I was fine. I was wearing my drysuit, so not in danger. I immediately switched over to my warm, dry gloves and hat from my drybag, and all was good.
WSR: What do you do when you’re not paddling?
STEFANI: I own NTS Wine Tasting LLC. I run corporate and private wine events, teach wine classes at the 92Y, host private classes for wine enthusiasts & their friends/colleagues — and write restaurant wine lists. I wrote the wine list for Tavola Della Nonna and Lincoln Square Steak, on West 70th street.