First of all, for all my SoCal and Florida friends who’ve never lived through a New England winter, here’s a little background on the causes and symptoms of Cameram febris, commonly known as “Cabin Fever.”
Cause: Bad weather outside, too much time inside.
Symptoms: Grumpy, restless. Itchy dry skin, throat, sinuses (a fringe benefit of the low-humidity heat that keeps our older house so cozy).
Now a quick search back through the recent posts here might lead you to the conclusion that SUP is my new cure for everything—aging, fitness, grumpiness, bad balance, water access—and you wouldn’t be far off. But what I’ve realized this year is that my personal brand of cabin fever is caused by a very specific fringe benefit of winter: not getting out on the water. Walks, skiing, snowshoeing—those more normal New England cures for the winter blues aren’t nearly as effective for me as a good paddle. (Frostbite sailing would work, but there are other issues that interfere with that… all too long and dull to go into here.)
So I’ve turned to my paddleboard as the solution.
Last winter, I kept paddling even as fall turned suddenly to winter, a new addition to my seasonal denial about the cold weather to come. After New Year’s, when it’s no longer possible to ignore or deny winter (especially last year, when we already had a foot of snow on the ground), I still kept paddling, figuring every time might be my last one until spring. And then spring came, sooner than expected, and I realized I’d made it through another winter without succumbing to the dreaded Cameram febris. (Yes, I admit, a few sailing adventures in Florida helped too.)
This year, I feel like I’m getting away with something every time I go out. For one thing, it’s usually warmer than I expected. Even a weak low-angled winter sun will reflect off the harbor surface better than it warms up frozen ground ashore. A few days ago, it was 28 degress when I left the house—and halfway through my paddle, I had to remove my hat and neck gaiter. Two days before that, I paddled through a light snowfall—a rare treat.
Of course, I’m wearing the right clothes to keep warm, I always tell someone before I leave the dock, and I stay out of the water. (Watch this video for a different approach to winter paddling.) I don’t try anything new; instead, I paddle a little easier that I do in the summer, enjoying the view and smiling at the ducks and geese who are usually my only companions.
I do have a few trips planned to warmer weather, which is an even better cure for Cameram febris. But I’ve found that if I grab the chance to paddle when I can, warm summery optimism is easier to come by even during those long winter days at home.
(Which makes me wonder: Do you think I can get my health insurance to cover a new board?)