Winter Paddling in Wisconsin
Instagram Handle: @dino_halsey
Location: Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin
Board: 10’5 Cruiser
Having fun paddling year-round
My first time paddling Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.
The journey to upper Wisconsin in November to paddle board Lake Michigan is an experience in bitter cold temperatures.
I had always wanted to go to Milwaukee to paddle and surf Lake Michigan. I decided on my 41st birthday last year that I would finally go there and check it out. We found a hotel north of the city in a quiet suburb called Whitefish Bay. It is a town that is built on a bluff above the lake. It’s filled with beautiful trees and a shore line that would remind you of the Pacific Northwest. The lake and the beaches are extremely clean. The beaches consist of sand and pebbles.
It was a Sunday morning when I got the opportunity to go paddling. I carried my Isle Cruiser board through the hotel and out to my car. The looks I got from the other hotel patrons were epic. Here I am carrying what looks like to them a giant surfboard through the hotel and it’s 15 degrees outside. Not to mention the SUP and surf scene has not really caught on yet up here like it has on the coasts. I get outside and my car is covered in about 6 inches of snow and ice. I get loaded up with my board and gear, and embark on my journey. Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself, am I crazy?
I arrive at the beach at about 9 a.m. The wind is blowing and it’s cold. I tried to talk myself out of going in the water at this point, but I knew I came here for a reason and I was not about to bail out now. My biggest concern was getting hypothermia because I only had a 3/2 wetsuit to wear. Thankfully, my gloves and booties were thicker so I knew I would be okay … hopefully. I get suited up and get out of the car. The wind hit my face and it felt like needles hitting me. I began to undo the straps holding my board on the roof of my car. The wind was playing havoc with that process also. I get the board off the car. Screw in a 10-inch surfing fin, grab my paddle, and head down the bluff to the beach. The water is a gorgeous blue with small ripples coming into shore. As I get down to the beach the wind completely stopped and the sun was shining. The water temp was around 45 degrees and was actually steaming because the air was so much colder than the water. I put my ankle strap on and jumped on my board into the water.
So here I am about 100 yards off shore on Lake Michigan in the middle of Wisconsin in November. This was a first for me. I paddled up and down the coast and gazed at all the lush tree lines and rocky shores. The homes that were nestled on top the bluff were amazing. I thought to myself how amazing would it be to live in one of those homes considering I’m from Davenport, Iowa and I live in a small duplex in the city. The sun was shining brightly and having an all black wet suit on made it quite warm out on the open water. I even got in and went for a swim. The water was so clear and I paddled around some big rocks where little fish were swimming. The waves were pretty small and I had fun playing around in the surf. After about an hour or two I had to pack up and head back to the hotel to check out. As I was heading back up the bluff the wind got stronger and the temperature dropped. Ice was starting to form all over my wetsuit and board. Now I’m cold!! So I laid my board on the ground and jumped in my car and cranked up the heat. I quickly changed back into my clothes put my shoes on and warmed up. As I got out of the car to strap my board back on. Two men walked up and asked me if I was just out in the water. I said “yes I was and it was a blast”. There reply was “man you’re hardcore,” I laughed and got back in my car a headed back. I thought to myself, if I would have let fear stop me this morning I would have never had such an amazing experience. I recommend if there are things in your life that you are afraid of don’t let it stop you because it can lead to a wonderful experience like I had that day.
- To paddle in freezing cold temps wear a thick enough wetsuit to keep your body warm.
- Have a set of booties that will keep your feet warm and a nice pair of gloves to keep your hands warm.
- Do not chance a risk of Hypothermia.
Get out there and have fun!