Story and photos by Tony Moceri
I love being on the water. I always have. There is something special about the way the world moves when floating. From late spring to early fall, I do whatever I can to be on or in the water. I relish those moments where my body seems to rejuvenate as I try to become one with the water. Too soon each year the Pacific Northwest weather rears its ugly head as the rain falls and temperatures dip. This has always marked the end of my time with the water as I head for shelter scared off by Mother Nature.
Over the last few years, paddleboarding has become my favorite way to spend time with the water. When I set out, often solo, I enter my own world that seems so free. I get the fun of riding whatever waves exist and taking in the views, all while getting in a workout. It’s always a sad day when I deflate my board for the last time in the fall, knowing it will be months before I set out once more.
I have considered getting set up to paddle in colder weather where I replace board shorts with a wetsuit, but I hate being cold, and every year that goes by, it seems to happen more quickly. I was once again talking about how much I wanted to go paddleboarding, and my wife said to stop talking about it and just do it. My response was to pitch an all-seasons paddleboarding article to Mount Baker Experience, and here I am. I need to figure out what I need, get it and then get out on the water, where I will hopefully stay as dry and warm as possible. My wife offered to come out and take some pictures, so now I had no excuses and a deadline to meet.
To get started, I talked to friends who surf in the PNW, combed the internet and called around to some local stores. I am already learning. Instantly people started throwing numbers at me when describing the suites; 4/3, 3/2, 5/4. The numbers meant nothing to me.
It turns out the numbers are the thickness of the suits in millimeters. The first number is the thickness in the core. The second number is the thickness of the extremities, which are thinner to allow more mobility. In addition to size and thickness, there are hooded and non-hooded and short and long-sleeved. I will also need to figure out booties and gloves, they tell me.
After going into a couple of stores and almost ordering wetsuits online, I decided I was out of my realm and reached out to Wildcat Cove Paddle, a company that leads paddleboarding tours in Chuckanut Bay. I didn’t know them but had seen them on Instagram and was envious that they paddleboard for a living. Ava Larsen, the owner, turned out to be a huge help. She talked me through sizes, comfort, mobility and, most importantly, staying alive should I fall off my board into chilly waters. She recommended I head into Kite Paddle Surf in Bellingham to talk to them and buy my gear.
Taking her advice, I stopped into Kite Paddle Surf. They had everything I needed and were happy to answer all my questions as I made my selections. I ended up getting a full body 4/3mm Hyperflex wetsuit. To go with it, I bought 3mm Hyperflex surf boots and 3mm Mystic open palm gloves, but they are really more mittens than gloves. The open palm allows me to grip the paddle while keeping my hands warm.
All geared up and ready to go, I picked a calm sunny day to test my new setup. With my board pumped up, I set out on the glassy winter water of Lake Whatcom. When I first climbed into my suit, I was worried that I would be uncomfortable with how tight it was, but as soon as I felt the water under the board, I didn’t give it another thought. Having the lake all to myself is an added benefit I hadn’t even considered. Sure, houses dot the shore but once out on the water, it was just the water, the mountains and me.
My primary purpose in the setup was to not die from hypothermia should I fall into the water. But then my mind switched to comfort. I had been on a spring paddle where my wet toes had become painfully cold, and my fingers had been stiff from chill air. All geared up, I felt none of that. Comfort, both in mobility and warmth, was great, and I feel confident I could handle a much colder day as I was very warm once I started working.
I could have stayed out all day if the real world and this article weren’t calling. Now, instead of my board sitting lonely in the garage all winter, it will stay in my vehicle at all times as it does in the summer. x
Tony Moceri is a freelance writer who loves to get out and explore the world with his family. He shares his journey @adventurewithinreach and tonymoceri.com.