Sports, Fitness & Wellness

Keep Fit: Water Safety and a Desperate Plea for Summer

A few weeks ago, I attempted to take advantage of the first sign of spring-like temperatures and go stand up paddleboarding. I donned my wetsuit, threw my board on top of my car and drove to Mecox Bay in Water Mill, my usual spot. I was greeted with a thick sheet of ice. The discovery wasn’t too surprising. At no more than six or seven feet deep, obviously Mecox would be frozen after days of frigid temperatures.

Disappointed, but not deterred, I decided to head toward Shinnecock Bay. Far larger and deeper than Mecox, Shinnecock would allow me to remedy my cabin fever with a nice paddle. No such luck. The bay was also completely frozen. I tried once more, steering my car toward Conscience Point in North Sea. But it too was frozen.

Needless to say, I shouldn’t have been as disappointed as I was. It should have been obvious that one 40° day wasn’t going to reverse the effects of weeks’ worth of freezing temperatures. But I had high hopes, and the potential for reward was so great that I didn’t initially acknowledge the possibility that my adventure would be in vain.

My friend Katy would describe my tenacity to stand up paddleboard (SUP) that day as “escalation of commitment”—the feeling that you’ve already invested so much time into an activity, that you decide to see it through no matter what the opportunity cost. I spent an hour and a half driving around the East End doing nothing but looking for water. But I don’t necessarily regret the wasted time.

I prefer to think of my adventures in a different way. Once I make a decision, I’m not easily sidetracked, and I think that’s a positive thing.

But now, spring is actually—allegedly—here. For those of us who are looking to relieve our cabin fever, be wary that warmer air temps don’t mean warmer water temps quite yet, so proper water safety is key. The average water temperature off Montauk right now is a bone-chilling 34.2°F, posing significant risk, should a leisurely outing go awry, to boaters, kayakers and SUP-ers not wearing the appropriate equipment. At these temperatures, a swimmer will feel exhaustion and the onset of hypothermia in under 15 minutes.

Though the Coast Guard requires that life jackets be present aboard small watercraft, water enthusiasts are advised to go a step further and wear them, as it significantly increases your chances of survival if you fall in. Hypothermia sets in when body temperature dips below 95°F, and signs and symptoms of hypothermia include disorientation and fatigue, impacting your ability to swim to safety.

Be smart, always tell a friend where you’re going out on the water, and soon enough, summer will return. I hope.

Until then, I’ve been spending chilly days at yoga class, which helps to develop core muscles and tone arms. Yoga is also a great distraction in the rat race of day-to-day life. Class is always about positivity, optimism and giving yourself credit for the things that you have achieved. The physical benefits, too, up your endorphins. My friend and yoga instructor, Jenna Raynell, who teaches at Well Within Studio in East Hampton, once told me that you can leave a yoga class feeling like you just got an intense workout, or like you’ve just gotten a massage. It’s up to the student to decide what they need that day, and to capitalize on the moment and take time to make yourself feel better.

In turn, when you’re feeling positive, other things seem to fall into place. While some decisions, like giving up on a paddleboarding adventure, may be difficult to accept, my standing Monday date with yoga is an easy one. There’s no better way to start the week.

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