Stefani Jackenthal drops her paddleboard in the river, steps on and chills. The air temp is near freezing. The water, 36 degrees.
But despite the cold, standup paddleboarding is a comfort to Jackenthal, the way she copes with all the COVID-19 craziness of the past year — the social distancing, the masks, the changes in her business, NTS Wine Tasting.
“The wind goes down,” Jackenthal, 54, told The Post, “and I can hear the Hudson calling me.”
A few times a week in the winter, the former pro cyclist hops on her 1970s Schwinn to pedal from her apartment in the West 70s to Pier 84 Boathouse, at 12th and West 44th, where she stores her board and changes clothes.
Simply getting dressed takes 20 minutes. Jackenthal methodically lists the layers, from the bottom up: heavier, Smartwool hiking socks; two pairs of tights — one thinner, the other thermal and windproof; a bikini top; and two high-neck Lycra rash guards — one middleweight, the other heavyweight.
Next comes the dry suit, which has Gortex booties attached and rubber gaskets at the neck and wrists. Over the booties goes another fleece-lined pair made of the rubber substitute neoprene.
Now, the masked Jackenthal is ready to pull on her ski cap, sunglasses, and snowmobiling gloves, which are not only warm and water-resistant, but have enough give to let her hold her paddle correctly. The last piece, and an absolute must: a PFD — personal floatation device.
The only thing left is carrying her paddle and board, which measures 12-feet-6-inches and weighs 27 pounds, down to the dock.
In all, Jackenthal figures her gear totaled roughly $3,700: $2,200 for the board and paddle, $1,100 for the dry suit and second pair of booties, and $400 for everything else.
“It’s an investment,” she told The Post. “And it’s such an effort to pack my s–t up and ride my bicycle, but when I get on the water, it’s just magic.”
Jackenthal, who stands 5 feet 6 and tips the scales at 115 pounds, morphed from passionate kayaker to paddleboarding junkie about five years ago. Her mentor is Eric Stiller, owner of Manhattan Kayak, which offers lessons and guided trips on both activities.
“She took to paddleboarding like a dog to a bone,” said Stiller, who estimates Jackenthal is one of only a half-dozen paddleboarders in the city who are skilled enough to solo in frigid weather.
On Monday, when the wind chill was 22, Jackenthal paddled up to the George Washington Bridge and back. The three-hour-plus trip is one of her faves.
“I cycle over the bridge and paddle under it. Looking down, then up,” she said. “The different perspectives are incredible.”
Whether on the job or in her down time, Jackenthal goes all in.
After the pandemic, she hustled to save her career — hosting wine tastings over Zoom to aficionados who sipped selections she had shipped to their homes, going virtual with her classes at the 92nd Street Y.
“It gave me a reason to take a shower and do my hair,” she said, laughing.
And Jackenthal logs more than 150 miles a week to stay in peak condition — 30 to 40 running and 110 biking, plus paddleboarding. A couple of times — in the summer — she even paddled the 28 nautical miles around Manhattan.
“I’m built like a wind-up toy,” she told The Post. “I need to exhaust myself.”