How Windy is Too Windy to SUP?
A common question for people looking to get into SUP is “how windy is too windy to SUP?” If you’re new to the sport, it can be hard to know what level of wind you can handle. And how do you even find out what the wind is going to be like in the first place? We’ll answer all of your questions here!
Best Weather for SUP
The best weather for going paddle boarding is really about the same as the best weather in general. You want a warm (but not too hot) day with a little bit of cloud cover and very little wind. What a dream.
As far as wind goes, if this is your first time paddle boarding, shoot for a day with wind under 7 knots (about 8 miles per hour). Even a beginner should be able to fight this level of wind as long as they are going out on the water with someone who has a little more experience.
Once you have a little experience, try to avoid paddling on days where the expected wind is more than 12 kts (about 14 mph). Above this will still be doable for more experienced paddlers but the extra wind is going to make paddling a lot less relaxing and fun.
How to deal with bad weather while paddle boarding
Perfect weather does happen every once in a while but you can’t always count on the weather report and conditions can change pretty fast. It helps to know how to stay safe and have fun if the weather suddenly changes on you.
How to paddle on a windy day
Wind can be one of the hardest weather conditions to predict because the wind conditions where you’re paddling could be completely different from the wind conditions at the weather station that you are getting a wind report from due to terrain and other factors. Here are some tips so you don’t have to panic if you ever get caught out in unexpected winds.
Minimize your body’s profile. Your body is going to start acting like a sail on windy days. To minimize how much the wind pushes you around, get on your knees or even lay down. This will make it a lot easier to paddle against the wind.
Use quick, short strokes. This will minimize the amount of time your paddle spends in the wind when you take it out of the water. You should try to orient the blade of the paddle so that the wind hits it on the edge instead of its wide face. You would be surprised at how much of a difference this makes.
Shift the position of your feet. Moving your feet a few inches forward on the board will shift the center of balance forward so that the nose of your board causes less wind resistance. If the wind is coming from behind you and not in front of you, shift your stance back a few inches.
Use obstacles and landmarks to block the wind. Hugging the shore to take advantage of landmarks that might block some of the wind is another strategy to minimize the impact of wind. If you paddle somewhere often, you might develop a route that will let you get where you want to go while being shielded from the worst of the wind.
Use your leash and PFD. The PFD should go without saying as you should be wearing one anyways. Wearing your leash will make it so your board doesn’t get swept away with the wind if you happen to fall off. The last thing you want to do if you’re battling wind is to lose all of your progress having to chase your board downwind. Your PFD will keep you afloat even if you get exhausted from chasing your board around in the water.
What do you do if you are paddle boarding during a lightning storm
You should always check the weather forecast before you go paddling, even in the warm summer months, in case there is a lightning storm in the forecast. Even still, lightning storms can come on suddenly when they aren’t expected so it pays to know what to do if you find yourself in one.
As soon as you start to see lightning or hear thunder, you should get off the water. Don’t stick around to see if it is going to get close to you or not.
Once you get to shore, prioritize protecting yourself over dealing with your paddle board. You should seek shelter like a car or a building as fast as you can. Tall or isolated trees are a really bad shelter because they often attract lightning.
If there isn’t any good shelter around, crouch down with your feet on the ground and your hands on your knees and lower your head. Make yourself a small target and keep as much of yourself off the ground as possible.
Where to look for detailed weather and wind reports?
Your basic weather app is a good place to start when you want to know what the wind is going to be like but it’s really hard to know whether those reports will be accurate because the weather station may be in a different area or on different terrain than where you are going to be paddling.
I like to check websites like windfinder.com for wind reports because you can actually see all of the stations that are reporting wind and get a broad sense of the conditions that day.
Airports almost always have really good, accurate wind reporting and forecasting because pilots need accurate and timely wind reports for flying. If you are paddling near an airport (even a small municipal one) look online and see what the wind is like.
Aviationweather.gov has all of the weather information for airports. METARs are hourly reports with accurate wind and weather info, TAFs are forecasts of future conditions.
Basic weather patterns you should learn to up your SUP game
The heating and cooling of the air and terrain causes daily wind patterns that it can be useful to know. These patterns play out on a daily basis as the sun heats the earth and the earth cools at night.
Canyon wind patterns for paddling reservoirs
If you love the beautiful scenery that you get when paddling a reservoir with steep canyon walls, you should know about the diurnal canyon wind patterns. During the day, as the air in the canyon heats up, it starts to rise and follows the natural path up the canyon. This causes wind to flow fairly quickly up the canyon in the mornings and early afternoons.
As the day begins to cool, the air at the top of the canyon cools the fastest, this causes the opposite effect as during the day. The cooling air falls down the canyon following the natural landscape of the canyon walls, causing wind going down the canyon.
These patterns are important to know because you don't want to end up in a situation where diurnal winds make your return journey harder than expected. You may have hardly any wind when you paddle out for the day, but when the sun starts to dip lower and you want to pack things up, you may find that the wind flowing down the canyon is now working against you.
Diurnal canyon winds are the worst on long Summer days when the sun has plenty of time to heat up the rock and air in the canyon. These patterns aren’t exactly the same in every canyon, but you will notice the daily wind patterns at any canyon reservoir you visit frequently.
Shore wind patterns for paddling on the ocean
A similar effect happens near the sea. During the day, when the land is hotter than the ocean, warm air over land lifts into the atmosphere as cool air from the ocean rushes onto land to take its place. This causes wind going towards the shore as the land heats up during the daytime.
At night, the land cools off much faster than the water and the process is reversed, with the now cold air on land rushing towards the sea. This causes the wind to flow towards the ocean in the evenings and nights. This is an important factor when planning paddling trips on the ocean as you don’t want to get caught out paddling when the air starts flowing towards the sea pushing you further from land.
Now that you have the know-how of handling the weather on a SUP it’s time to get out there and practice your skills! Get ready for Spring and summer with a new Glide inflatable paddleboard. Check out our lineup here!