Paddle boarding on a Windy Day
Wind and Paddleboarding don't always mix well. For those days that are a little windy here are our best tips on making it a crazy fun adventure!
As we’ve mentioned in other blog posts, the wind is not your friend on a stand up paddle board. In fact, it can create very dangerous circumstances as your high center of gravity causes you to act like a sail on your board. It is also imperative that you do not become separated from your SUP on a blustery day. With the proper precautions, you won’t find yourself in harm’s way.
First and foremost, make sure that you are wearing both a leash and a PFD when you head out. The U.S. Coast Guard regulations state that you only need to have your PFD attached to your SUP but because the wind and the chop that it creates, there is greater potential for a spectacular fall, that could result in a head injury, it is highly recommended that you wear the PFD during your entire paddle session.
To stay doubly protected from a fall due to the intense chop, we strenuously recommend that you are attached to your board via a leash because the strong wind can send your SUP far from you and you may not be able to catch up to it by swimming – especially when you factor in the fact that you need to keep track of your paddle as well.
If you aren’t attached to your board with a leash, that same wind can send your SUP far from you and you may not be able to catch up to it by swimming – especially when you factor in the fact that you need to keep track of your paddle as well.
Check the wind forecast before you head out for the day. Windfinder.com is a great source that will tell you the current speed of the wind at the body of water you are heading out to and what to expect the rest of the day. It will also give you an idea of wind direction. If the wind is blowing stronger than 10-12 mph, you may want to skip your SUP session.
If you notice mostly wind and kite surfers out on the water, it’s probably not the right day for taking the SUP out. The last time I tried to paddle out when the only other vessels on my local lake were kite boarders, I never made it more than 25 yards offshore.
The kite boarders were gleefully doing circles around me and making sarcastic comments as I kept grinding and trying to get to the middle of the lake. After a half hour, I gave up the ghost and carried my board back to my car completely exhausted.
Check the Wind Direction
It’s critical that you don’t start your paddle with the wind at your back. This is especially important if you are paddling in the ocean and have an offshore breeze.
Before you know it, you will be way too far out, and you will have to expend quite a bit more energy when you try to get back or you could find yourself stranded.
Sure, you may have had a complete blast as you ended up further down the lake than you had ever been, but do you really think you are going to enjoy the paddle back? Especially if most of that paddle is on your knees or belly as you try to lower your wind resistance.
Use landmarks like flags and trees to determine which way the wind is blowing and start your paddle session heading into the wind.
Learn to read the water in terms of which way the ripples are moving. Whitecaps obviously mean it’s blowing hard. You will end up working strenuously at the beginning of your paddle but will then get a nice respite on your trip back.
Depending how hard the wind is gusting, you may have an exciting joyride on the way back. Although it takes a certain amount of skill to navigate the wave “bumps” that are created on a very windy day. You may want to check out our article “The Thrill of a Downwinder” before you attempt it as it is very easy to cause your SUP to nosedive if you do not understand the dynamics of paddling with the wind.
Strategies for Paddling into the Wind
You will want to lower your center of gravity as you head into the wind so that you aren’t as large of an obstacle to be pushed against.
Bring your lower hand a bit closer to your upper hand which will force the paddle deeper into the water which will increase the power of each stroke.
Make sure to “feather” your paddle as you remove it from the water so that the slide of the blade can easily slice through the wind. If you still aren’t making headway, try getting down on your knees and paddling from there.
The smaller you are, the less resistance you will face. If that doesn’t work, lie flat on your stomach on the board with the front of your paddle facing against the board and your chest holding it down.
Paddle with your hands just like the surfers do. You will find that you are able to cut through the wind easily in this position.
Crosswinds offer the most dangerous kind of wind conditions for a SUP. Your tracking will suffer quite a bit in a crosswind, and you will find that you need to paddle almost exclusively on the opposite side that the wind is blowing from to stay in a straight line. This will cause you to fatigue quicker.
The “sweep stroke” that we outline in our article “Keeping your SUP in a Straight Line” can help quite a bit when you switch your paddle over to the side that the wind is coming from.
The sweep stroke will help keep your board from turning immediately in the direction that the wind is blowing you. Another strategy to deal with a crosswind is to zig-zag your way through it. Point the nose of your board into the wind but still at enough of an angle that you are making progress in the direction you want to go in. Then reverse the process with your back to the wind. Rinse and repeat.
Another strategy to deal with a crosswind is to zig-zag your way through it. Point the nose of your board into the wind but still at enough of an angle that you are making progress in the direction you want to go in. Then reverse the process with your back to the wind. Rinse and repeat.
Wind is a fact of SUP life. With the proper understanding, strategies, and precautions it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker and can add some excitement to your paddle board excursion.