How to Paddle Board in Windy Conditions

3-minute read

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a fun way to get a great workout and enjoy the water. Paddling along on glassy water is always a thrill…but isn’t always reality. Sometimes wind can become a real issue.

woman paddleboarding, photo taken at wave-height

Wearing your PFD is even more important when it’s windy (photo courtesy of Gregory C.)

Here are some things you can do to deal with wind and the inevitable waves it’ll kick up:

Tips for Handling Wind

It’s not uncommon to be out on the water on your paddle board and to notice the wind picking up, especially if you’ve been out for a while. If you’re on a lake, the wind has time to blow across that big body of water with nothing blocking it.

A breeze that starts to push some small waves up shouldn’t cause you any problems. But if you start to see big patches of whitecaps, you may consider turning back, especially if you’re on a large lake.

TURN INTO THE WIND AND WAVES IF POSSIBLE—The most ideal situation is for the wind to be at your back and pushing you to your launch point. The next most ideal situation is to head into the wind and waves directly. The least stable position is for the wind and waves to hit you from the side.

You may need to adopt a tacking strategy—zig-zagging across the water to your destination—to capitalize on your stability and avoid being sideways to the wind.

man paddleboarding at sunset in some waves

Know your limitations in wind and waves (photo courtesy of @toddavison)

GET LOWER ON YOUR BOARD—Standing on your board causes a lot of wind resistance. So if the wind is strong enough to push you around, get lower on your board. Drop down to your knees and you’ll increase your stability. You can paddle from that position all the way back.

LAY ON YOUR BOARD—If that still doesn’t do the trick, consider laying on your stomach. Secure your paddle so you don’t lose it, then paddle with your hands on either side of the board. It’s not fast, but it’s stable and will eventually get you there.

When Is It Too Windy to SUP?

Most paddling safety experts recommend staying off the water in winds above 15 mph, or 10-12 mph if you’re a beginner. Winds below 10 mph are more like breezes, and not much to worry about.

One of the paddler’s best friends is a reliable weather app that gives an hour-by-hour forecast for your area, including wind speed and direction. Look at the forecast before planning your SUP trip.

Many times it’s calm in the mornings and evenings, but the winds pick up during the day. Plan your paddling time accordingly.

Safety in Windy Conditions

If the wind picks up enough for you to be concerned, keep these important safety tips in mind:

STRAP THE LEASH ON—That way if you fall into the water, the wind won’t blow your SUP out of reach. If you haven’t strapped the leash on already, put in on now.

close up of a man paddleboarding in waves, wearing SUP leash

Wear your SUP leash and you won’t get separated from your board (photo courtesy of Luke Foley)

WEAR YOUR PFD—No matter how good of a swimmer you are, wearing your PFD is your best safety measure. This is especially true if the weather turns on you and you’ll be battling wind and waves to get back in.

STICK CLOSE TO SHORE—Keeping within a swimmable distance to shore is always a good idea. If the wind and waves increase above your ability level, you’re better off getting to dry land, even if it means taking out early or away from your launch point.

WATCH OUT FOR WATER HAZARDS—Whether fallen trees, big rocks or docks and other boats, keep an eye on your surroundings and steer clear of anything that could cause you problems.

The more you practice paddle boarding, the more comfortable you’ll be in a reasonable amount of both wind and waves. Let them challenge you and give you reason to increase your skills and confidence!

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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