How to Read the Wind for Paddleboarding
The wind is one of the most important things to check when embarking on a paddleboarding adventure.
If you don’t know already, wind plays a huge factor when paddleboarding, more so than when kayaking or canoeing since you are standing up and are less aerodynamic. See my post on Paddleboarding vs Kayaking.
Wind can determine what type of paddle it will be and can turn a fun and positive adventure into a negative shitty one. Read below to help build your wind forecasting skills!
How Windy Is Too Windy?
This will depend on your experience, type of board, type of paddling you’d like to do, location and wind direction.
I find that anything over 16 kph / 9.9 mph / 8.6 knots becomes difficult or more of a fitness paddle. You can paddle comfortably with winds stronger than this in locations that are protected or the wind direction is offshore and you are able to hug the shore for protection (warning: don’t travel too far from shore with a strong offshore breeze or it will take you away!)
If you are a beginner you should go out on flat and calm days, to begin with. Not only is this easier and safer but it will be much more enjoyable and provide a positive experience with the sport.
Checking the Wind
This can be tricky and often takes practice and knowledge of your local paddle spots! You’ll find I give insights into wind speed & direction for the paddle locations I write about on the blog. See Oakville Sixteen Mile Creek and Hamilton Princess Point
Three most important things to look at:
- Wind speed
- Wind direction
- **If you are paddling on the ocean or a channel connected to the ocean you will need to also check the tides!
Find at least two apps or websites that provide details on the wind specifically. Windfinder and Windy app are my go-to. See below for resources.
I’m a visual person so seeing the map and wind lines moving in the correct direction is my first go-to impression. From there I dig deeper and check my favourite marked spots for the forecasted wind and swell.
Screen recording video of Windfinder app.
Planning Your Paddle:
Check the wind forecast a week or a few days out to give you the best idea for optimal days to plan a paddle. When it comes to wind direction analyze the location you’re looking at and access & plan your paddle route.
Plan to paddle into the wind first so you aren’t battling it on the way back or become exhausted which creates a safety concern. Another option is called downwinding where you plan to have the wind at your back the entire time. This requires you to plan a different exit point than where you launched from as well as ensuring you have a ride or are leaving a vehicle at the end location before setting out on your paddle.
Consider your ability and those going with you when looking at wind and swell.
It’s important to check wind resources again before going paddling. Like all weather conditions, things can change from the forecast or it’s not accurate.
Scout the launch site and assess the conditions when you first arrive and before you get your gear out.
Know your paddling ability and don’t underestimate the wind. Typically inflatable boards catch the wind more easily than hard boards.
Make sure your advance plan can still work. Are you able to paddle into the wind first? Or if you set out to do a one-way paddle with a ride at the other end make sure the wind is still in your favour.
- If paddling into the wind first isn’t possible, assess if it will still be an enjoyable paddle and think about not going as far knowing that it will be more difficult and tiring on the way back.
- Keep an eye on the conditions as you paddle. Wind speed and direction can change and sometimes very quickly. Use your senses! Check nearby trees, flags, water rippling, feel and hear the breeze or wet your finger to feel what direction the wind is coming from. Usually, if you can’t feel or hear the wind it’s coming from behind you.
The two below photos were taken on the same day and the same paddle within an hour of one another.
Be aware that wind can change that quickly!
Getting Caught In The Wind:
Things happen and remember you can always drop down to your knees to lessen the wind resistance, increase your stroke power and get back to shore safely.
- SUP journal: Jot down the wind speed and direction and what the conditions were each time you go out so you start to become more familiar with your paddling locations.
- Calm waters don’t necessarily mean no wind and no wind doesn’t mean the water will be still. Check both the wind and swell.
- Tides and currents are also big factors to consider and learn about. These will differ from location to location. Be sure to learn more about the areas you are paddling. Ask locally and never put yourself in a situation where you don’t feel safe.
- Don’t trust just one source or your basic weather app/station. Find at least two different app or web sources specializing in the wind that works for you and your area. Compare and refer to multiple sources each time.
The below four photos are from different wind forecasting apps all taken for the same location, day and time. As you can see they don’t all agree on the current wind conditions.
This is why it’s important to check and monitor more than one resource including what’s happening around you when you’re on the water.
17 kph/ 10.6mph/ 9.2 knots
29 kph/ 18mph/ 15.6 knots
26 kph/ 16.2 mph/ 14 knots
24 kph/ 15 mph/ 13 knots
Wind Forecasting Resources:
There are a lot out there. Some better than others. Some paid and some free. Many will be great for certain locations but don’t have information for others.
I’d recommend downloading a few apps to try and see what ones you find the best for your paddling areas and what is easiest for you to use.
Suggested free resources:
- Windfinder (app and web)
- this is my favourite! Ease of use, set favourites, all wind and wave forecasts, easy to see, typically on point for wind forecasting
- Windy.com (app and web)
- great visual of overall wind patterns but difficult getting finer details. A neat feature: incorporation of webcams
- Windy (app) *different from above
- Limitations when you don’t pay. This one looks like it has the most potential if you pay for a subscription ($75) In the free version pick Windsurfing as the sport to get wind and swell forecast.
- WindCompass (app)
- quick & easy to see speed and wind direction for your current location (free version)
- Wind Guru (web)
- great stats but clunky to use
- WindHub (app)
- similar to Windy.com but only present wind and wind gusts on the free version.
- SeaBreeze (Australia only)
- we used this when sea kayak guiding in Australia and is a great tool!