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Paddleboarders Guide To Wind Conditions

Updated: Sep 13, 2023


2 paddlers on SUP boards on the Salish Sea. It is a cloudy day with hills in the background.

“The autumn wind is a pirate. Blustering in from sea with a rollicking song he sweeps along swaggering boisterously.” (Steve Sabol)

Powerful and at times unpredictable, winds have a tendency to pick up during the colder fall and winter months. They have the ability to make your paddling adventures a little rocky and perhaps even intimidating, especially if you are inexperienced in these conditions. In fact, many stand up paddlers, fearful of an unexpected swim, avoid paddling in the windier seasons when air and water temperatures are colder. If you've had the urge to extend your paddling season, we want you to know that wind and paddle boarding are doable, if you are equipped with the necessary knowledge in order to have a SAFE and enjoyable time on the water.

In this blog post, we will be sharing all the ‘must knows’ to help you navigate through these windy times. So keep on reading and be prepared to be blown away!


If you would like formal training on how to handle Paddleboarding in the wind consider joining us for one of our advanced SUP Skills courses such as the Discovery Island Coastal Touring Course or our Gulf Islands Camping Course.



Wind Types


Offshore winds

Offshore winds consist of wind that is blowing away from land out across the open water. All paddlers should be wary of offshore winds that can push you far out into the body of water. Once you are ready to go back to shore and begin to paddle against the wind, also known as a headwind, it is incredibly difficult, tiring and takes considerably more time to paddle back.


Onshore winds

A woman on a blue paddle board on a lake. She is surrounded by trees.

Onshore wind is when the wind blows from the water onto land. If you are looking for more of a challenge with your paddle fit regime, an onshore wind will definitely provide you with resistance as you paddle outward. On the bright side, you will be cruising effortlessly back to shore.

Crosswinds

These occur when wind blows across the paddler, potentially pushing them in a direction they don’t want to go. Although this can be a challenge, you can compensate by paddling harder on the opposite side of the board in order to counter the wind's force. Experienced paddlers may attempt to take a headwind approach, which will keep the board more stable for the duration of your paddle adventure. It is beneficial to have an understanding of advanced skills, such as ferrying, that can counteract the effects of crosswinds.


If you would like to learn more about onshore and offshore winds and how they affect your paddleboarding read our post "Onshore vs Offshore Winds - Which is Better to Paddleboard In?".



Sustained Wind vs. Wind Gusts


What are wind gusts?

Wind gusts are sudden, short bursts of wind that can catch you off guard while paddle boarding. They can cause the board to move around more and make it difficult to stay on course. Inexperienced paddlers should avoid paddling in windy conditions altogether. Experienced paddlers may be able to take advantage of wind gusts by using advanced skills to counteract their effects.


What is sustained wind?

The sustained wind is best for paddle boarding because it provides resistance against your paddle and allows you to maintain your speed and direction. Inexperienced paddlers should avoid paddling in windy conditions altogether, while experienced paddlers may be able to take advantage of wind gusts by using advanced skills to counteract their effects.


Later in this article, we will cover what sustained wind speeds are too much wind.

Familiarize Yourself with Prevailing Winds

What are Prevailing Winds?


Prevailing winds blow regularly in a given direction over a particular region of the earth. Uneven heating from the sun and the Earth’s rotation cause these winds to vary at different latitudes on Earth. You can learn more about the prevailing winds in your region by taking a step outside each day and documenting the direction of the wind or checking with apps such as the Windy.app.

How to Identify Wind Direction

Wind direction is something you want to pay attention to before you enter the water. While there are resources that allow you to predict and track its behaviour, wind can change without any warning.


When determining the wind direction, it is important to pay attention to your surroundings. You will be able to see and feel the wind direction before entering the water. The direction in which trees and plants are being blown, as well as the force of their movement, will be a good clue; you can also look at nearby flags and banners. If the wind changes without warning, we suggest you try paddling closer to shore. Another technique you could try is using natural features, such as trees or cliffs, as a windbreak.


*It is important to note that winds are named by the direction they are coming from. Therefore, a southeasterly wind is blowing FROM the southeast to the northwest. A northerly wind is blowing FROM the north to the south. **This is the opposite to the naming of onshore and offshore winds as described above.

Prevailing Winds in BC

The prevailing winds in BC are the Westerlies. These winds blow regularly from the west to east over the region. The Westerlies are caused by uneven heating from the sun and the Earth's rotation, which creates a difference in air pressure between the equator and poles. This causes air to flow from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas in a clockwise direction.



Wind Speed

Higher winds have the ability to create choppier waters due to wind waves, which can cause you to struggle with balance and propelling yourself forward. However, wind and paddle boarding can be less intimidating if you make yourself aware of the wind speed before you adventure out onto the water.

If you are a beginner paddler we suggest you stay in calm, sheltered and flat waters, with the minimal wind in order to safely build your confidence on the water. We also suggest that you only paddle as far as you can swim in case you go for an unexpected dip (it happens to the best of us).


Best Wind Speeds for Paddleboarding

To help you determine if you should go paddling, we have created a simple guideline of paddleboard wind speeds to follow:

  • Sustained wind speeds of 5 knots and less (less than 9.26km/h) are ideal flat water conditions.

  • Beginners should never go out at 10 knots or more.

  • 20 - 25 knots (37 - 46km/h) are suited for only extremely advanced paddlers who are paddle surfing or down winding.

The water is also a great indicator of wind cues. If there are ‘whitecaps’ visible on the waves, this can be a sign that the wind speed is near 12 - 15 knots and that conditions could be challenging.

As you are researching the wind predictions for your paddle adventure, be sure to take note of units of measurement when checking wind speed predictions. To get a clearer idea of what to expect depending on the wind severity, we've created a handy Blue Jellyfish SUP Adventures Wind Guide to help your trip plan for your paddles. In addition, we recommend you refer to the Beaufort Wind Scale for useful visual indicators and descriptions of conditions at each level.


1knot = 1.852 kph = 1.15 mph


With time and practice, you will build your confidence on the water and gain a firmer understanding of the wind speed and condition you feel most comfortable paddling in.

What Wind is Safest to Paddle in?

A common question that we get from the SUP community is “what wind is safest to paddle in?”


If you are wanting to enjoy a leisurely paddle, a wind speed of 5 knots or less (up to 14mph) is considered to be the safest. This will allow you to enjoy the scenery and connect with your surroundings with smooth, flat waters.


How Much Wind is Too Much for Paddleboarding?

As important as it is to know the safest wind speed for paddling, it is just as important (if not more) to know the wind speed that should be avoided. As mentioned above, it is important to know what wind speed you are most comfortable with depending on your experience. That being said, even if you are at an advanced skill level, we suggest that you do not participate in any paddle sport if the wind speed is above 25 knots. In this case, it is best to stay on land.

In case you get stuck out on the water, check out our 10 Tips for Paddleboarding in the Wind.



Plan Your Trip


Introducing Windy.app


Windy.com is a great app for determining the weather conditions on the day of your trip. We use it for trip planning ahead, the day of pre-paddle checks as well as for monitoring changes of conditions during the paddle. Disclaimer - weather is variable and can never be completely predicted.

Windy features include:

A photo of someone holding their phone using the windy app to plan their SUP trip
  • wind speed

  • wind direction

  • wind gusts

  • temperature

  • cloud coverage

  • precipitation

  • wave direction

  • wave height

  • wave period

  • tidal height

While you are looking at the forecast for your day, make sure you also examine and monitor the effects of the weather outside of the area that could impact your local conditions and hence your paddle experience.

The Thing We Love the Most

Windy also provides you with a map overlaying wind speed and direction so you can get an idea of how it will change throughout the day. This helps you plan ahead, map out your day and of course, be safe!


If you want to learn more about helpful apps for planning your stand-up paddle boarding journey, read our blog post-Best Paddle Boarding Apps, Websites and Tech Tools


Further Resources


The wind is a powerful source, and it is important that you take all of the necessary precautions to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.


Watch this short clip of 2 paddle boarders who got lost at sea because of the wind.



Based on the information in the video, the paddle boarders were experiencing offshore winds, meaning the wind was pushing them out into the open water. Before they knew it, they had effortlessly gone too far out. This is why it is important to stay close to shore or choose an alternate route when these winds arise


Paddle Canada Paddle Courses


If you are looking to get a better understanding of wind speeds and paddle techniques to deal with turbulent waters and higher wind speeds, consider joining Blue Jellyfish SUP Adventures for a Paddle Canada Course and/or a day lesson to work on your skills.


To Conclude

I hope this helped to clear some things up on the wind and paddleboarding. Paddleboarding in windy conditions is possible if you approach it in a safe and mindful way.

In this blog post, we learned about wind types and speed, how much wind is too much for paddle boarding, how to plan, and tips on how you can minimize the wind's effects.

As always if you have any questions or want to discuss paddling safety further, please reach out and we will help guide you through your decision-making process.

If you would like to learn more about paddle boarding in the cooler season, you can receive our free Cold Weather Paddle Guide. Get your copy here. You can also stay updated by following us on our Facebook page or Instagram







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