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Onshore vs. Offshore Wind - Which is Better to Paddleboard In?


Onshore vs. Offshore Wind Graphic

When it comes to paddleboarding, the direction of the wind plays a significant role in determining the difficulty and overall experience of your adventure. Onshore and offshore winds, each with their unique properties and effects on wave conditions, can alter your experience out on the water significantly.


In this post, we will delve into the various types of wind and determine which is more favourable for paddleboarding.


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ONSHORE VS OFFSHORE WINDS: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?


Onshore and offshore winds differ significantly in terms of wind direction and their impact on waves while being out on the water. Before delving into the details, let's briefly cover what each of these wind types is. Then, we will discuss how they affect the waves while you are out on the water.


Onshore winds are those that blow from the sea towards the land. Depending on certain surrounding environmental factors they can bring in more waves with a shorter wavelength, making the water surface rougher and difficult to paddle in. This often results in a more challenging paddleboarding experience, especially for beginners.


Alternatively, offshore winds blow from the land towards the sea. These winds can impact waves in several ways, either making them steeper before breaking or flattening them, resulting in smaller waves. Factors influencing this include the ocean floor's characteristics, the angle at which the wind interacts with the waves, and the wind's speed. It's also important to note that offshore winds pose a risk of pushing paddleboarders further out to sea, which could be dangerous for those who are inexperienced or unaware.


Okay so now that you have an understanding of what direction the wind is blowing when we are talking about onshore and offshore winds, let's talk more about how these wind conditions affect the waves.


If you want to learn more about why this happens check out this Youtube Video.



How does offshore wind affect the waves?


Offshore winds can affect waves in many different ways depending on the environmental factors involved. When conditions are ripe for waves to barrel, offshore winds can amplify these barrels, making them larger. This is excellent news for surfers seeking thrilling rides, but it presents a challenge for those who merely want to paddle on the ocean.

However, it's crucial to understand that the formation of barreling waves primarily depends on the ocean floor's topography. In areas where conditions aren't conducive to creating barreling waves, an offshore wind can help smooth out waves making it more conducive to paddling in.

Offshore wind graphic


The counteracting wind power often sweeps away insignificant ripples or minor swells, resulting in a smoother, well-groomed ocean surface interspersed with waves. This process not only removes smaller swells, but it also lengthens the swell period - the interval between each wave break. A prolonged swell period could potentially give rise to larger, more distinct waves.

Nonetheless, it's important to emphasize that these effects largely depend on the specific coastal conditions in which the waves are formed. So, the same offshore wind can have dramatically different impacts on waves depending on the geographical and meteorological context.


It's crucial to understand that the geography of the land can affect how offshore winds impact the water's appearance. For instance, if the wind is blowing off a cliff, it may create a wind eddy, giving the water a deceptively calm appearance. This could pose a potential hazard because once you venture beyond this wind eddy, the water conditions can dramatically change, making paddling more challenging and possibly pushing you further out to sea.


Additionally, all offshore winds carry an inherent risk. If the wind becomes too strong for you to paddle against, it could sweep you out to sea. In such situations, it's essential to minimize your contact area with the wind to reduce its impact on you and your board. For more detailed guidance on managing windy conditions, we recommend reading our blog post titled "10 Tips for Paddleboarding in the Wind".


How does onshore wind affect the waves?


Onshore wind graphic

Onshore wind, while not likely to push you out to sea, can present its own set of challenges. It can drive you against the coastline, creating a unique set of hazards, especially if the coastline is rugged or characterized by cliffs.


When examining onshore winds, it's essential to consider the fetch distance. Fetch refers to the unimpeded distance that wind can travel over water in a consistent direction. You may wonder why this is important. Essentially, the longer the fetch, the larger - and potentially more frequent - the waves become. This can lead to conditions that are challenging to navigate, even for the most experienced paddlers.

Wind Fetch Graphic


Before setting out on the ocean, ensure you have a clear understanding of the wind's likely direction and whether it will be obstructed in any way as it blows towards you. On windy days when the wind originates from the open ocean, conditions can be particularly severe.


Is offshore or onshore wind better for paddleboarding?


Now that you have a clearer understanding of onshore and offshore winds, and how they can influence the waves while you're out on the water, you'll comprehend why it's difficult to determine whether offshore or onshore wind is better for paddleboarding. The answer depends on a myriad of factors, making it challenging to provide a definitive response.


Generally, for novice or less powerful paddlers, we recommend paddling in areas with minimal fetch, gentle coastlines, and ideally, an onshore wind. This way, if conditions deteriorate, you'll be blown towards the shore where you can safely beach and return to your vehicle.


Tips for Paddleboarding Offshore Winds


Here are 5 tips for paddleboarding in offshore winds.

  1. Avoid coastlines that create barrelling waves unless you want to surf.

  2. Watch out for wind eddies as they can create deceiving water conditions.

  3. If wind conditions become too strong reduce the amount of surface contact area between you and the wind.

  4. Always wear your safety equipment while on the ocean.

  5. Stay vigilant about your proximity to the shore to avoid being carried too far out by the wind.

Tips for Paddleboarding Onshore winds


Here are 5 tips for paddleboarding in onshore winds.

  1. Avoid areas that have excessive fetch

  2. Avoid areas with rugged and/or cliffy coastline

  3. Always wear your safety equipment while on the ocean.

  4. Stay out past the surf (breaking waves near the coastline). This will allow for smoother, easier paddling.

  5. You may have a perform a surf landing. This is best performed on your belly to ensure you don't fall off and hit your head.


What is Cross-Shore Wind and how does it affect your Paddleboarding?


Now no post on wind conditions can be complete without hitting on cross-shore winds.


Cross-shore wind refers to wind that blows parallel to the shoreline, neither offshore (blowing out to sea) nor onshore (blowing onto land). Paddling in cross-shore winds can present unique challenges. As the wind blows across the water, it can generate waves that come from the side, making the board harder to control and balance.


Consequently, it requires quick, corrective paddling on the side facing the wind to keep the board straight. However, cross-shore winds do offer some advantages. For instance, they don't carry the risk of pushing you too far out to sea (like offshore wind) or driving you onto a potentially dangerous coastline (like onshore wind). Yet, the constant sideways pressure can make your paddleboarding trip more physically demanding, so it's essential to assess your strength and stamina before heading out.


Conclusion


In summary, understanding the impact of wind conditions - offshore, onshore, and cross-shore - on paddleboarding is vital for safety and success in this activity. Each wind type presents its unique challenges, and being prepared can make a significant difference in your paddleboarding experience. Key tips include staying vigilant about current wind conditions, avoiding areas with excessive fetch or hazardous coastlines, wearing safety equipment at all times, and practicing correct paddling techniques. Always remember that nature is unpredictable, and paddling conditions can change rapidly. Stay safe, prepared, and enjoy the exhilarating experience that paddleboarding has to offer.


If you would like to learn more about paddleboarding in the wind consider reading Paddleboarders Guide to Wind Conditions. This is a great little guide that hits on all sorts of other factors to consider when heading out onto the water.





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