If you enjoy stand up paddle boarding, sooner or later, you’ll have to paddle into a headwind.
While this is a strenuous (and sometimes scary and even dangerous) thing to contend with, it’s also inevitable.
So you need to be prepared. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. It can even be a little fun–when you know what to do.
I’ve found the following tips on how to paddle board into the wind quite useful, and I know you will too. They are simple but they make a huge difference.
5 SUP Tips to Make Paddle Boarding Into the Wind Easier
The next time you find yourself going against a strong wind, try the following.
1. Lower Your Center of Gravity to Reduce Wind Resistance
You’ll face a lot of resistance when paddling against the wind, moreso if you’re standing up on your paddle board – after all, the bigger the surface area, the more the resistance. So, paddling will be harder and you’ll be moving slower.
To decrease wind resistance, you have to reduce the surface area (that is – the area of surface that the wind is hitting). You can do this by getting lower, effectively making yourself ‘smaller’ on your board (or as I like to think of it ‘ducking for speed’).
To do this, bend your knees and crouch down slightly. The position not only reduces wind resistance, but it also lowers your center of gravity. This makes it easier to maintain balance, even when paddling intensely in windy conditions.
If the wind is blowing too strongly, kneel on the SUP and continue paddling. You can also lie on your stomach and paddle with your hands. This is a useful technique for extremely windy days.
2. Change Your Stance and Put More Weight Toward the Bow
If your stand up paddle board has a wider nose and more rocker, it will face a lot of resistance. You’ll find it harder to propel the board forward compared to a racing SUP with a sharp nose and displacement hull.
You can reduce the resistance by moving slightly forward, in front of the center carry handle. This pushes the bow down, leaving little or no space for the wind between the nose and the water.
3. Hold the Paddle Lower on the Shaft
If you crouch to reduce resistance, as suggested above, you may find that holding your paddle the normal way won’t be easy.
Lower your grip such that your bottom hand is closer to the paddle blade and the top hand is holding the shaft, not the handle.
You can bend and paddle comfortably with this grip. You’ll also be able to make more powerful strokes, which are necessary when paddling against strong winds.
4. Shorten Your Paddle Stroke
The usual long paddle stroke that starts at the nose and ends at your feet may not be effective on a windy day–not if you’re going against the wind. Every stroke will take longer and you’ll be making fewer strokes. This means that you’ll be moving forward at a much slower pace.
The solution is to shorten your strokes. When you’re going against a strong wind, short, quick strokes will work better to help you get to shore faster.
5. Keep Going
Paddling into the wind is easier said than done and it is a situation most paddlers try to avoid. It is hard and, if the wind is too strong, it may seem like you’re not making progress.
If the wind picks up during your SUP session, increase your pace and don’t stop. Keep your eyes on the shore and continue paddling. Crouch to reduce resistance and paddle faster. Kneel down if the wind gets too strong or lie down if you have to.
Even better, find shelter from trees and other obstructions to make your work easier.
Some Safety Tips to Have in Mind
You’ve probably heard these tips numerous times before, but I can’t emphasize them enough.
1. Always Check the Weather First
Even though you’ll be paddling a lake you know well, it doesn’t hurt to check the wind forecast.
Check the tides, wind strength, wind direction, and general weather forecast. The forecast may not accurately predict the weather but it will give you a good idea of what to expect.
Be especially careful with off shore winds–winds that blow from land out to sea. The light, friendly wind at the beach may have you believing that conditions are perfect for SUP. But as you get farther away from shore, you realize that the winds are stronger than you thought. You’ll have trouble getting back.
Consider canceling your paddling trip if it’s too windy.
2. Put On Your PFD
By law, you’re required to have a USCG-approved life jacket somewhere on the paddle board. If you’re above 12 years old, you don’t have to wear it.
However, PFDs only work when you wear them. They help to keep you afloat when you fall into the water.
Paddlers fall off their paddle boards all the time, even in calm conditions. When the wind is blowing hard and you’re paddling intensely, the chances of you falling are higher.
If you don’t have your PFD on when that happens, things can go wrong quickly. So always wear a USCG-approved life jacket while paddling.
3. Wear Your Leash at All Times
Before you begin your paddling trips, always make sure you have your leash on and don’t take it off until you’re back on land.
A leash ensures that your paddle board is attached to your body no matter what. If you fall off your SUP on a windy day, it can drift away in seconds.
As long as you still have your paddle board, you’ll have a great chance of staying afloat and getting back to safety. So you can’t lose it–wear your leash.
4. Go with a SUP Buddy
It’s always a good idea to go paddle boarding with a friend.
Things may be perfect when you start paddling but the weather can change quickly. If things go south, you’ll have someone there with you. If one of you loses their board, you can both ride on the remaining SUP to safety.
Besides, it’s fun to paddle with someone else.
Paddling Into a Headwind FAQs
Is It Hard to Paddle in the Wind?
Yes, paddling in the wind can be hard especially if the wind is very strong and you’re paddle boarding against it.
How Much Wind Is Too Much for Paddle Boarding?
How much wind is too much for SUP depends on your skill level, fitness, and the type of board you have. If you’re a beginner, anything over 11 mph (10 knots) might be too much for you.
How Do You Paddle Board Into Wind?
When paddling into the wind, crouch or kneel to reduce wind resistance. Shorten your paddle strokes so you can paddle faster and more effectively. Put more weight toward the nose of the board and keep paddling until you get to safety.
Most people don’t like to stand up paddle board into a headwind, especially when heading back to shore. But this is not something you can avoid forever as a paddler. So if you find yourself going against the wind, use the above tips to help you stay safe.
Remember: always wear your PFD and your leash when paddle boarding.