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Wind direction is a crucial factor to consider when SUP'ing, as it can significantly impact your experience on the water. Always check your forecast before heading out and make sure you understand how to read it. Here's an explanation of how wind direction affects paddleboarding:
Headwind and Tailwind: The direction of the wind can either work in your favor or pose a challenge while paddleboarding. When paddling against the wind, known as a headwind, it creates resistance and can slow down your progress. Headwinds require more effort and can be physically demanding, especially if the wind is strong. On the other hand, paddling with the wind at your back, known as a tailwind, can provide a helpful push, increasing your speed and making paddling easier. Tailwinds can be advantageous for longer distances or when you want to maintain a higher speed with less effort.
General rule of thumb, especially for beginners is to never head out in off-shore winds (see the graphic below) as you can get blown away into the open water.
Side Wind: Wind blowing from the side, known as a crosswind, can affect your stability and steering. A strong crosswind can make it challenging to maintain a straight course, as it can push your board off track. It's important to engage your core muscles and use corrective strokes to counterbalance the wind's force and stay on course. Paddling technique, body positioning, and adjusting your paddle angle can help you navigate more effectively in crosswind conditions.
Crosswind can be very challenging for beginners and those who aren't strong paddlers. If the wind is over 8 knots (see the links below to all weather forecasting apps and websites), try to stick to the shore line as you might get blown beyond a point of safe exit. Always have a look at the beach downwind from you and find a point where you know you have to either turn around or exit the water.
Wind Swell and Waves: Wind direction can influence wave conditions, particularly in open water or coastal areas. When wind blows across the water's surface, it generates waves, known as wind swell. The size and shape of these waves depend on the wind strength, duration, and fetch (distance over which the wind blows). Paddleboarding in wind-generated waves can add excitement and challenge to your session, requiring good balance, stability, and wave-riding skills. The wind direction can determine the quality and shape of the waves, making certain spots more favorable for paddleboarding or surfing.
Safety Considerations: Wind direction is crucial for assessing safety conditions while paddleboarding. Strong onshore winds (blowing from the water toward the land) can create hazardous conditions, especially in areas with significant waves or currents. These conditions may lead to challenging shore break, making it difficult to launch or land your board safely. Offshore winds (blowing from the land toward the water) can push paddleboarders away from the shore, potentially resulting in challenging returns or being carried into unsafe areas. Understanding wind direction and its potential impact on safety is vital for selecting suitable launch and landing spots and ensuring a safe paddle boarding experience.
BOTTOM LINE: Don't head out in off-shore winds.
Planning Your Route: Considering wind direction when planning your paddle route can enhance your overall experience. If you have the flexibility, try to paddle into the wind at the beginning of your session when you have more energy, allowing for an easier return with a tailwind. Alternatively, plan your route to take advantage of sheltered areas or natural wind barriers, such as cliffs, trees, or islands, to minimise the wind's impact.
Wind direction significantly affects SUP by influencing the effort required, stability, wave conditions, and safety considerations. Understanding the wind's direction and its impact on your paddleboarding experience allows you to plan your sessions, adjust your technique, and make informed decisions about launching, landing, and choosing suitable routes. Stay mindful of the wind conditions, adapt your paddling technique accordingly (see our article on Choke Stroke), and prioritise safety on the water.
And, as always, make sure you carry buoyancy aid, you're sufficiently insulated with a good quality wetsuit and you've planned your entry and exits. Having someone watching after you or having means of communication with you is also very beneficial.
If you're in any doubt, get in touch with us or come to one of our SUP Lessons in Edinburgh where we'll teach you all the basics required to enjoy paddleboarding safely.
The most used weather applications and websites by us are listed below. Please check at least 2 or 3 before making a decision to head out, especially in the open waters. Different forecasts use different models to form the wind prediction so having a couple of sources is always best: