How Much Wind is Too Much for Paddle Boarding?

It’s a beautiful day.

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, the wind is calm as you’re out paddle boarding. Suddenly, the wind picks up, turning your nice leisurely paddle into a battle against the elements.

Too much wind can turn your relaxing paddling session into a white knuckle ride pretty quickly. So, it’s important to know how windy is too windy for stand-up paddle boarding.

As you'll see in the video below, sudden changes in wind conditions can severely impact your paddling experience. Continue reading so you can understand and be prepared for any situation. 

Source: Madison Clysdale

Understanding Wind Speed and Direction for Paddle Boarding

Strong winds are one of those weather phenomena that can negatively impact your paddle boarding session. Wind creates choppy waters. And the windier it gets, the larger the wind waves become. Wind waves can affect your paddle in a few ways: 

  • It’s harder to stay on course
  • You may struggle with balancing on your paddle board
  • It  can cause you to fall off

Wind can also make the air temperature drop, so if you fall into the water unexpectedly, you may get very cold without proper gear.

The wind may also push you far from the shore and you might find it difficult to paddle your way back.

In addition to wind speed, wind direction also plays a major role in your paddle boarding session.

Onshore winds blow from the water towards the land. When paddling away from shore, these winds will be in your face, but when paddling back to shore, they will push you towards the shore. Onshore winds, depending on your location and the time of year, usually happen in the morning so if you can get out on the water early, you’ll have an easier time getting back.

Offshore winds are those that blow from the land out into the water. They’re the most dangerous as it can feel calm when you’re on the shore, but as soon as you start paddling, you’ll be pushed out into the water pretty quickly. This means you’ll have to paddle against the wind while returning, which can be tiring and time consuming. Because of this, avoid offshore winds if you can.

Crosswinds are those that blow parallel to the shoreline and can often blow you off course. Although difficult, you can paddle in the opposite direction to counteract the wind.

What wind speed is okay for paddle boarding?

A wind speed of under 7 knots (8 miles or 13 km per hour) is good for beginners, while wind speeds of under 12 knots (14 miles or 22 km per hour) are manageable for more experienced paddlers.

Winds below 8-12 mph are just gentle breezes and won’t have much impact on your paddle boarding adventure. However, if you’re looking to paddle in ideal flat water conditions, go out on a day where the wind speed is 5 knots (about 5 miles or 8 km per hour) or less. 

How can you gauge how windy it is?

While common sense will hopefully dictate what wind speed you will paddle board in, you can always check the forecast and also carry a handheld anemometer, to find out what the wind is actually doing when you get to the beach. 

How many knots is too windy for paddle boarding?

Anything above 12 knots is too windy for experienced paddlers, while anything above 8 knots is too much for beginners. Even the most advanced paddle boarders should avoid paddling in winds above 20 knots.

Techniques for Paddle Boarding in Windy Conditions

Sometimes, even if the day starts out relatively calm, the wind can suddenly pick up. So you need to know what to do to safely get back to shore. 

Minimize your body’s profile

When paddling on windy days, your body mimics a sail. When you’re paddling into the wind, it creates wind resistance and can easily push you around, especially if you’re standing, because your body creates a larger surface area.

To decrease wind resistance, reduce your surface area by kneeling. This position also reduces your center of gravity, making it easy for you to maintain your balance. If it becomes extremely windy, lie down on your stomach and use your hands to paddle. This way, most of the wind will pass overhead, and you can slowly but steadily make your way back to shore.

Change your stance

Paddle boards with wide noses generally face more wind resistance, making it harder to propel yourself forward. If you move your feet a few inches forward on the board, you’ll shift the center of balance and push the bow down. This leaves very little space for the wind between the water and your board’s nose and reduces resistance. 

Use quick and short strokes

On a windy day, it’ll be more challenging  to complete your paddle stroke, which means your paddling progress will be slower. 

Switch to making quick, short strokes so that you reduce the amount of time your paddle spends in the wind after you take it out of the water. Also, hold the paddle in such a way that the wind hits its edge rather than smack dab on the middle of the blade. To accomplish this, turn the blade sideways when reaching forward and then turn it back for your pull stroke.

Hold the paddle lower

When you’re paddling on your knees and making shorter strokes, holding your paddle the normal way is going to prove much more difficult. So, adjust your grip so that the bottom hand rests closer to the paddle blade and the top hand is holding the shaft instead of the handle. This position will also help you make more powerful strokes in windy conditions. 

Use obstacles to block the wind

Do you see any obstacles or landmarks close by–such as the peninsula of land, a bay  or sea stacks–that might block the wind? Take full advantage of them and shelter yourself as much as possible while heading  back to shore.

If you know the body of water well, plan your paddle route so that if the wind does pick up, you know where to go. 

Safety Tips During Windy Conditions

The wind and weather are often unpredictable, so your senses should always be on high alert. High winds or not, keep these safety tips in mind any time you go paddling.

Wear your SUP leash

A SUP leash attaches your leg to your paddle board through a cord. Wear your SUP leash at all times. This will prevent your board from drifting away from you and leaving you stranded, especially if a sudden gust of wind throws you into the water. 

Wear your Transport Canada Approved personal flotation device (PFD)

Higher wind speeds can lead to waves and choppy waters, which makes your chances of falling in higher. No matter how good of a swimmer you are, always wear your PFD or life vest.

Want to know what else to bring paddle boarding? Check out our essential checklist.

Stay close to the shore

If the wind picks up when you’re out in the water, stay close to the shore. This way, if the wind becomes so strong that you’re unable to paddle any longer, you can easily swim back to shore with your paddle board attached to you.

Always paddle out into the wind

At the beginning of your paddling session, you’ll have a lot of energy, so going upwind (against the wind) at the start is the smart thing to do. The great thing about approaching your paddle this way is when you get tired, you can turn your board around and have a downwind (wind pushing you forward) paddle, which is a lot of fun. 

Keep an eye out for hazards

Watch out for hazards and stay away from anything that could damage your paddle board or injure you on a windy day. Close to shore, trees can be blown down so give yourself some distance 

Bring a friend along

Not only is paddling with a friend super fun, you also get an extra set of hands to help you if things go wrong. 

If you don’t have a SUP buddy, inform a friend or family member  with your trip details like  when you’re heading out, what route you plan to follow, and when you expect to be back. You can also leave a handwritten note in the dashboard of your car so that if people you don’t know need to search for you, they can find your plan.

Carry a marine VHF radio

A Very High Frequency (VHF) marine radio allows for instant two-way communication between you and other boats as well as local authorities. If things take a turn for the worse suddenly and you’re too far away from the shore, you can radio your local authorities for help.

What To Do if You’re Paddle Boarding in a Lightning Storm?

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself if you find yourself in the middle of a lightning storm  during your SUP adventure.

As soon as you see a bolt of lightning or hear the rumble of thunder, get out of the water immediately as water can transmit lightning strikes from far away. Leave your paddle board by the shore and seek shelter in a building or closed car.

If you’re not able to get to the shore, look for any bigger boats with cabins that could help you take shelter. If all else fails, drop anchor and crouch down with your feet close, head tucked in and your hands over your ears. Make sure your body makes minimal contact with the surface of the paddle board.

Wherever you are, don’t seek shelter under open vehicles such as motorcycles, or open shelters like porches, gazebos, or tall structures such as cliffs, arches, trees or telephone poles.

Checking Wind and Weather Conditions

The best way to stay safe on your paddle boarding trip is to check the wind and weather forecast beforehand and plan your trip accordingly. Several websites and apps give you a detailed hour-by-hour forecast as well as real-time alerts. 

Here are some important elements that you should check for:

  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Water conditions
  • Wind gusts
  • Warnings for rain and thunderstorms

Make sure you check the wind forecast for the area you’re going to be paddle boarding in as wind patterns change from place to place. Cross check the forecast with at least two sources so that you can get an accurate reading. Below are a few sources we recommend:

  • This is a great app for forecasts, especially for water adventures such as paddle boarding and paddle surfing. Enter your preferred paddle boarding spot and the app will give you details about wind speed and direction, cloud coverage, whether there’s going to be any rain, direction and height of waves, and the speed of wind gusts. The app also has a live wind map that’ll help with planning your day.
  • Windfinder: This source uses a map with live animation and colors that makes it very easy to trace the wind and weather patterns at different points during the day. You can pick a spot and see how the wind direction and speed changes over time.
  • Ventusky: This is another great source that also uses a live map with animation and colors. You can pretty much find everything you need in a weather forecast here, including wind gusts and speed, precipitation, waves direction and height.

Go on Your SUP Adventure with Maddle

Maddle boards are stylish, easy to maneuver, and come with matching accessories, making them ideal for your paddle boarding trip. Find your Maddle and fall Maddle-y in love.

Camille Brodeur

Driven by the intersection of lifestyle and fitness, Camille's mission is to inspire others to integrate elements of beauty and aesthetic into their outdoor activities. Her depth of experience in the paddle boarding world allows her to inform and motivate others to get out on the water in the safest and most fun ways possible. Whether it be through her work at Maddle or elsewhere, Camille continuously strives to expand the public consciousness surrounding SUPs.


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