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How Much Wind is Too Much for Paddle Boarding – 7 Tips for Safe Windy SUP’ing

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Updated May 8th, 2024

How much wind is too much for paddle boarding

The weather is warming up and that means one thing: it’s time to start paddle boarding! But, before you head out onto the open water, there are a few things you need to know about how wind affects paddle boarding. In this blog post, we will discuss how much wind is too much for paddle boarding and provide some tips on how to stay safe while SUP’ing in high winds.

How is paddleboarding different from canoeing or kayaking in the wind?

Paddle boarding is an activity that involves standing or kneeling on a board and using a paddle to propel yourself through the water. Because you are standing, you have much more windage than sitting in a kayak. This means the wind blows you around more and has more effect than if you were kayaking.

Before you head out onto the water, it’s important to know how wind can affect your paddle boarding experience. When paddling in high winds, you may find yourself being blown off course or falling in the water because of the waves and chop. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the forecast and conditions before heading out.

How much wind is too much for paddle boarding?

The amount of wind that is too much for paddle boarding depends on the skill level of the paddler. For beginner paddlers, it is best to avoid high winds and choppy waters. If you are experienced, you may be able to handle more wind, but it is still important to check the forecast and conditions before heading out.

I find paddleboarding is no longer enjoyable above about 15mph winds. This is when white caps start forming on the water. I find it a struggle to make any progress into the winds at this speed. A stronger paddler may not mind it. You will quickly learn your limit for winds after getting some experience paddling on windy days.

A beginner paddleboarder should stick to days the wind is 10mph or less. This will give you smooth water and wind you can easily paddle against. 5mph or less is even better for your first day on a stand up paddle board.

If you are downwinding you may want the wind to be screaming so you have big waves and lots of surfing.

How to tell how strong the wind is blowing?

Looking at the water can give us some signs for how strong the wind is blowing. The wind might be sheltered where you are standing on the shore. It’s a good idea to have a look out on the water in the area where you will be paddling to see how strong the winds are.

  • 0-5mph winds – The water is glassy smooth with slight ripples on the surface
  • 5-10mph winds – Small consistent rippling in the surface. Waves are less than 6 inches.
  • 10-15mph winds – Small waves and chop. Waves will be 6 inches to a foot.
  • 15-20mph winds – White caps form on the waves. Waves are 1-2 feet tall.
  • >25mph winds – Lots of white caps. Waves are greater than 2 feet.

Onshore vs Offshore winds

If you are paddleboarding in a large open body of water you need to be aware of the wind direction as well as the wind speed.

  • Onshore winds – Winds that are blowing you back into the shore.
  • Offshore winds – Winds that are blowing you away from the shoreline.
  • Sideshore winds – Winds that blow parallel to the shoreline.

Strong offshore winds can be very hazardous. They can blow you away from the shore faster than you can paddle back. Onshore winds will be blowing you back into shore making them not as dangerous. Choose a place to paddleboard where the winds are onshore or the wind forecast is for light enough winds that you know you can get back.

onshore offshore winds

7 tips when paddle boarding in high winds:

  1. The wind direction matters. You should never paddleboard with high winds blowing you off shore.
  2. Check the forecast before heading out. My favorite place to check wind forecasts is a website called Windy.com. You can also check out the National Weather Service website. If the forecast is for increasing winds, make sure that you can get home if the wind picks up.
  3. Be aware of your surroundings and conditions on the water. If it looks like the wind is picking up, head back to shore.
  4. Always use a leash on a windy day. Your paddleboard can easily get blown away faster than you can swim. You don’t want to end up offshore without your SUP trying to figure out how to get back.
  5. Always wear a PFD on a windy day. A PFD strapped to your board isn’t helping you much when you fall in the water. Wind and chop make it much more likely that you will fall off your board and wind up in the water. Wind and waves also make it more difficult to get back onto your board after falling in.
  6. If you are paddling far from shore always bring a VHF radio so you can call the Coast Guard or other local authorities for help.
  7. If the wind or chop becomes too much to handle. It’s perfectly okay to kneel or sit on your paddleboard. You’ll be able to balance easier and you’ll have less windage. You’ll be able to make progress easier.

By following these tips, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable paddle boarding experience. So, get out there and enjoy the water! Just be sure to check the forecast first.

READ ALSO: Do You Need A Life Jacket To Paddle Board? Stay Safe On The Water

What are the best conditions for paddle boarding?

The best conditions for paddle boarding are calm waters with little to no wind. This allows you to enjoy the scenery and paddle at your own pace without having to worry about being blown off course. If you are a beginner, it is also important to avoid paddling in high winds or choppy waters as this can make it more difficult to control your board.

What should you do if you encounter high winds while paddle boarding?

If you encounter high winds while paddle boarding, the best thing to do is to head back to shore. This will help ensure your safety and prevent you from being blown off course.

If you can’t make headway into the wind while standing, try paddling on your knees instead. This will reduce your windage and make it easier to paddle into strong winds.

If you can’t make it back to your starting point. Look for another safe place to go to shore that you can. If you can’t make it back into the wind, can you paddle across the wind and make it to another spot on shore? It is better to end up in the wrong place than be swept out to sea.

How can you stay safe while paddle boarding in high winds?

Be aware of the wind direction when you launch. Make sure you are able to paddle back to where you started. If you can’t plan on an alternate location where you can safely land and get off your board.

Do not paddleboard if winds are blowing offshore and you will be blown into open water if you can’t paddle back into the wind.

What are the best sources for wind forecasts?

There are a few different sources you can use to check the wind forecast before heading out paddle boarding. The National Weather Service is a good place to start, as they provide up-to-date information on weather conditions across the country. You can also check local news outlets and weather websites for information specific to your area. Finally, many paddle boarding apps also offer wind forecasts that can be helpful in planning your trip.

Marine forecasts will give you wind speed and wave height information. They are available for most coastal areas including the Great Lakes.

My favorite website for current wind and wind forecasts is windy.com. It shows a live map with wind speeds and wind directions. You can click on weather stations for future wind forecasts. It’s great for visualizing the wind direction over top where your paddling at to see if it is a safe direction. If you want to downwind you can see how the wind is blowing over the entire distance you want to paddle.

Windy Current wind
Windy.com current wind forecast
Windy wind forecast
Windy.com future wind forecast

How do you paddle board against the wind?

Paddling against the wind can be a bit of a challenge, but there are a few things you can do to make it easier. First, make sure you have a good grip on your paddle. If your grip is too loose, you’ll find yourself fighting the wind more than paddling through it.

Second, use your body weight to your advantage. Lean into the wind and use your core muscles to power through each stroke.

Finally, keep your eyes on the horizon and focus on your destination. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re battling headwinds, but if you keep your goal in sight, you’ll eventually make it to calmer waters.

How do you paddle board with choppy water?

How do you paddle board with choppy water? Well, it’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Paddle boarding in choppy water can be a bit of a challenge, but with a few tips up your sleeve, you can definitely make it work.

  • When paddling into the chop on windy days, it’s important to keep your paddle close to your board. This will help you stay balanced and stable.
  • Be sure to keep your strokes short and sweet. If you try to take long strokes, you’ll just end up getting sloppy and losing your balance.
  • When paddling in choppy water, always be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for other boats and obstacles that could potentially knock you off your board.
  • Don’t forget to have fun! Paddle boarding is supposed to be enjoyable so don’t let the choppy water ruin your good time.
Doug Ryan Portrait Skiing 200x200

Ryan Craig
Co-Founder & Chief Editor

I am a total gear nerd and love learning how things work and thinking about how they could be improved. Nothing excites me more than trying out new gear. I’d rather spend 3 hours taking my bike apart and learning how to change something than go to a bike shop. These days, I reside in Michigan by the Great Lakes and go skiing, biking, and boating as much as possible. Visit our About Us page and learn more.


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