Wind is a vital weather aspect to consider when organizing a SUP outing. Understanding how to interpret wind speed forecasts and manage windy conditions can mean the difference between an enjoyable adventure and a potentially hazardous situation.
Here are some rough guidelines to help you gauge how wind speed can effect your paddling session.
This range of wind speed is ideal for paddleboarding, providing a refreshing breeze without making it difficult to navigate on the water.
As wind speeds increase to this level, the impact of the wind becomes more noticeable. At these speeds, you may feel a pronounced difference in paddling with or against the wind. While stronger paddlers may not have much of an issue, beginners may find paddling a bit more challenging.
This range of wind speed significantly increases the effort required to paddle upwind, which may discourage some from going out. If you decide to go out in winds in excess of 12 MPH, plan on expending some extra effort during your upwind part of the outing and leaving some extra time to get back to your starting point if you are returning against the wind.
Paddling in winds exceeding 16 MPH can be a real challenge, and kneeling may be necessary, especially during gusts, to avoid being pushed backward. Unless you have arranged transport to allow for paddling one-way with the wind at your back, finding another activity or waiting for more favorable conditions may be advised.
Planning your session and route becomes much more important in higher wind. If you are paddling a river or inlet environment, you can often use cover from the shoreline to navigate through your route and minimize your time on open water at the mercy of a prevailing wind. To conserve energy, choose your path strategically to paddle against the wind in short bursts to get to more sheltered sections along the way.
In areas of open water, winds can change direction quickly without forecast, so proper planning and safety precautions should be in place before you set out to ensure that all paddlers have a way of getting back to the starting point in the case of adverse wind changes.
Most weather apps offer a general idea of the wind speed in your area. For a more precise wind forecast, more specialized graphical map-based apps can be helpful. Being able to visualize the wind direction in relation to geography can help you figure out where the wind will be the lightest in the vicinity of where you want to paddle.
Windfinder is an incredibly useful tool for understanding the wind pattern for the time and location of your outing. While there are many apps and web sites that will tell you the wind speed and direction forecast at a specified location, the Windfinder app or web site shows you the wind pattern, in a graphical format that is easy to understand.
It also lets you check the wind for very specific locations, which you can choose on an interactive map. You can look at any location on a map and see in which direction the wind will be blowing and at what speed. A slider lets you vary the time of day and see how the wind speed and direction changes throughout the day.
This can be used for deciding whether to go out at all at a specific location and time or to choose the best time of day when the wind will be most favorable. It can also help you predict shifts in wind direction so that you know in which direction you should paddle so that the return will not be against the wind.
The guidelines in this article should give you a general sense of what to expect based on the wind forecast and serve as a starting point in determining how much wind you are comfortable with. Once you become aware of the wind levels and how they affect your outings, you'll have a better sense of how much wind is too much for you and the people you paddle with.
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