SUP, or stand-up paddling, requires special weather conditions to ensure your safety, not to mention that this promises you have the most fun!
For that reason, you’ll want to check the best wind conditions for SUPs before you grab your paddleboard and drive to your nearest beach.
In this guide, we’ll discuss everything related to these conditions, let you know how to check the wind before you SUP, and answer a few questions that may be circling your head.
Are you ready to dive, or SUP, right in?
The answer to this question may not be as straightforward as you think. See, determining the best wind conditions for SUP depends on several factors, the most important one being your skill level.
Let’s explain this further.
If you’re a beginner at stand-up paddling, your ideal weather would be little to no wind at all. These conditions will help you focus on the basics of SUPs: balancing your body, getting a feel of the water, working your way around paddling, etc.
In this case, you don’t want challenging winds to deal with just yet. Thankfully, it’s easy to find locations with almost no wind if you go stand-up paddling in a lake or a river where you don’t have to worry about the tide.
Want to talk in numbers? Well, for a newbie paddler, you’ll want to make sure the wind speed is way below 15 knots, which translates to 27 kilometers per hour. Of course, no wind should be your starting point; then, you can practice paddling at six knots, eight knots, ten knots, etc.
Now, let’s say that you’re an intermediate stand-up paddler and are ready for some action. You’ve mastered all the beginner-level skills and want some waves to add up to the fun of the whole experience.
Here, your best shot is to go SUP at a wind speed of around 15 knots or 27 kilometers per hour. In these conditions, the body of water you’ll be paddling on will have small waves and whitecaps starting to form.
An experienced paddler may be looking for even more challenging conditions. If that’s you, a wind speed of 20 to 25 knots or 37 to 46 kilometers per hour might give you an advantage. These wind conditions will allow you to surf downside without being too rough.
This depends on your definition of strong wind. As a beginner, 20 to 25 knots will surely sound like a powerful wind, which won’t be safe to stand-up paddle in at this skill level. It’s not even recommended for a novice to paddle when the wind speed is over ten knots!
Yet, most people who have been SUP for a long time consider 25 knots strong wind. At their level of expertise, and if they take all the safety precautions, it should be okay for them to SUP in these conditions.
For example, one important safety measure to keep in mind when surfing at a wind speed of 20 knots is to make sure that the wind is onshore instead of offshore. We’ll discuss other precautions later on for your benefit, so keep on reading!
Now, you might be wondering when it might be too windy for even the most skilled of paddlers to hop on their paddleboards. Generally, you should know that 25 to 30 knots is the limit for most people.
Still, there will always be surfers who are willing to take higher risks, so, basically, each one has their own limits.
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate surfer, or pro, you’ll always want to check the wind conditions before SUP. You don’t want to be caught off guard by powerful winds or high tides, even if you’ve been stand-up paddling for years.
It doesn’t only have to do with the speed of the wind and its effect on your speed in the water, but also the direction of the wind.
You don’t want to start paddling in a certain spot to soon end up somewhere too far from your original location. That could be both inconvenient as well as risky.
Now, let’s address the right way to check the wind on any given day before SUP.
It’s not enough to just look outside the window and see that the day is sunny and clear to decide to go SUP. It’s not something to do on a whim; each SUP session needs planning at least a week ahead.
Thankfully, it’s an easy thing to do with the help of modern technology. Apps and websites like Windy and WindGuru can give you accurate results when it comes to temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and other related data.
Take a few moments to look at next week’s weather forecast and see if any days match your preferences. Sure, forecasts might change, but only slightly. After all, you’ll get an understanding of the wind patterns throughout the entire week, which should play to your advantage.
It’s also a good idea to consult more than one app to get a more accurate estimation of the week’s wind conditions.
Besides showing wind speed, these apps will let you know how the wind behaves throughout the day itself. So, things can be calm in the morning but get a little intense in the afternoon, so that’s another detail you should keep in mind when planning your next SUP session.
As we’ve previously mentioned, the direction of your wind will have a substantial impact on your SUP route.
As a rule of the thumb, always aim for onshore wind instead of offshore. In other words, pick days where the wind moves in the direction of the shore, not the other way around. This is especially important on really windy days.
Now, when the time comes to plan your SUP route, always consider paddling against the wind in the beginning. That is because you’ll have more energy at the start of your day than later on.
When you feel yourself getting tired, paddle in the same direction of the wind, allowing it to push you to the shore without much effort on your part.
Of course, these aren’t strict rules you should play by. Rather, they’re general tips to keep in mind to have a great time SUP.
A major part of your planning happens right when you’re on your paddleboard. Here, you’ll have to make immediate decisions that can make or break your SUP experience.
Feeling the wind’s speed and its direction with all of your senses is a skill to develop over time. It’ll need some practice, but it’ll be very helpful later on when no special website or app can give you data while you’re in the water!
You can start using your senses to monitor the wind by listening to its movement to find out its direction. You may also use the help of any nearby trees or flags to see where the wind is blowing.
Sometimes, even the forecasts can’t predict a strong wind. You’ll be far away from the shoreline when things become intense, and paddling while standing up might just be too risky to do to get to the beach.
In this case, expert paddlers will tell you to drop to your knees and start paddling sitting down. This should give you several advantages, including:
- More powerful arm strokes
- Less wind resistance (and therefore more speed)
- Less chance of being toppled over
You’ve done your planning, mapped out your route, and are ready to go toe-to-toe with some powerful winds. It’s another exciting weekend for a long-time paddler!
Yet, despite the years upon years of experience, you must always keep the following guidelines in mind when you’re all set about SUP in strong wind.
This is the number one piece of advice to pay attention to when you decide to paddle in challenging conditions. Strong offshore winds can easily drag you too far away from the shore when you start your paddling session.
More alarmingly, trying to paddle back to the shore will be extra tough because the wind will keep blowing against you.
Instead, a good way to practice SUP in strong winds is to do it when the wind is headed onshore. Use these conditions to push your paddleboard against the wind, knowing that you’ll be safe since the wind will keep trying to return you to the beach.
As we’ve already pointed out, the wind can change strength and direction in a heartbeat while you’re in the ocean. To avoid getting caught off guard, always watch for signs of this change and don’t think twice about making adjustments accordingly.
For instance, if you notice whitecaps on the waves, be prepared for the wind to get even stronger.
On windy days, sudden gusts of air can be quite dangerous for people on paddleboards. This is why you’ll need to know if there will be any gusts on the day you’re ready to SUP on.
This ensures you’ll be 100% ready for when one blows by, going on your knees or sitting down on the board until it passes over you. Or, if the weather forecast shows that the speed of those gusts is too high, you can reconsider your plans altogether.
The tide is a force of its own, and combined with the wind, they can both affect your time in the water to a huge degree. This is why you shouldn’t monitor the winds alone, but keep the tide in mind as well.
When paddling in the onshore wind with an incoming tide, you should expect the waves to end up being larger. On the other hand, the same tide conditions blended with offshore wind will result in choppy waves.
Therefore, you must determine whether or not you’ll be able to keep your balance on the board if both the tide and winds are strong. Or, if you’d rather not face such challenging conditions, choose another day when the tide or the winds aren’t so strong.
Without a doubt, a life vest can literally save your life if the weather becomes windier than you’ve already estimated. So, don’t hesitate about wearing one in such tough conditions.
As for the board leash, it’ll keep you connected to your paddle board in case you become separated from it if you lose your balance.
Besides being more fun, SUP with a friend may be a great idea in strong winds, especially one with more experience than yours.
This way, you’ll have an additional set of eyes and ears to monitor your surroundings, which can increase your overall safety.
The best wind conditions for SUPs mainly depend on your skill as a stand-up surfer. As a beginner, you’ll want to hit the beach on days where there isn’t any wind or if its speed is as low as six knots.
Intermediate and experienced stand-up paddlers can handle more challenging winds, with speeds ranging from 15 and all the way to 25 knots. However, it’s important not to SUP in tougher weather to keep risks at bay.
Plus, once you follow the few tips we’ve mentioned above on how to SUP in strong wind, you should be able to enhance your safety even further.
Now, you should be all set for your next adventure. Happy stand-up paddling, everyone!