Probably the biggest prohibiting factor with stand up paddle boarding (for most people) is wind. Both light and strong wind can affect your paddling antics. But more than that the wind’s direction, according to where you’re choosing to launch from, can play a big part in how much enjoyment you have. More importantly, wind directions – especially at open water, and exposed spots can be a safety issue.
Here at McConks we’re forever banging on about weather and how to interpret forecasts for your chosen spot. We appreciate this can be tricky to grasp if you’ve no prior experience though. Below you’ll find graphics with explainers based on common wind scenarios you tend to get. It should be noted there are more granular, nuanced scenarios you’ll encounter as well.
The launch spot in the image above gives a broad range of paddling opportunities. For this explainer, we’re focusing on the beach to the left as you look at the pic. Standing with your SUP ready for action you’ll have your back to trees. As the arrow dictates the wind will be blowing from your right across the beach. Hence the term crosshore.
If the wind’s light this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, although being aware of blowing towards the headland needs noting. Should the wind pick up from this direction you’ll be paddling out from the beach with a breezy and a choppy water state hitting your stand up paddle board side on.
From a paddling point of view, you’ll mostly be putting strokes in on one side (the side further away from the wind – the downwind side) to keep your board tracking straight. If you point your board directly into wind you’ll be directly head to wind. This is where you’ll find most resistance as the wind tries to push you back. Turning so your board so the tail points directly into the wind gusts will blow you towards the headland – and fairly quickly. This is the point of paddling where you’ll have least resistance. If your route’s clear then it’s possible to cover some serious ground. Downwind paddlers do exactly this. Just be aware you’ll need to get back to where you started if you haven’t positioned transport downwind!
Still using the lefthand beach as your primary launch spot the arrow closest to the beach signifies a wind blowing directly onto land. This is known as an onshore direction. Whilst in light wind mode it’s probably the safest wind direction it can also make launching and getting out difficult.
Chop and/or swell can also build up significantly with onshore winds. And for large numbers of paddlers, any kind of swell can be prohibitive. What will mostly occur are paddlers end up swimming in moderate to strong onshore breeze. But you should just get blown back to the beach with only dented pride.
With a location like depicted, however, there are options. Notice on the opposite side of the headland the wind arrow, whilst remaining in the same direction, is a different orientation to that of the original launch spot. Here the wind’s crosshore and could be a better choice of put in because of this. This is one example of being able to interpret a weather forecast, and wind prediction, for your chosen SUP spot.
This example is an interesting one. Your original SUP launch spot on the lift now features an offshore wind. The breeze blows directly from the land and out across the water. With SUP safety in mind, this isn’t great for beginners or intermediates as you’ll be fighting back against the wind to get back on land. For the experienced, however, offshore winds can serve up butter smooth water (even in a gale) next to the beach. With the right skills and awareness, offshore winds can be great for scoring a flat water SUP sesh even when it’s blowing dogs off chains.
Casting your eyes across to the right of the image you’ll see (as with the previous example) whilst the wind direction remains the same because of the beach’s angle the gusts are now more crosshore. Plus, you have the safety net of the headland should the wind prove strong and blow you downwind. The right side of the headland is now perhaps the safest place to paddle relative the wind’s direction. Although, as with the previous example of crosshore winds you’ll be paddling on one side more than the other which could become tiring.
Cross onshore wind.
In this example, both wind arrows are pointed almost straight onto both launch spots. Look closer, however, and depending on where along the beach you are there’s an angle. So in both instances, the wind direction actuall isn’t bolt onshore. Instead, we refer to this as cross onshore.
Cross onshore winds can be both a blessing and a curse. In some scenarios, they can be great for stand up paddle boarding whereas at other times the direction will conspire against you. If you came to this spot with a decent blow puffing you’d find no shelter and be confined to being stuck on land. This is another important reason to know how to interpret weather forecasts for your chosen SUP location.
There are plenty more wind and wind vs SUP scenarios we could go through. Hopefully, this’ll give you a starting point though. Next step is to learn as much as you can and apply this knowledge to your stand up paddle boarding. It’ll keep you safer on the water and allow a higher hit rate in terms of scoring quality SUP conditions.
For more weather related chat and general SUP knowledge head across to the McConks Knowledge Hub here.