We’ve talked about sea breezes if you’re thinking of paddling at coastal venues before. And we’ve talked about scoring the flattest water, and least blowy conditions, by seeking shelter. There’s lots of chat about wind currently doing the rounds and how not using it to good effect can be to the detriment of your SUP session or even become a life threatening issue. Being blown out to sea, for instance, can happen to those unaware.
Wind, though, can be your friend if you let it. And we don’t mean in a windsurf, windSUP or wing surf kind of way – we’re still talking conventional stand up paddle boarding here.
Watermen and women who discovered SUP over ten years ago were using the wind to propel themselves forwards on a journey. With gusts at their backs paddlers would head off with aims of not only being driven downwind (as is the term) they’d also be aiming to catch rolling swell, ‘bumps’, and ride them much like a surfer will ride a breaking wave. The act of downwinding is very much a thing within SUP and can be taken to extreme lengths for those with experience.
Downwind paddling doesn’t have to be extreme, however. With planning and thought, coupled with a decent skillset, stand up paddlers can ‘do a downwinder’ albeit in mellower form.
With wind blowing onto your place of launch it’s possible to head out and paddle straight into those gusts. It’ll be hard going, we’ll admit, and you’ll need to dig deep with your paddle to make headway. But persevere and after a short while you’ll have covered some distance. Then it’s a case of pivoting round and enjoying the fruits of your labour. Being huffed along can be super fun. If you can time it with catching bumps as well then all the better. Once back at point A, if you have enough energy, spin again and repeat.
Cross shore wind
Either blowing left to right, or right to left, wind from these quadrants will propel riders along their chosen stretch. This direction of wind is most preferable as you can put in at point A and with logistics sorted paddle some distance to point B. There it’ll be a case of taking your gear out and jumping in your transport with absolutely no into wind paddling at all. But as we say you’ll need to plan accordingly and make sure you have a means of transport at both ends.
Downwind stand up paddling can be some of the best SUP you can experience. With a decent set of skills in place, understanding of conditions and appropriate safety measures taken it’s a way to make use of blowy sessions without sticking a sail on your board or using a wing.
Things to consider before ‘doing a downwinder’
MAKE SURE YOU WERE A GOOD QUALITY LEASH (we put this in capitals for good reason!).
DON’T GO OUT IN OFFSHORE WINDS (this also needs to be reitterated!).
Paddle with a buddy or buddies.
Carry a means of communication like a mobile phone of VHF.
Make sure you know what the weather is going to do – get a forecast.
Understand tides and know tide times for the day.
Make sure your skills are up to the job in hand. Mellow wind strengths can be fun – you don’t need it to be blowing like a hoolie! DON’T TAKE ON CONDITIONS THAT ARE TOO EXTREME.
Sort your logistics. Have transport at either end of your downwind run.
Tell someone, or even multiple people, what you intend doing.
Have fun and embrace the wind!
The following video gives an example of where you can take your downwind SUP paddling, if you choose to.