In our last article focused on wind, and its impacts on stand up paddle boarding, we talked about wind directions and how that translated to various launch locations. Wind on its own is one thing. If you’re paddling at the coast, however, the other factor to consider is tide.
You should definitely know the tide times for any affected area you’re planning on putting in at. You should also know how what your chosen location looks like at any given stage of tide. For instance: some beaches completely disappear at high tide leaving no room to exit the water safely. And others at low can uncover hazards, such as rocks and reef, which may be covered at high. It’s therefore vital, from a SUP safety point of view, to know this information. If in doubt ask someone who does know.
For this article, we’re looking at a simplified explanation of how wind and tide work together to create certain water states. This, again, is SUP safety essential knowledge. Learning how to spot the described will stand you in good stead, and keep you safe, for any following coastal stand up paddle boarding missions.
Wind against tide.
Even with a light breeze forecast, the effects of wind on tidal flow shouldn’t be underestimated. In this example (see pic below) the tide is flooding (flowing in) with the wind blowing offshore out to sea as you stand looking out. The wind causes friction on the water’s surface and with tidal energy pushing back at the wind’s energy the water’s surface starts to form wavelets and chop.
If the wind becomes stronger the chop can increase making it difficult to get out. Likewise, as you hit the main part of the tide’s (strongest) flow – even with only a light breeze. At slack water (one hour either side of high and low tide), where there isn’t as much tidal energy, the confused water surface will be less. The offshore wind will smooth things out.
Wind with tide.
In this example, the tidal flow and wind direction are the same direction. This creates a very smooth surface and in some cases is the most dangerous scenario (such as in the pic) for SUPers. Here the breeze and tide are both flowing out to sea. Standing on the beach these conditions can look blissful with mirror flat water and zero chop/flotsam. But beware!
The wind puffing in the same direction as tide will give an express conveyor belt ride out into deep water. Paddling back and making any kind of headway can then be extremely difficult, if not impossible. It can feel a little like paddling in treacle and has been the cause of many emergency services call outs.
It should be noted that tidal flows can run parallel to beaches – not just vertically. And wind directions can fluctuate, blowing from any quadrant. No matter what each element is doing the two in tandem will affect your coastal SUPing to some degree. Reading up and learning more about wind and tide is therefore good practice.