Wind Speed, Resistance and Stand Up Paddleboarding

Paddleboarders out at sea

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It is really important to know just how much wind speed and resistance can impact your stand up paddleboarding prior to going out on the water. Many a new paddler has gotten themselves in to challenging and sometimes dangerous situations that have required rescuing either by other water users or the coast guard. For more on Starting out Stand Up Paddleboarding Click Here. Today we discuss how the wind can both help and hinder your paddle.

How does wind affect my paddling?

One of the things you may not have considered when first learning to Stand Up Paddleboard is the wind. Wind resistance occurs when you are stand up paddleboarding into the wind. When you are standing upon your Paddleboarding you become a little like a sail. It is when the wind hits your body and pushes you in a direction other than the one you are paddling that causes problems. It is really astounding just how much the wind can push you around. For this reason it is important to always be aware of the direction the wind is blowing. If you are paddling into the wind, the wind will be pushing against you. With the wind at your back you will be able to paddle quite quickly.

HOT TIP – Use the wind direction to decide upon which direction to start your paddle!

Start out paddling into the wind

When starting to paddle out a good tip is to paddle into the wind. In this stage you have the most wind resistance when you are stand up paddleboarding. At the beginning of the paddle you have more strength and won’t tire as easily. This also means that you will also have the wind behind your back for the return journey. Often new paddlers go with the wind as they paddle out, not realising that they are being pushed along. It doesn’t take long before you have gone further than you’d planned and suddenly the shore is a long way away. This can be alarming to the new paddler when they turn back to paddle to the shore. Suddenly they find they paddling a lot more difficult as no only are they concerned at just how far they have gone but also they are paddling against a headwind and most likely are starting to get tired.

You can alter the amount of resistance you have to the wind with the Five Basic Paddling positions. This is not a get out of jail free card but may help you if you find yourself getting into difficulty.

Wind Speed

Most weather apps these days have the ability to report wind speeds and I encourage you to check local conditions prior to going out. This is also where local knowledge can be helpful. If you are familiar with an area you most likely will know the prevailing wind direction and be more aware of the likelihood of sudden or unexpected gusts of winds. the wind can really make or break a paddle.

As a general rule of thumb 10knots or 18km p/h is ok for most paddling, however if you are a beginner I would go out in conditions where there is little to no wind at all. Above 10 knots things get pretty challenging.


Stand Up Paddleboarding main position - Standing
Standing Position is the most common but has the most resistance

The standing position is the one with the most resistance. This is because there is a greater surface for the wind to push around. Standing means that the wind will push you around more than if you were to kneel or sit down.


Kneeling down on a SUP
Kneeling Position

The kneeling allows you to reduce your resistance considerably. this is the first position to get into from a standing position when you notice that the wind is reducing the effectiveness of your paddle strokes. From here it is easy to transition into lower positions if you decided you need to. In this position you are still relatively high off the water and can still paddle quite strongly.

Sitting on Heels

Sitting on heels on a SUP
Sitting on heels

The sitting on heels position is a little lower than kneeling and allows you to still have relatively powerful paddle strokes which is important when you are paddling into a wind. It offers you a little less resistance than kneeling though and is a good position to transition to if you find that your legs are getting tired while kneeling.

Sitting Down

Sitting down on a SUP
Sitting down

The sitting down offers a little less resistance again than the previous positions. In this position paddling becomes a little more difficult. This is a good position to transition into if your knees are getting sore from kneeling down or sitting on your heels. Some people find that sitting is a lot more comfortable for them.

Lying down

Lying down on a SUP
Lying down

This position offers the least resistance of all. This is good to do if you are finding that the previous positions are too difficult to paddle and make progress. If you look closely at the photo you will notice that I have placed my paddle underneath me. With the blade under your torso you will be more comfortable. This way the handle is out in front of you.

As previously mentioned these positions are helpful if you find that conditions suddenly change but are not a substitute for good planning and common sense. Always check conditions prior to going into the water so your paddle is memorable for all the right reasons!

Using the wind to your advantage

Of course you could also use the wind to your advantage with a paddle sail. Click on the image above to find out more or click here to find the current price.



2 thoughts on “Wind Speed, Resistance and Stand Up Paddleboarding

  1. worldwidewalkies says:

    Great post and as you say, many a paddler has been caught out by wind.
    As well as SUP, I windsurf, so understanding wind is my bread and butter.
    It is worth noting that the power of the wind as measured by the Beaufort Scale is not linear, it is exponential. A force 4 is not twice as strong as a force 2; it is sixteen times more powerful.
    This is a good thing to bear in mind when looking at weather forecasts!
    A couple of my favourite wind forecasting websites are BigSalty and xcweather. They seem to be accurate for the south coast of the UK, where I live. I can’t vouch for elsewhere in the country.
    Happy and safe paddling!

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