If you’ve ever paddled upwind on a stand up board, you know it’s literally an uphill battle. Some kneel to cut their wind resistance, while others don’t go out at all. I find our local waters are void of sup’ers on the more windy days, a bummer being that paddling down wind can be a lot of fun. For those that due enjoy ‘down winders’, they usually do a car shuttle to avoid paddling upwind. Personally, I don’t have the time or extra people available to coordinate shuttles for all the windy days I want to paddle, and paddling to your destination upwind can be rewarding and great exercise.
I’ve found three methods what work great for paddling upwind:
– While standing, take short quick strokes. In anything above 18kts, the longer strokes will slow you down as the wind will push your down wind during the time it takes to rewind to your starting position. This technique reminds me of paddling against fast moving water or a river. As soon as you stop, you go backwards. Using a smaller blade such as the Werner Nitro might reduce shoulder tension, wind resistance, and be easier to take smaller quick strokes as there’s less blade in the water.
– The second technique is to get a sea kayak double bladed paddle, and sit down while paddling upwind. By being much lower on the board, you reduce wind resistance considerably, and the double ended paddle gives you more power and cadence. I have bungis on my board to hold items such as a backup two piece sea kayak paddle. When using the kayak paddle, I then put my sup paddle on the board. The kayak paddle should have angled blades such as right 45 degrees. This allows for the blades to be slightly twisted when going up wind, reducing wind resistance. Twist your torso and use slightly bent arms to paddle, rather than arms alone to you give more power.
– Lastly, consider dropping a rail by pushing down with one foot to have the least amount of board in the water, thus less drag. I find most sup boards are so wide and flat bottomed, that they’re inefficient for flat water use. The fastest human powered craft in the water is a surfski which are very narrow and tippy with a displacement (round) hull. Less is more.
A few safety tips in paddling in wind:
– Always wear a leash to not lose your board in case of a fall. Wind can push your board away very quickly, thus a long swim.
– Tell others you’re going out and where before you leave home.
– Bring extra water in a fanny pack, hydration PFD pack, or on your deck. Paddling upwind is a lot of work, hydrate to make it more pleasant.
– Wind often makes the air temperature cooler, and in some cases quite cold, (windchill). Dress warmer than usual with a wetsuit or bring extra clothing in a fanny or backpack, or on your deck. I usually bring a neoprene vested hood and gloves in a fanny pack during the summer.