Top tips for paddling in wind

We host a lot of Salcombe Estuary paddle tours and lessons and run coastal touring courses for more confident paddlers. As with all open water paddling, we have to deal with windy conditions. So an important part of what we teach is helping people cope with wind. Here are a few tips and techniques we share with fellow paddlers:

  • Check weather forecast. Always check the weather forecast for the whole tour before you make the decision to head out on the water. Avoid off shore winds and winds of 10 knots (12mph) or more. If possible try to plan a one-way tour so you have the wind and tide with you or if you are doing an in-and-out tour, plan your trip so you paddle into the wind on the way out when you are less tired.
  • Adjust your foot position. Move your weight forward to keep the nose of the board down into the wind. You won’t need to move your feet a long way forward but depending on the shape and length of your board this could be anything up to a foot in front of your carry handle in the centre of your board.
  • Get lower on your board. Bend at your knees and hip and drop your shoulder. This will help you create a lower profile into the wind and reduce drag.
  • Adjust your hand position. Move your bottom hand further down the shaft towards your blade. This will give you greater torque or power with each stroke. It will also encourage you to bend your knees and hips, further reducing your wind profile.
  • Consider using a choke grip. This means removing your top hand from the T-grip and moving it down the shaft. This will lower your wind profile and generate more power for short bursts.
  • Adjust your paddle stroke. A quicker, shorter stroke will maintain your forward momentum in to the wind. Your blade should exit the water before it reaches your toes.
  • Don’t stop paddling. If you stop paddling, you will lose forward momentum and expend more energy getting your board moving again. Find a stroke rate (cadence) that you can maintain over long distances. Stay calm and relaxed – the more tense you are, the more energy you will waste. Use any calm conditions to slow your rate down so you regain energy for when the wind picks up again.
  • Adjust your shaft angle. If you are paddling on the leeward side of your board (the side facing away from the wind) you will need to angle the shaft slightly across your body so that each stroke pushes the nose of your board upwind. This will help you paddle in a straight line. If you are paddling on the windward side of your board (the side facing the wind) you will want your paddle to be vertical. This means pushing your top hand right outside the edge of your board so both hands are stacked – one directly above the other on the shaft of the paddle.
  • Adjust the angle of your blade. Normally we encourage people to place the blade in to the water close and perpendicular to the rail of the board and draw it back in a straight line. However in windy conditions it may be necessary for you to angle the blade on the windward side of your board so the inside blade edge is in front of the outside blade edge and place it in the water away from from your board rail. You should then pull or ‘draw’ your blade in towards the rail so you drag your board nose upwind on each stroke.
  • Drop to your knees or chest. Don’t be ashamed to drop to your knees if paddling becomes too hard. This will halve your wind profile and reduce drag. Your hands will also be closer to the water so your torque or power from each stroke will be greater. If conditions become too dangerous lie down on your board with your paddle blade under your chest and prone paddle like a surfer to the nearest safe exit from the water.
  • Use local knowledge. Wherever you paddle, there will be changes in the morphology of the land adjacent to the stretch of water you are on. Use headlands, points, dense vegetation and other natural wind breaks to provide shelter from winds. Stay close to lee shores to avoid the worst of the wind. Be aware of valleys or inlets that act as wind tunnels.
  • BE PREPARED. If in doubt, don’t go out. Check the weather.Get your hands on a local maritime map and plan your route carefully, taking into account wind speed and direction as well as tide direction and strength. Wear a buoyancy aid and wetsuit if necessary. Take a waterproof bag to hold your phone, water, something to eat and a spare change of clothes. Always paddle with someone else and, if you are doing a long open water paddle, inform your local harbour office of your trip and give them a passage plan and expected arrival time – don’t forget to tell them you arrived safely!
  • Get a lesson. It’s one thing to have a beginners lesson that gets you up and paddling around. But if you want to become more adventurous and start touring in open water we recommend you book onto a touring course with a BSUPA qualified tour instructor. You can find out details of our own tours at You can find details of other BSUPA schools around the country at

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