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Top Tips For Paddle Boarding Against Wind And Current

More often than not, paddle boarding is portrayed as a slow cruise down a calm and glassy river, however, there really is much more to the sport. From lakes, rivers, canals, open ocean, waves and white water rapids, paddle boarding is a truly diverse sport, which is why it’s important to equip yourself with a broader range of skills. More importantly, as it’s an outdoor sport and, as we know nature can be unpredictable at the best of times, learning how to tackle the worst of the conditions is paramount to your safety on the water. Read up more on paddle boarding safely here. In this article though, we’re breaking down our top tips for paddle boarding against wind and current.

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Check Your Positioning

First of all, it’s important to check your posture and positioning on the board is correct, as this will make paddling in both calm and challenging conditions far easier. Make sure your feet are shoulder width apart over the centre of the board, with your weight evenly distributed. With your body positioning, you want to keep your knees slightly bent to shock absorb any chop or waves and your back straight. However, in strong winds, you will want to bring your body weight slightly forward, to prevent the wind blowing under the nose of the board and creating unwanted resistance. This is particularly prevalent with wide, round nosed boards and bringing the weight forward helps to keep the nose pushed down onto the water. The combination of the board and body positioning will allow for a stronger paddle stroke and keep you balanced and stable.

Paddle Technique Is Key

When you’re battling against the wind and current, you want to ensure that every paddle stroke counts to make sure you don’t lose ground or waste energy. Double check that you are keeping your back straight and as you dip the paddle in the water to initiate the stroke, the full blade is submerged with the paddle shaft remaining upright throughout. This allows you to get more power behind your stroke. As you bring the stoke along the edge of your board, your arms should remain straight with your top shoulder and core engaged to pull you forward. A majority of this power comes from the core. As you bring the paddle out of the water to move into the next stroke, keep your legs bent and core engaged. Remember, the longer it takes you to initiate the next paddle stroke, the more speed you will lose when paddling into the wind and current. This is why shorter strokes work better when paddling into the wind.

Read up more on how to paddle straight on a paddle board here.

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Admittedly, it’s far from ideal to be paddling against the wind or current, but nature is unpredictable and it can make for a great power workout or training session. As with anything difficult, it’s important to stay determined and calculated. If your are struggling against the wind or beginning to tire, drop to a kneeling position and paddle so you reduce your resistance. Alternatively, if the wind becomes too strong, you can lay down on the board and paddle it like a surfboard to completely minimise windage. In the case of emergency, such as if a front has brought extreme winds, try and seek shelter until the front has passed. On the other hand, if you opted for a workout paddle, start your session paddling against the wind or current when you are most energetic, so your return paddle is much easier.

Stay Safe And Smart

Whether you’ve chosen to take on some testing conditions or the weather took a turn, it’s important to take safety precautions on the water. First of all, take the time beforehand to research the local conditions, wind and weather forecast and the tide times. Some locations work better on specific tides and aren’t so affected by certain wind directions, so it’s important to outline these before your paddle. As we mentioned above, the weather isn’t the most reliable, but by checking the forecast, you can have a general idea of what to expect. Once you’re all set for your session, make sure you paddle with at least one other person. If you can’t recruit anyone to join you, make sure you message someone when and where you are paddle boarding and be sure to message them as soon as you get back to dry land. We do recommend taking your phone or a radio out on the water with you in a waterproof pouch, just in case of emergency. Finally, wear a SUP leash so in case you do fall in, you can always get back to your board quickly and easily against the wind and current.

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Board Shape Plays A Part

An often overlooked factor in paddling, and paddling when conditions get tougher, is the shape of the paddle board, as well as the width, thickness and rocker line. Touring and racing inflatable paddle boards are much sleeker in design and are therefore better suited to maintaining glide (ease of paddling), tracking straighter and overall speed. Working against them in adverse conditions however, these boards are typically more narrow. Red Paddle Co feature a unique range of inflatable stand up paddle boards called the Voyager. These board have an exclusive to Red Paddle Co V-Hull design, which when coupled with their twin fin setup, offer extremely good tracking and stability when fighting against wind and/or current. Worth a look if you’re often in these conditions, or just want a top level performing board!

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.