Kayaking in the wind - Ultimate Guide

Kayaking in the wind - Ultimate Guide
Photo by Haitham / Unsplash

Kayaking in the wind can be both exhilarating and challenging. When the wind is blowing, it can create waves and chop on the water which can make kayaking difficult. However, with proper preparation and the right gear, kayaking in the wind can be a great experience.

To stay safe while kayaking in the wind, be sure to wear a life jacket and keep an eye on the weather forecast. If the wind is forecasted to be strong, it's best to avoid kayaking in exposed areas. Instead, look for sheltered spots where you can paddle in calmer conditions.
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What to expect when kayaking in the wind

One of the most important things to consider when kayaking in windy conditions is the direction of the wind. If the wind is blowing directly against you, it will be much more difficult to paddle and make progress.

It is also important to consider the strength of the wind. If it is a strong wind, it can be difficult to control your kayak and you may end up capsizing.

In general, it is best to avoid kayaking in strong winds. If you do find yourself in a situation with wind and waves you cannot handle, be sure to paddle with caution and be prepared for the unexpected.

How to prepare for kayaking in the wind

Kayaking in the wind can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  1. Choose the right kayak: A kayak that is too light or too heavy will be more difficult to control in rough waters. Try going with a kayak you are most comfortable with so that you can focus more on other stuff.
  2. Choose the right paddle: A paddle that is too short or too long will make it difficult to control your kayak. Similar to picking a kayak, choose a paddle with which you are most comfortable. Maximizing your stroke is important.
  3. Dress for the conditions: Wear clothing that will keep you warm and dry in the event that you capsize or in case you some unexpected weather. Paddling in the fog or rain will make it much more difficult.
  4. Map out your journey: Understanding where you plan to travel and the waterways to get there can be extremely important in determining what to wear and how to forecast.
  5. Stay aware of the weather: Before heading out, check the forecast and be prepared for changing conditions. Also, understanding which way the wind will be blowing and at what speeds may help you ride the current more efficiently and conserve energy.
  6. Be prepared to capsize: If you do capsize, remain calm and get yourself and your kayak to safety. Having some friends with you can be extremely helpful in case of any emergency.

What wind speeds are safe for kayaking?

So, if you've checked out the weather forecast but don't have enough kayaking experience to know if the wind is too strong - here is some quick advice.

While there is no definitive answer to this question as it largely depends on the skill level of the kayaker, as a general rule of thumb, wind speeds of 10-15 knots (11.5-17.2 mph) are generally considered safe for kayaking.

However, experienced kayakers may feel comfortable kayaking in winds up to 20-25 knots (23-28.8 mph).

It is important to keep in mind that wind speeds can vary greatly depending on the location, so it is always best to check the local weather conditions before heading out on the water.

Photo by Nabit Photos / Unsplash

What to do while kayaking in the wind

Kayaking in the wind can be a bit of a challenge, but it can also be a lot of fun. Here are a few things to keep in mind when kayaking in windy conditions:

  1. Make sure you have a good grip on your paddle. Windy conditions can make it difficult to keep a firm grip on your paddle, so make sure you have a good grip before you set out.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. In windy conditions, it's easy to lose track of where you are and what's around you. Pay attention to your surroundings and be aware of any potential hazards.
  3. Stay calm. Strong winds and rough waters can be stressful, but it's important to stay calm and focus on paddling. If you start to panic, it will only make the situation worse.
  4. Take your time. Heavy winds can make it difficult to paddle quickly, so take your time and focus on paddling smoothly. There's no need to hurry, just enjoy the ride.
  5. Be prepared for a workout. Rough waters can make kayaking a bit more challenging, so be prepared for a bit of a workout. It can also be a great way to get some exercise, so don't be afraid to put in a little extra effort.

Kayaking in the wind can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get a good workout. Just keep these things in mind and you'll be sure to have a great time.

How to stay safe while kayaking in the wind

When kayaking in windy weather, there are a few things you can do to stay safe.

First, be sure to dress appropriately for the conditions. Wear a life jacket and dress in layers so that you can stay warm and dry.

Secondly, be aware of your surroundings and the weather forecast. If the wind picks up, it can create waves and currents that can make kayaking difficult or even dangerous. Pay attention to the forecast and be prepared for changing conditions.

Another great tip is to stay as close to shore as you can on your journey. Doing this gives you the advantage of dealing with harsher waves and also makes it a lot easier for you to get to safety in the event that you capsize your boat.

Finally, be sure to paddle with a partner and let someone on shore know where you are going and when you expect to return. You can enjoy kayaking in the wind without putting yourself at risk by following these safety tips.

Photo by Wengang Zhai / Unsplash

What gear helps with kayaking in the wind

When out on the rough waters, having some extra gear that can help you with strong winds can be a real game-changer. Here are a few things that can help you out.

  • A windbreaker or spray jacket will help keep the wind off of your body and help you stay warmer.
  • A hat or visor can help keep the sun and wind out of your eyes. sunglasses are also a good idea. If you have long hair, you may want to put it up in a ponytail or braid to keep it from blowing into your face.
  • This one needs no explanation but you should always wear a life jacket when out on the water, especially in strong winds. You never know when you may capsize.
  • A Spray skirt is a fantastic piece of gear for keeping the water out of your kayak. Strong winds mean that high waves can come crashing into your boat making slowly start to fill up with water.
  • If you want to stay warm then wearing a Wetsuit can be great for that. If you know the water you are planning to paddle through is going to be cold then having one of these is crucial for keeping you insulated. Kayak gloves are also great for the same purpose as well as they help prevent blisters from forming on your hands.
  • In case water does get into your kayak, having a bilge pump can be really helpful in clearing it out. Having a bit of water in your kayak is fine but if it gets too much, it may start to affect the kayak's weight and stability.
  • While this is not as useful as other items in this section, having a kayak anchor is great for planting yourself in one place, especially if wind speeds are high.
  • A Kayak helmet is also highly suggested for navigating in strong winds but is mostly dependent on whether the route you are taking is rocky or shallow.
  • Since you will get a lot wetter in high winds, having a dry box or waterproof bag can be really great for keeping your stuff dry and secure. I usually recommend having at least one of these all the time - but they are even more useful when paddling in splashy conditions.
  • First Aid kits are also another piece of equipment I suggest bringing along. You never know when someone will get injured out on the water, and sometimes, it's a long way back to shore.
  • Lastly, having a Kayak sail when the winds are strong is a great way to save energy from paddling since you can use the wind to your advantage.

In general, it’s best to avoid paddling in strong windy conditions if you can help it. But if you do find yourself out on the water when the wind is blowing, just remember to dress appropriately and paddle with caution.

Other factors that can affect you


Sometimes when it's windy out on the water, it may be accompanied by some other less than desirable weather. Whether it's rain, fog, or even a thunderstorm, being aware of the forecast and adequately preparing can make a huge difference in your journey.

Wind can also bring in a cool breeze, especially when out on the water. It's important to know that the coolness you feel while on the shore does not reflect how cold it might be out in the open water. This is yet another thing that you should take into consideration before heading out.

Other paddlers

Other paddlers can also pose a minor threat in heavy winds. If you are out there with a group of friends or encounter some strangers. Be cautious of the distance between yourselves since there is a chance that the water sends you crashing into each other.  


Kayaking, being a sport, requires lots of energy, especially when out in windy waters. If you are trying to fight against the current then you will find that you have to paddle a lot harder and faster just to keep up with it.

Try finding an alternate route that goes with the current or navigate to shore and take a rest if you can.

In Summary

Kayaking in the wind can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors. With a little preparation, you can safely enjoy this activity on a windy day.

As with any sport, there are certain risks associated with kayaking. However, by following some simple safety guidelines, these risks can be minimized. When kayaking in windy conditions, be sure to stay close to shore, wear a life jacket, and be aware of your surroundings. By following these simple tips, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience while on the water.

Happy paddling!!