How much wind is too much on a SUP? This question plagued when I was a beginner/intermediate paddler and is probably the most valuable question on SUP asked here as it covers many topics. There is way more to it than included here but Quick answer-For beginners 10mph steady wind is the point where fun becomes too much struggle. Long answer- Our bodies are like sails on the SUP- wind at our back is a push forward but in our face is added resistance. Side wind requires most of your stroke on one side which will tire you out faster too. Body shape and size will affect how the wind affects you. Getting down low in your stance or knee paddling can be very effective in higher winds and prone paddling(on belly using hands w paddle under chest) is a last option when winds are too strong. Always try to go out into the wind and return with wind on your back. Wind speeds and gust speeds should both be checked and considered not only on an app but also on launch site. iWindsurf is a free app to check hourly marine forecasts and tides. There are many factors to determine your limit. The type of SUP activity- Downwinders and SUP Surfers go out in higher winds. Downriver trips are also an exception. The type of board is another consideration- Inflatable SUPs sit higher on the water catching the wind and become more difficult to steer than most hard boards. Displacement type hulls are much easier to paddle in higher winds than a planning hull, yet stability is the Sacrifice. Hybrid hulls are my windy trip board of choice as they do well in the winds offering better balance than a displacement hull but with the ability to cut through chop that usually comes w the wind...I use a Flying Fish brand board. Fin selection, larger fins will track straighter, boards w an extra nose runner fin track even better in high winds but are tougher to turn for beginners....usually a high end board option for longer narrower race boards and touring boards...both of which can go out in higher wind speeds. Water Flow direction- Is river or tidal current in the same direction as wind/opposing direction, or cross ways. Water conditions- flat or choppy? Your balance will be more difficult in higher winds, especially on narrower and faster tboard is as is the case w race and touring boards. Fin selection can also affect balance.
My limits for high winds aren’t the highest I’ve seen but it allows me room for changing conditions that could worsen.
I go out In up to 15 mph winds and 20mph gusts, I’m a Paddle Fit Pro level SUP coach, I wouldn’t recommend those wind conditions for anyone without a thorough evaluation. I generally wouldn’t rent a board to anyone I didn’t know in winds over 12 mph. One time I returned into 17mph wind with 35mph wind gusts in my face, I only had 1 mile to paddle like mad to get back while towing a friend, I wouldn’t want to repeat that. Distance, fitness capacity and technique are increasingly important in higher winds. 35 mph is small craft advisory, downwinders are the only SUPs out in those conditions. Recently I’ve heard stories of the Coast Guard removing 4 downwinders,in winter conditions w small craft advisory in effect, from the water and leaving them on a beach w $350 fine and no way to get back to their cars. The coast guard forcibly took paddlers off the water who were within their comfort/ skill zone and left them on a beach in winter w no means to get to their car. Winter paddlers depend on body heat generated by paddling to stay warm. The Coast Guard actually put them in danger, this is another story though. Much reform is needed for the Coast Guard in regards to Stand Up Paddlers and Safety rules. Ive had nothing but good experiences w the Coast Guard but this one story has been going around. The long answer is always be prepared for the unexpected and within your comfort zone. Avoid paddling alone and away from shore line and launch/return area when approaching your limits. An anchor can be dropped to take a break paddling into winds. Take advantage of places to take a break and rest. Always wear a leash in open water, windy conditions can separate you from the board, wear your PFD as it’s no good if it’s on the board as the wind blows it away from you. Always have a whistle on you. Always have a charged communication device ON you, either in a floating water proof case or one that floats if dropped. Always notify someone of your paddle itinerary. Items on your board are not the same as items on you when you need them. I now keep my wallet and a usb battery in a dry bag clipped to board bungee and have the Uber app on my phone clipped to my pfd w whistle. Windy conditions, regardless of experience, can always be dangerous. Have a plan to deal w any scenarios you might encounter and practice your plan in safety to work out the flaws. Avoid communication dead zones too.