“Always check the weather first!”
Ask any expert paddler for SUP safety advice and this is definitely something you’ll hear. Stand up paddle boarding is one of those activities that is heavily dependent on the weather.
Being an outdoor watersport means that both the weather and water conditions will determine whether or not you’ll enjoy your paddling sessions. Or even whether you’ll go paddling at all!
But what is good weather for paddle boarding? There’s no straightforward answer. It depends on a paddler’s preference and the kind of experience they’re looking to have.
So let me break it down.
What Weather Conditions Are Ideal for Paddle Boarding?
Here are the different factors that will affect your SUP sessions.
Wind Direction and Speed
Failing to check the strength and direction of the wind can land you in a lot of trouble.
If you’re a beginner, I’d highly recommend avoiding windy weather. Wait until it’s calmer for you to go out so you won’t struggle to control your paddle board. This is especially important when paddling in the ocean. Things can go south very quickly.
I’d say that a wind speed of above 12 knots is too much wind for paddle boarding if you’re a newbie. This is a general assumption because the location matters too.
The wind may be strong but if there’s protection from trees or a cliff you’ll have an easier time. Still, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
More experienced paddlers can handle strong winds because they have perfected their paddling techniques and are also more confident. But even then, you should be careful. Check the forecast to see if you can handle it.
Other than the speed of the wind, you need to consider the wind direction too.
Paddling in the direction of the wind is easy. It will help you propel your SUP and you won’t use too much energy. Paddling into the wind, however, is a whole different story.
First of all, your body acts as a sail and creates resistance, making paddling harder. Now, imagine it’s a windy day, you’re paddling back to shore against the wind direction, and you’re already tired from your paddling session.
It doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it?
I always find it better to plan your SUP route such that you’re paddling into the wind while heading out and in the direction of the wind when coming back. This would be the perfect situation for paddle boarding.
You can easily manage paddling into the wind when first starting out on your SUP session, as you’ll still have a lot of energy. Then when paddling back the wind will be behind you, pushing you and making your work easier.
This is why it’s important to check the wind forecast while planning your trip so you can prepare properly.
Note that the wind speed and direction can change all of a sudden. You may find yourself in windier conditions than you anticipated. Always be alert. If the wind changes you may need to change your plans too.
Warm Weather Paddle Boarding
Warm weather is the perfect SUP weather for most people. Pretty much everyone likes to go outside on a beautiful, warm, sunny day, as opposed to a windy day with colder temperatures. Many people consider temperatures of about 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 26°C) to be ideal.
The temperatures are just warm enough to be pleasant but not too hot. You’ll generate a lot of body heat when paddling, so if the temperatures are too high it can get uncomfortable.
Paddling in warm weather is also easier to prepare for. You don’t need to put on layers–just anything that fits well and can get wet.
If it’s a warm, sunny day remember to hydrate and don’t forget your sunscreen. I would also advise you to get a SUP cooler to keep your drinks cool. That way, you’ll stay refreshed all day long.
Cold Weather Paddle Boarding
Many paddlers, especially the seasoned ones, don’t let cold weather stop them. Some even love the cold temperatures. There won’t be many people out in the water and you can enjoy a peaceful trip.
The challenge, however, is making sure that you stay warm while you’re paddling in the cold.
Wear enough layers–ideally neoprene and fleece clothing. Put on thick or waterproof gloves, and make sure they’re not too bulky, as you want to be able to paddle comfortably.
Neoprene boots or surfing boots will work perfectly to keep your feet warm. You don’t want to leave any part exposed, especially during winter.
It’s always a good idea to take a hot beverage to warm you up before you hit the water. You can also warm yourself up a little with a simple exercise.
Stand Up Paddling in the Rain
Can you paddle board in the rain? Yes! The beauty of paddle boarding is that there isn’t much to stop you.
However, it’s not really the rain you need to worry about. First, it can get cold when it’s raining so you have to make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. Dress for the temperatures.
Also, be prepared for the event that you may have to deal with super strong winds and choppy waters. This can make paddling harder and maybe even more dangerous. So if it starts to get too windy and the water too rough, you may want to head back to safety.
You should also avoid paddling in the rain when there’s thunder and lightning – paddling in a serious storm is never a great idea.
But if it’s just a light shower and everything else seems calm, you can sneak in a paddling session. Remember to stay alert in case anything changes. And don’t paddle too far from the shore.
What Water Conditions Are Best for Paddle Boarding?
So by now, you know how important it is to check the weather forecast to determine whether conditions are ideal for SUP. But the weather conditions shouldn’t be your only concern. Water conditions also have to be right for you to have a safe and fun day.
Stand Up Paddling on Calm Water
For most paddlers, and especially newbies, calm waters offer the best conditions for SUP. With minimal wind and no waves or currents, they can learn peacefully without being tossed around.
Flat water paddle boarding is also perfect for other SUP activities like yoga. It would be hard to maintain a pose on your stand up paddle board when the water is rough.
Calm water paddling is safer as it’s mainly done on ponds and smaller lakes. These places offer ideal SUP conditions for paddlers who like to bring their kids and pets along too. You won’t have much to worry about and you can quickly get to safety if need be.
Some people may want more varied and challenging conditions, such as intermediate paddlers and expert paddle boarders who prefer waves and more choppy waters. This is especially true if they need a little challenge or a place for them to practice their skills.
Calm water doesn’t offer the best paddling conditions for a SUP surfer either. Surfers need good waves to sharpen their SUP surfing skills, so it makes sense to seek out ocean waves or more choppy freshwater environments.
So if you want to get into paddle board surfing, a small lake won’t be the best place for you. Find a place with small waves and practice there before you move on to bigger waves.
River paddle boarding is great for paddlers who want to test their skills and take their experience to another level.
Rivers can be slow-moving or fast-moving. Slow-moving water is ideal for beginners as there isn’t much to worry about. Fast-moving rivers, however, can be rough and they will test your SUP expertise.
Whitewater paddle boarding is as dangerous as it is thrilling. You need to have the right SUP board and gear and you should also prepare adequately. Part of the preparation involves researching the terrain before you start your adventure.
Can You Paddle Board in Cold Water?
Yes, you can paddle board in cold water. There are serious risks involved though.
Just because the weather is all nice and warm doesn’t mean the water is warm too, so be sure to check the temperature.
The first thing you should be concerned about is cold water immersion. Sudden exposure to freezing water is dangerous.
Cold shock may cause you to breathe and gasp rapidly, posing the risk of drowning. Then there’s hypothermia which causes confused thinking–something that won’t help the situation.
If the water temperatures are extremely low, wear thermal layers and prepare for immersion. Even the most experienced paddlers fall so you should always have a plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Warm Should It Be for Me to Go Paddle Boarding?
I’d say if it’s 70°F or 21°C then it’s warm enough for most people to go paddle boarding. You won’t be too uncomfortable if you generate heat while paddle boarding. Falling in is more comfortable at this temperature too (if the water is warm).
If you’re a beginner, you can wait until it’s about 80°F or 26°C. Newbies are more likely to fall in the water a lot. Falling is more fun when it’s much warmer.
What Is the Best Time to Go Paddle Boarding
The best time to go paddle boarding depends on a specific paddler, their skill level and their needs.
Many people prefer mornings and evenings as having the best conditions–when the sun’s not too hot. You also get to enjoy a peaceful session and a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
Other people like paddling at night. This is a good option if you’re usually too busy during the day. The experience is fantastic and you don’t have to deal with crowds.
How Cold Is Too Cold for Paddle Boarding: Can You SUP in the Winter?
It’s never too cold for paddle boarding and, yes, you can SUP in the winter. However, we have briefly talked about the dangers of cold water above.
If you want to avoid the risks altogether, then water temperatures below 70°F or 21°C are too cold for paddle boarding. Note that water temperature doesn’t affect your body the same way that air temperature does. You can wear warmer clothing to adjust to the weather but falling into cold water may not end well.
The most important thing is to know your own limits.
For winter paddle boarding, dress appropriately and prepare for immersion. Wear a life vest to keep you afloat if you fall.
So, what is good weather for paddle boarding? This depends on a paddler’s preference. But generally, good weather for most paddlers is when it’s warmer, preferably above 70°F. Minimal wind is also ideal, anything below 12 knots. High winds can make paddling a little more difficult.
As for water conditions, most people, especially beginners and yoga enthusiasts, prefer calm water. They won’t have to deal with waves and strong currents. Warm water temperatures are favorable too because they don’t pose serious risks if you fall in.