Paddling in wind

Scenerio: I am paddling along the shoreline of a medium-sized Wisconsin lake in a stiff breeze. The wind is blowing across the lake and hitting me mostly broadside, but slightly to the rear, just enough to want to keep turning my boat towards the shore. To keep going straight, I am picking up my tempo and paddling steadily, but using sweep strokes on my left side (in this case, the shore side of the boat). To make these more effective, I am leaning “on the outside”……BUT, that gives the wind more surface of my boat to blow on (as my hull rises on the wind side) so my sweeps aren’t doing much good. So, then I try and lean into the wind while continuing my sweeps on the other side, which is awkward and not very effective either.

As I’m sure you can tell by the question, I’m still pretty much of a novice. So, can any of you more experienced paddlers give me some advice? What works better than the attempts I made?


Edge into the wind
Edge into the wind (lower side of boat the wind is hitting). This ‘locks’ your stern and helps keep it from skidding across the water. The stern is the culprit when it comes to weathercocking (bow seemingly swinging into the wind–actually the stern is getting pushed downwind so that you end up pointed into the wind) due to the low water pressure around the stern when moving forwards compared to the higher water pressure at the bow of the boat.

Edging can be difficult in a boat that is too wide and has not been properly fitted to you. What kind of boat do you have?

Whenever I get tired of fighting
the wind, I drop the rudder or skeg. Do you have either one of those on your boat?

Try this site

I noticed in your profile…
that you are ordering a QCC-600.

If it is not too late, make sure to get it with a rudder.

I can paddle all day long without my rudder, and very seldom use it, but in the condition that you are describing, it sure makes it a lot easier to have a fun day.



Agree With All
Paddling into a wind, really paddling in windy conditions comming from any direction requires some counter application of force to continue in your direction of choise. Cutting into the wind will help. Changing the position of your paddle so that you have more paddle on the side oppisite of the direction the boat wants to move, sweep strokes, skeg, and rudder will all help in various degrees.

Like Jack, I use the various boat handling and paddle techniques while padding into the wind in order to keep the boat balanced and going straight. And I deploy my rudder at the point that I get tired of playing with the wind or get tired.

Happy Paddling,


First stop is skeg/rudder
I won’t get into arguments about which is overall better, and you have the option of either with a QCC boat. Bottom line is that, from what you posted, the wind is turning the rear of the boat more than the bow so the effect is that the boat is pointing towards shore. Yes?

That means that the stern portion of the boat doesn’t have the same amount of grip or depth in the water to resist the wind as the bow section, which is a common response in kayaks. If you drop a skeg or a rudder in this scenario, you even up the front and the back of the boat so that ideally both are being equally affected by the wind. That means that you have reduced your problem to being blown sideways in a more unified fashion, which will still require some correction to get home but is a lot less annoying to paddle around than one half of the boat scooting out on you.

I don’t know that the rudder is particularly effective if used as a turning tool in this case, probably mostly useful to help keep the boat tracking as does a skeg. I’ve had boats with either in this situation, and I usually found myself not wanting to fuss with setting the rudder angle to hold a direction. I just wanted it down to give the stern a chance to hold as tight as the bow, since I found that my calves would really start complaining after a while of fussing with the rudder angle.

Hey Celia
I imagine that every type of boat would react differantly to conditions, type of application, and type of rudder. In my case I can say from experience that a rudder will help with not only maintaining direction but with turning in high wind and sea states. I don’t paddle often in what I consider sever conditions but I was offshore a month ago when I really did not want to be, winds 30mph plus, swells way over my head, and about a three foot breaking cross chop. The rudder made things a lot more tenable for me particularly when turning the boat around 180. One of the nice things about the SeaLine rudder system with its toe peddals is that you still have stationary peddals to use as braces and a slight touch of the toe will make a slight change of direction.

Happy Paddling,


Rudders and turning
I had the Seal Line system installed in my old CD Squall before it left the lot, so I know you can use it to turn. It’s a good system (or was I guess).

It’s just that I found that my calves were killing me when I came in if really tried to hold the rudder on a particular angle for a while or did a whole lotta turning. In a choice betweeen hurting calves and more paddling, I ended up choosing more paddling because it was less painful. One of the reasons I personally have gone with skegs.

Switch to a single blade
If the wind is more to one side than the other I find switching to my spare paddle and paddling on the leeward side works great.

I’d imagine having a rudder would eliminte all these problems but in really windy conditions I do best with a single blade as I don’t have a rudder.

Great replies! Yes, my new boat has a skeg, and in the incident I talked about, I couldn’t get it to “drop”. Later on land, I worked on it some, got it to loosen up a bit, and now it seems to be functioning better. By the way, the QCC 600X has been re-designed this year with lower bow and stern decks (especially the stern deck). It is really fun to paddle and so fast, so I suspect my difficulty in wind has more to do with my inexperience than anything. Thanks to all for the great discussion and advice!

I’m confused
If the wind is blowing towards the shore and the bow is turning towards the shore, the stern is the pivot point, it has more resistance to the wind. Isn’t weather cocking the bow turning into the wind?

what’s described is called LEE cocking. cocks toward leeward.


Especially since we now know
the skeg was up (and therefore typical for the boat to weathercock vs. leecock if the skeg had been down), was the wind direction description written incorrectly to begin with? That was my initial assumption… But you know what happens when we ASS-U-ME something…

I’m guessing you aren’t putting out enough speed for the kayak to weathercock and you’re simply blowing down wind. If you’re too light in your kayak you could be just sliding sideways on the water.

The other thing is that if you’re the average beginning paddler you’re trying to make your kayak paddle work like a canoe paddle with max effort at 3 oclock and 9 oclock position and not 10 and 2. The other thing is that if you’re right handed you might be exerting your right hand stroke effort too far back to 4-5oclock and not pushing with your right hand enough with your torso resulting in a weak left hand stroke.

Pivot Point
This is rapidly getting more refined than I can keep up with - at some point I get probably overly pragmatic. But I did make assumptions, which were that the wind was blowing away from the shore and that the bow was holding its course in the water tighter than the stern. I did that because that’s just the most common way these boats are designed, and if it was afternoon there was good chance that there was an offshore breeze.

So in that scenario I’d call the bow the pivot point because it is holding more on course.

In the opposite scenario, a stern that is holding tighter than the bow, the boat should have ended up pointing in the opposite direction.

But picking the right scenario of these two requires knowing the direction of the wind, something which I failed to ask…

Edging into the wind is usually a good position. You can lift the downwind side of your kayak with your knee which tips the boat windward and paddle normally…usually. Higher winds may mean doing what some of these others suggest. Having a rudder can help, too…Remember rudders are NOT for steering in the sense of a steering wheel, but more to help adjust your course…as you are trying to do in this wind situation.

Tell a kayak racer doing a bouy turn…
that a rudder is not like a steeing wheel !!!



rudder or skeg
A rudder or skeg will help a lot, but skegs are a pain when they’re stuck. Happened to me often enough…

If your boat is loaded, try adjusting the weight of your load. Usually you’d want about the same weight at the bow and stern but if the boat is lee cocking then you might want to move some of the weight from… You know, I’m not sure. I think you’d want to add weight to the stern - can somebody verify?

Another trick if you’re not using a crank (or bent) shaft paddle is to move the paddle over a few inches. If you kept turning to the right, then move the paddle over to the right thru the grip on your hands - this way you’re doing a little bit of a sweep stroke on the right side on every stroke but still paddling relatively “even”. This will help to some extent, but probably not completely fix the problems that you had that day.