Suitability in wind of kayak vs. canoe

In Oklahoma, wind is almost always a problem, and greatly limits canoeing. Does a kayak appreciably handle windy conditions better than a canoe with its lower profile. What would you say is highest wind you’d kayak in on protected, flat water?


Kayaks are way superior in handling
wind, because they present less for wind to catch and because the double blade can provide somewhat more leverage to keep the boat in line.

If I lived in Oklahoma, I would probably confine most canoeing to the rivers in the east end of the state, where the topography shelters one from the wind and provides more river gradient to help the boat downstream.

But us eastern paddlers have our own windy days from hell. I recall an instance in the Nolichucky gorge where a paddler had pulled up on a big rock to bail and get ready for the next rapid, and a strong wind blowing upstream picked the canoe up in the air and blew it clean over his head.

kayaks in wind
Any wind much over 40 mph isn’t any fun,on our river trips if the wind is blowing in our face the canoes have a much harder time and even get blown back up river.

Another idea ! Promote wind farms!
If you get enough of those big props upwind, they may cut the wind and increase paddling !

It can be done in a canoe
Grasse river race canoes are low profile racers and tourers that can handle some wind. Often they hug the shore. In the seda glider I have often been out when the flag was straight out but one day the paddle and boat blew away. It is like getting stuck in a 4wd. You can still have problems. The key is to really respect the wind as the boss, almost like living near the train. At my house at 9am there was no wind. On the st lawrence river by noon it was howling. Maybe late in the day when the wind has died down would help.

On "protected flat water"
In a kayak I would think that when you got a sideways wind at 40 MPH or more, you would have a good chance of getting blown over.

I have been in 35 MPh sustained winds and no problem if they are head on, but any more then that, and especially if they are coming from the side, than the boat gets very unstable.

I paddle both canoes and kayaks, and the kayak can take a lot more MPH winds than the canoe.



For me
who also paddles both, wind is less of an issue in kayaks. Much less of an issue.

My current canoe is a Bell Yellowstone Solo, which handles wind really well as canoes go, but I don’t enjoy paddling it in winds much above 20 knots. My sea kayaks, on the other hand, I’ve paddled in winds up to 35 knots and gusts over 40 knots, and while challenging, is not a big deal if you accept the fact that you can’t fight it, and just be happy with forward progress without overtaxing yourself.

In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to kayak the lake down the street when the wind is NNW at 40 or over. It takes up to an hour and 20 minutes to get upwind using windbreaks along the shore, but the surfing on the way back to the car is well worth the price. Especially when you consider I only drove a mile to get there. But I wouldn’t attempt it in a canoe.

Wind, Kayaks & Canoes!

Kayaks were designed for rough water and windy conditions. Not so for canoes! Canoes are better for carrying loads on wilderness trips.

I avoid going out in windy conditions in my canoe unless I have my spray cover on the canoe. Even then, a canoe is hard to handle in 35+ winds and almost impossible to run a straight course since into the waves and wind you almost always find yourself quartering waves.

As to your question as to how much wind and waves you can go out in it depends on your experience in a kayak and the distances you will cover away from shore. On the Great Lakes, many large lakes in Canada, and off the West and East Coasts going out in severe weather cuts your safety margin drastically. If you come out of the kayak you are in real trouble and the cold water in most of these bodies of water does not favor long exposure to open water. Landing your craft also becomes very difficult as wave action will be high close to shores and many coast lines are rocky and hard to land on it good conditions.

I wouldn’t venture out in severe weather in any canoe with or without a spray cover. It is almost a certainty that at some point you will be capsized, and recovering into a canoe in severe conditions is not likely.

I have been on rivers in my canoe with winds gusting up to 45mph and blowing rain up river, and it is no fun. Even with the current behind you keeping an even keel and maintaining a straight line downstream is not possible. You are constantly correcting the bow, and using tons of energy to make progress.

I practice these major rules of paddling in North America. Paddle early in the day before the winds come up and when the weatherman predicts strong winds and squalls on large open bodies of water I either stay close to shore and avoid rugged coastlines or wait out the storm.

Happy Paddling!

Murph 1

Try a hybrid! Clipper Sea 1
A kayak does better in high winds but a canoe is so much more comfortable to paddle. A single blade is much easier on the body too. I bought a Clipper Sea 1 as an answer to this same question. Read my review here:

I also like the Superior Expedition. Read my review here:

Don’t forget the Kruger!

I believe hybrids are the answer to those of us stuck in a windy part of the world and prefer a single blade.

Agree with Jack
But I can’t think of more fun than paddling into some strong winds for a good distance, just so I could surf back.

Hey Andy
My problem is that it seems that every time I turn around, the wind shifts and I’m still paddling into it!

We have a saying here that “if the wind’s in your face, you must be going the right direction”.

canoes better at avoiding windy places
Kayaks are definitely better at handling wind in a given spot than are canoes, and lower profile boats of either type better than higher profiles. That should be pretty obvious, even to non-boaters, and if you only have one place to go paddling, it might control your choice of boats.

However, since most people have a choice of several places to go paddling, there’s another factor to consider - a canoe might let you go places where the terrain shields you from the wind, places which are not easily accessible in a kayak.

Because a kayak is relatively hard to get in and out of, kayaks are generally not practical for congested waters where you have to get over obstacles such as fallen trees. As a result, kayaks pretty much have to stay in open water areas, and just one or two fallen trees can block you from miles of open water on a heavily wooded stream. Such obstacles are more easily handled in a canoe, where you can move back and forth inside the boat or easily step out, drag over and step back in the boat.

Wind is more of a problem on open water, the more open = the more problem. However, if you are near wooded banks, trees and undergrowth block the wind. If you paddle a narrow stream that winds back and forth through a forest, you can paddle a canoe in pretty much any wind conditions short of one where the wind is knocking over the trees. Further, since even a big canoe only sticks up 12-18 inches above the water level, even low undergrowth such as bushes and tall grass can block the wind sufficiently to make paddling easy, while allowing the paddler to feel the wind and observe its effects on taller objects. Thus, forests, swamps and marshes are all suitable place to take a canoe when the wind is up.

In sum, the choice of which boat is better for windy country is a little more complicated than simply which performs better in windy conditions. If there are attractive paddling locations in terrain that shields wind but is subject to navigation obstacles, then you maybe better off with a canoe than a kayak.