SUP tips for handling wind

I’m new to the SUP game, and it’s been going well, but I feel like performance in the wind is just terrible. Of course, a tailwind is fine, but I seem so slow with a headwind. Any tips on this situation? My board is an inflatable (Imagine Surf Icon), and I’m using a Sol paddle.

I think I’m halfway decent without the wind. I guess it doesn’t help that every time i go out, there seems to be 10-15 mph winds. I mainly kayak, and I’m much faster in that. Also, I have trouble trying to keep up with my kayak buddies when I’m on the board. Then again, the one guy was in a 14’ boat.

SUPs are much more impacted by wind than a kayak, with the paddler standing up and acting like a sail. Plus the average person is not as fast/efficient when paddling a SUP as compared to a kayak.

When the head wind gets so strong that you are making little or no forward progress, the first fix is to get down on your knees (so act less like a sail) and paddle in that position.

Long term, watch videos or take lessons to learn how to increase your forward stroke efficiency. Plus switching to a hard shell SUP may also help some, particularly a narrower one and maybe a displacement version.

Thanks, that’s kind of what I suspected. Even though I’m a thin guy, when I’m standing up, square into the wind, that’s decent amount of surface area. Definitely do feel like a human sail sometimes!

Peter is right about kneeling, but there are some fine points to paddling in the wind. The first thing to think about is inflatable SUPs just are a poor choice for paddling when there is significant wind. They are thick and offer a large profile of surface area for the wind to affect. A high quality SUP that is matched for your weight will float so your feet are are alternating from being barely above the water and barely below the water. ~80% of the board volume is underwater and not offering wind resistance. You can increase the effectiveness in wind by leaning and burying a rail in the water letting the wind work on the board like a sail boat with a skeg, where the board cuts through the water and is not getting blown about on the surface. The second thing to think about is learn to paddle hard like a canoe in the wind. Using the rail sunk to keep you going straight, without constantly changing paddling sides. Paddle with the wind coming at you from 45 degee angle or smaller and paddle on the opposite side of the wind direction. For power strokes you can be kneeling upright for catching a wave to downwind surf, but in heavy headwinds put your butt down on your legs and paddle like Pochahantas (SUP experts laugh at this position, but it is the best you can do with very high winds or when you are tired out.) None of these options work very well on inflatable SUPs.

If you are using a heavy wide nylon paddle you can improve your experience with a light weight carbon paddle with a thin teardrop shaped blade that will be easy to feather through the return portion of the stroke. A light weight paddle lets you paddle faster and last longer without fatigue. But with an inflatable, I would first spend my money first on getting a good, used hardboard that is narrower and lower volume.

Thanks! Appreciate the detailed reply and advice. I’ll give some of those tips a try. When it’s very windy, I will probably just stick to the kayak, and save the SUP for a calmer day. It’s not so bad when I’m alone, but trying to keep up with some of my friends in their kayaks in a headwind is a ton of work. I’m just starting out with the SUP, but I may look into a hard board at some point, too.