Wind question

Does the weight of a boat make a differance in wind? For instance in a strong wind “25-30mph” will a lighter boat have more trouble making headway than a heavy boat? This was the disagreement- Light boats are easier to paddle =less effort - Heavier take more effort= more to push across the water. But in a “strong wind” Won’t the light boat be more affected by the wind than the heavy??

i don’t have any hard data to support this, but it does seem like a loaded kayak does better at maintaining its speed into the wind- momentum i suppose. acceleration is slower, but it doesn’t get slowed down with each wave that hits you.

along the same lines, i have noticed that the relative speed differences of boats drops dramatically when going into a strong wind/ wind waves. for example, last weekend, paddling in the hurricane waves/ chop at hilton head, i was just a bit faster in my ski than was my friend in a mariner 2 going into the waves, but miles ahead of him on the flats or especially surfing back. the advantages of a long narrow hull definitely drops below a certain speed.

was this completely off topic?


Also… No Hard Data…

– Last Updated: Oct-04-04 10:14 AM EST –

I would think your surface area matters the most. A loaded boat might present less area to the wind giving some advantage. Would I prefer to walk into the wind with a 4x8 sheet of cardboard or 4x8 sheet of drywall? Cardboard!

windage (freeboard) is the key here. The more sail area the more effort required to push against wind.

While a weighted vessel will maintain momentum, it’s harder to accelerate and maintain speed.

Beam winds are another story. Weight may help maintain traction and course. a light boat will get blown sideways faster. Like sand in the back of a pick-up in snow.


the reason I put this up
was a discusion at the shop about a trip I was on. I had a women in a roylex OT/Castine very light boat and she is fairly light. She is a strong paddler but no matter how hard she paddled she couldn’t get any headway.(had to tow her a 1/2 mile) I felt that if she had a heavier boat such as the poly-link Castine with some gear in it she may have done better. She still would have a hard time just thought she would have at least made some headway. The weight giving a lower profile and having the momentum of the weight moving forward. It got to be an argument and was drawn at a agree to disagree.


So is it a draw?

oh boy the wind!
Having just completed a 6-month solo paddle trip with ONLY 10 days the wind did NOT blow I feel I can answer that with experience. You answered the question yourself.

A heavy boat, you have to pull the boat through the wind but it does not get affected by the wind as much since the extra weight and it ususally sits lower in the water. A lighter boat will be affected more but is easier to pull through the water. Lighter, I mean the weight being say…75 pounds of gear. My trip I just completed I carried between 180-245lbs of gear at a time plu my 160 lb body weight. I encountered wind that was often 20+ and the going was usually slow and steady which is key, Dont expect to go fast , just maintain a steady pace. I paddled between 9-15 hours each day most into the wind. The slowest that I would go and still paddle was about 1 mile per hour. After that it was too much work and I would wait out the wind etc.

I typically made 2mpg and 4mph on the flats or downstream, but the upstream was the slowest at 13-17 miles a day when the current was against me at about 6mph. It helps to have a single blade paddle too since your not only pushing the paddle forward but why on earth would you want to also push the opposing blade through the wind too? Makes no sense and is tiring. Helps to have a light paddle too. My paddle weighs 7 oz. and I paddle a 50 stroke rate per minute for 10 hours on the average which. IF I had used a double blade that weighed for example 23 oz. that would be 1 lb more to lift each stroke or 30,000 pounds over the corse of a 10 hour day. That is 15 tons more weight you would have to lift. In comparision , it would be like me shoveling 15 tons of sand prior to going out and paddling 10 hours with a 7 oz paddle. Tiredness ='s effieciency='s speed etc.

Good Luck

You can read more about my trip via my updates which are archived at

Take care


Science Maybe
Some empty milk jugs and a GPS on a windy day might settle the argument. You’d need to keep the paddler unbiased.

Excellent example
People often forget that what is an excellent flat water boat may not yield great results in big water, and vice-versa. Kayaks are specific in their design. A loaded yak will sit lower and have less windage, albeit be more of a chore to correct if blown around. No absolutes in any of this, just one compromise or another. The paddler is the major factor.

It’s not the weight of the boat, but the combined weight of boat and paddler together and how much water is displaced. I have a really fat acquaintance who bought a super light fast yak and claims he was cheated.

design characteristic
This discussion traps the design intention of the kayak. For example, a great day boat may be a slug when loaded. Conversely, a great expedition boat that doesn’t weathercock at all and is as fast or faster when loaded (e.g. the P&H Quest) may be less fun in the wind unloaded. Boats the like the Tempest and Explorer split the difference. It’s a bit like single malt Scotch: Highland Park is a great all rounder, Laprhoig is a more specialized taste .

P&H is not faster loaded
Here are the only cases I can think of when a kayak will be faster loaded with cargo compared to the same kayak without cargo: The kayak design is so bad that it is pitched off its lines when loaded with paddler alone - even the P&H Quest is not that bad; The cargo is lighter than air like float bags filled with helium, or; when the cargo is an engine that generates a propulsion force greater than the increase in drag force it creates.

Heavier can be faster in all conditions
…if the additional weight results in an increased propulsion force that offsets the increase in drag force. For example a heavier paddler who is just as fit as a lighter paddler will generate additional power that more than offsets his increase in drag.

Put the heavier paddler in rougher water and the advantage increases even more due to increased momentum. He loses less speed when passing waves and actually has a greater power to drag ratio making acceleration quicker.

This assumes that the kayak’s design accomodates both the the lighter and heavier paddler. Most sea kayaks are designed to accomodate displacements much greater than they ever see so this is rarely an issue.

This is counter-intuitive because most of us have seen the lean and light paddler whoop our fat behinds. However, if we take that lean and light paddler and proportionately increase their size and weight by a reasonable amount and the resulting paddler will be able to achieve greater speeds in the same kayak. Take this same scenario and increase the paddler’s size 1000 times while increasing the kayak’s size appropriately and this giant will fly past his mini-twin.

The K1 racing kayaks with their strictly limited length does have a paddler weight limit where they become less competitive. I suspect this competitive weight limit is within the typical range of human athletes. This may be why there is a preponderance of lighter competitive paddlers. Now that K1’s no longer have a minimum beam requirement, the lighter paddler will become even more favored in this class. A lighter paddler will be able to paddle a kayak that is just as long, but narrower and still have enough bouyancy.

Thank you! I think I’m going to have to do some experiments.

This does not have to be so complicated

– Last Updated: Oct-07-04 9:41 AM EST –

It is possible to know how much more drag is on a boat traveling at a given speed, into a given amount of wind and waves, and how weight of boat and person together affect this. That said there are some situations where a lighter boat may do better, if the heavier boat, with a poor design plowes into waves, wallows, etc. However, the heavier boat will generally do better.

The range of forces acting on a boat headed into say 14 knot winds, at 3 knots/hr. is more than one thinks. With no current, no swell, but choppy wind waves produces a situation of 17 knot wind (apparent wind from forward speed of boat), with a drag force of at least 3 lbs. This may not sound like much but this is ths same force it takes to go 3 knots in calm flat water. So to maintain one's position and not be blown backwards one must work darn hard even going speed made good at 1 to 2 knots.

The difference in wetted surface area for a loaded vs unloaded boat under conditions of wind and waves, the larger wetted area will not produce significant drag at the much slower speeds possible traveling into wind.

The two areas of larger energy savings are less area under windage, and the substantial energy of paddling a boat that is easier to control. Less energy goes in support and corrective strokes, and can be used to make progress. The wider and longer and higher the deck of the boat the more drag on it the more energy to make corrections, the more accelerating and decelerating.

With certain exceptions a heavier boat will require less energy going into significant wind. It also helps greatly to have a boat with the least windage, for the paddler to present the least windage, to have feathered and smaller paddles, to have a boat design that does not require a rudder (up to 17 % more drag).

The reasons for the person who stated the small light person and kayak not making progress were likely the combination of loss of boat control along with the sheer amount of power needed to move through heavy wind. For example the force needed to move forward at at 1 knot with 10 knots wind is 1+ lb of drag, at 14 knots 2+, at 20 knots, 4+ lbs, at 25 knots, 6+ lbs. This is twice what is required of someone in calm conditions can produce to move at 3 knots. A strong paddler will reach that limit faster if their limited energy is used for control.

this is the second time i’ve seen the beherenow name. it’s obviouls that you’re a regular poster who is hiding behind this name. come clean. what’s the harm?

Moral of the Story
Don’t paddle more boat than you need.

It depends on whether heading into the wind, have the wind at your back or are tacking into the wind. Only when heading into the wind will you notice that a heavier kayak is easier to maintain speed. I rarely if ever head into the wind. It is often faster to tack back and forth rather than muscle into the wind. Muscle fatigue increases when trying to directly battle the wind. Like a sailboat a flat-bottomed kayak,with keel, will have a tendency to move foward when tacking. Especially if it has a rudder.

I like it! Brother Sing and the esteemed
Walden pond scum been gently preaching that gospel to me as long as I’ve known them.


Bad idea.
Sailboats tack because they have to. Paddling three or four times the distance to try and relegate wind effects is counterproductive. Not only that, but kayaks don’t have the type of deep keel a sailboat has (sailboats have centerboards and keels for a reason…). So not only will you be paddling a much longer distance than you have to, you’ll also be exposing greater surface area to the wind. In turn, this will act to blow you down wind abeam because you don’t have the keel bite to counteract it.