I just started kayaking and was wondering what i need to do to stay on course when paddling into a crosswind. On windy days i cant seem to stay going in the direction i want to no matter how much i paddle on the opposite side…the wind just blows my bow over.

a few options
It’s fairly common for a kayak to do this (weathercock) – some more than others. The easiest thing if you can is often to drop a rudder or skeg to improve tracking. It’s also very good to learn to edge your boat by lifting a knee and shifting weight a bit toward the opposite butt cheek such that the boat leans toward the wind (though you stay vertical). An edged kayak tends to turn away from the dropped edge side. Another option you can add to that lean is to shift your hands on the paddle such that there is more shaft on the wind side giving a bit of a correction turning away from the wind on each stroke.

i’m no expert but
i have done it, often. i paddle into the wind and bear off toward the direction i want to go, slightly. then i keep paddling mostly toward the wind but let the wind blow me sideways toward my destination. theres a ‘vector’ between toward the wind and your destination that will take you where you want to go.

is your bow turning downwind or upwind?
knowing that will help with the diagnosis.

12 degrees out of head wind.
Talk to some one who has a sail boat. Your kayak is just a very short sail. You can use the wind to help you along. When you have a wind, look at it as a challenge, same as rocks or rapids. Learn to love it all. It is all fun if you let it be.

weather vane
kayaks are like a weathervane.

Wind hitting from the side will want to push the boat sideways. It is unusual if the wind force is evenly balanced all along the side. Often the bow is higher, so it catches more wind. But that’s only part of the story. The underwater side-profile of your boat is the other part. It is unusual that the sideways water resistance if evenly distributed along the side, too. If the underwater and overwater forces were equal, the boat would not want to turn, but that almost never happens.

Rudders and skegs help change the sideways resistance pattern under the water. So they help deal with wind.

You may be able to change the trim in your boat to make it handle better. In general, the heavier end of the boat is going to point into the wind. But this is not usually a practical way to deal with winds, since wind direction changes and we frequently want to change course. You can’t always be readjusting the trim in the boat, at least not in a kayak.

Get a book on kayaking. I’m sure they’ll describe this much better than me.


some boats are worse than others
what are you paddling?

Same questions
What boat are you paddling, and are you finding that the boat tends to turn into the wind or downwind?

What I usually try to go to first is a weight shift so that the boat is edged as though it was perpetually turning into the wind. But that is much easier to do in a kayak with good contact than in a rec boat with a huge cockpit.

It’s as simple as that!



Wind will become “fun” after you’ve
been paddling for a while. I don’t know if you are in an ocean, lake or river and that matters on how to handle it.

On a small lake, say 3 miles across, you can just play in the wind. On a rocky river, it creates an opportunity to gain greater boat control skills, just make sure you’re prepared to take a dump.

Open water would be a different story.

I have a Necky Looksha 14 w/o a rudder. I havent been paddling long and dont know all the techniques …thanks for the info.

In general, if in a boat without a rudder you are you are going to get blown around a bit in higher winds until you learn more about how to paddle than it appears you have at the moment. Good on asking here, but there are books and DVD’s that’ll do a more comprehensive job than this board. Also, there’s nothing like spending a couple of sessions with a caoch who can see what you are doing and give you advice in the moment.

A rudder may fix the weather cocking part, but for new paddlers it can often become a crutch that leaves them lacking some paddling skills.

Have you thought about finding a paddling group or an outfitter, or picking up some instructional DVD’s to get some help?

Your boat may tend to weathercock more than some others - there is always that possibility - but it is a general boat behavior so what you are paddling doesn’t really matter right now.

"the wind just blows my bow over"
I assume this means the wind blows your bow downwind, is this correct? If that is the case then your kayak is (possibly) loaded with too much weight in the stern. This can come from storing all of your gear in the rear hatch, or by having your center of gravity too far to the rear of the kayak.

If the bow of your kayak is blowing up wind, then that is ‘normal’ for most kayaks.

As JackL mentioned you can have a rudder installed (and use it) which will help correct the problem. However, this doesn’t really ‘solve’ your problem. What I mean is that it doesn’t give you understand and knowledge as to why this happens. You also won’t learn the many different ‘solutions’ to the problem.

As mentioned above, there are many good DVD’s around to supplement good instruction. The one on directional control from Nigel Foster’s DVD series will show you why your kayak is behaving like it is and what to do to counter it, plus several other skills. And if you ever have the opportunity to take a class from him, I highly recommend it.

either a rudder
or learn how to paddle in wind—what wind speed are you talking about when your bow gets pushed down wind?—known as lee cocking as opposed to weather cocking when your stern get pushed downwind.—edging the boat helps, as does making corrective forward strokes(sweeps and bow rudders) to avoid lee cocking and to avoid weather cocking nothing works like a stern rudder stoke. My advice is to start in relatively mild wind speeds and work up. And beware that sometimes the wind reaches a speed where no sane man would voluntarily be out. If you don’t know what the strokes mentioned above are, you might sign up for a beginners paddling course.

Sorry for the caps but this is so important. If you go around the corner and into a strong cross wind, LEAN SIDEWAYS INTO THE WIND. Otherwise the wind will tip you over. Then retrieving your boat and paddle will require the help of a motor boat. This happened to me. This is like lean downstream when crossing an eddy. Otherwise the current will take boatunder you and you will swim.

Sweep Stroke
It seems pretty basic, you want to turn right, you paddle on the left.

It is not that simple. A standard forward stroke, well executed won’t turn you much, it will just make you go faster (and often turn you off course faster). A standard sweep stroke, poorly executed, is not much better.

A sweep stroke is intended to turn you, to do this it needs to apply forces to the boat that cause the boat to turn. Paddling hard parallel to the boat does a little, but not much.

You need to sweep the paddle out wide, far away from the boat and then pull it back in towards the back of the boat. This is where most of your turning power comes from - the drawing of your blade back in towards the stern of the boat.

It takes good torso rotation to do this with any power. Get your paddle way out away from the boat at about 90 deg to the boat, and then rotate your body without moving your arms. The paddle will now sweep in towards the stern. Don’t worry about the stroke before 90 deg. as it does not do much for turning.

Start wide and pull sideways in toward the stern as you rotate your body. The wider you start and the farther towards the stern you are able to bring in the paddle, the more power you will have. Stop the stroke before you hit the boat.

Stern rudders can be powerful for turning, but they require forward momentum to work, and slow you down a lot. So every time you do a stern rudder you make the next one less effective. You must first get back up to speed, and then you can do another. In any kind of cross wind it is best to not even bother. Stern rudders are fine for downwind when you are getting a boost, for cross winds they will just lead to frustration and exhaustion. Never use them upwind unless you want to turn around and go home.

Sweeps are what you need. Don’t merely paddle on one side, instead sweep on that side. If this is not working for you, you need to go wider and pull in towards the stern harder. Remember there is a difference between paddling hard and doing a sweep stroke.

BTW, don’t wait to do corrective strokes until after you are off course, do it the moment you feel your boat starting to turn away from your intended course.

sweep stroke
Thanks…The sweep stroke works pretty well.

stern rudders are good for
going downwind—in a strong headwind they can actually stall the boat–like the above guys said–sweeps and bow rudders going into a head wind–stern rudders going down wind–in cross wind both can be used but sweeps (with leaning the boat into the wind) are more effective because they also provide a bit of forward momentum

But do you really want to do corrective
strokes all day long ?

I would much prefer to enjoy the paddle!