Your wind threshold

It seems like lately there has been so much wind here!

My (beginner) question is, what speed keeps you off the water? It seems I am having a hard time especially with a stiff tailwind. I try very hard to keep my kayak straight, but it has no rudder or skeg so i am limited to my limited skills and at the mercy of wind.

Does this come with time, or should I expect such charactaristics from a rec. boat (in a new paddler’s hands?)

Thanks in advance.

downwind in wind and waves…
fun! surf city, even in a rec boat. just keep practicing, try to keep the bow downwind with vigorous strokes on the upwind side. warm water and re entry skills, right?

curious also…
I would like to know when to much is to much.

I go out on windy days just to test my limit, (lakes, no ocean yet) A sea kayak will make you look for conditions to play in,

I would guess I have seen 35-40mph, spring is coming and the sustained winds should pickup. (the grass/trees just started blooming today here in TX)

A Greenland paddle is very nice in high wind.

We had about 45 mph
In Voyageurs NP. After it took us 1/2 hr to make 1/2 mile in loaded boats we decided to hole up and wait it out. We felt okay but with 2 of us if we got tired and one dumped in 4’ waves it would be ugly quickly. In warm water close to shore (with an onshore wind) bring it on it’s bound to be a learning experience.



You guys are tougher than I am…
I’ve been out in 15-20 mph winds with gusts of more and it was NOT pretty. Capsized once in the middle of a lake (warmish water) and swam for about 40 minutes - that was before I knew any self-rescue techniques.

These days I just find it isn’t pleasant to get out in more than 15 mph winds, and I prefer single digits. I may be a wimp.


– Last Updated: Mar-01-06 6:47 AM EST –

I paddle my kayak in winds I would not use my canoe in. Much over 20mph and the canoe gets to be a handful when paddled solo. I've paddled the kayak in 30+ mph but I wouldn't want to make a habit of it.

You’ll get all kinds of answers
If I remember right someone claimed to have made headway against 35 mph winds last year. Last year myself and 5 others spent a weekend on Lake Michigan and got trapped on an island for a day. We did try to make the openwater crossing, but gained less than a quarter mile (measured on a GPS) in sustained 20-25 mph winds with 3 to 5 foot waves. The wind speed and wave height was given to us upon landing by the head park ranger who saw us getting beat up and checked the marine forecast fo the area.


Wind- my drug of choice!
Yes… I’m a druggy. I’m addicted to wind. I love it in my face going upwind and I find surfing downwind to be a great ‘high’. Something about going downwind and windmilling your paddle for all it’s worth in an effort to keep up with the surfing speed of the kayak gets me ‘off’. Been in steady 25-30mph going upwind only to be stopped dead in my tracks and shot backward while hit by gusts that must have been twice as strong. Scary,… but FUN! Nothing like a good brace. Quite interesting to be in such strong wind only to see the tell-tale wind signs of a stronger gust on the waters surface coming at you. YEE-HAA!! Ride-um-cowboy! And having waves crash over the bow and hit me in the face makes me grin… :open_mouth:

Effects of Wind
A couple of things to consider regarding the effect of the wind on your ability to control the boat. The shorter and wider your boat is, the more effect a tail wind will have on your control. Two things are happening here; short water line and more surface area exposed to the wind. The wind is pushing on the above water surface area at the stern and the this causes the a spinning effect with the short water line. Best solution is the trim the stern heavy and paddle harder.

The other part that wasn’t mentioned is the amount of time the wind has been blowing and the resulting waves that have been created. Waves compound control problems as they effect the boat below the waterline.

For all the people that suggest that a particular boat does not need a rudder or a skeg, I would recommend they try to paddle against waves at their stern quarter. In this situation, virtually all boats with turn (actually be pivoted) into the waves and will benefit enormously from a skeg and even more so from a rudder.


30 mph is about my limit in my ruddered

– Last Updated: Mar-01-06 11:52 AM EST –

Sawyer Summersong Solo canoe and unruddered Phoenix Isere kayak.

Saturday I was out in the Summersong on a small lake with 30mph winds (per the weather forecast) and going with was fun and going into the wind was work, but not too terrible. The side and quartering winds were much more challenging even with the rudder fully applied. The lake was relatively small, so the waves didn't get over 18 inches from trough to crest. I would do it again in this boat.

I've also been out one time each this winter in the Summersong and Isere on a larger lake with 30mph winds and waves of 2 to 3 feet (trough to crest). That was down right scary in the Summersong - even after I lowered the seat to it's lower setting and I wouldn't seek those conditions again when paddling that boat. The large waves were too much of a concern in the Summersong. The Isere, on the other hand, was a blast riding the waves in toward shore and wasn't too bad paddling into the wind, but was a real challenge with beam and quatering winds. I would seek out those conditions again in the Isere since I had a water skirt on to keep the waves out and it was just too much fun riding the waves.

My wife and I were also cought out on a lake during a storm in our Old Town Loon 160T with wind gusts to 70mph and that was a terrifying experience. The lake was too small to have big enough waves to swamp the Loon 160T, but the rain hurt our faces and we had to quit paddling because to wind was too strong to paddle against and we just let the boat get blown backwards until the intense part of the storm passed. I hope that I never face conditions like that again. I probably would have been toast if I'd been in the Summersong that day.

Happy paddling.

All My Windy Days
involve personal estimates of wind speed. The fetch, or distance that the wind is able to travel unobstructed matters a lot. I believe that in my normal small bays, estuarys, and sounds if it is much beyond strong enough to knock the tops off the waves and there is the resulting spray everywhere it is too much. I think this is about 25mph.

Can’t even imagine being out in 70 mph as stated above.


70mph was scary.

– Last Updated: Mar-01-06 1:17 PM EST –

At least no time for waves to build up on the small lake. We were only about 200 yards from our take out. We just held on to the gunwales & paddles, prayed and waited for the wind to die down.

Fortunately, the strongest winds only lasted about 5 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity.

another variable
for me is air and water temps. Winter no to light wind is nice! Summer water in the 70’s and air in the 90’s let it blow :slight_smile: My best was 1-2 miles off shore. 20-25 sustained with 30 gusts and 6-8 ft breaking seas white horses on top!! Wow that was fun!!! Then again I was with instructors and wasn’t bright enough to be scared!! We got to do some real rescue practice that day! I had a hell of a day and slept real good that night. Andy Z , Lurker(sorry forgot your real handle) and I did run into some good gusts at Raystown. Stopped us dead in out tracks just before getting back to camp. At flat out paddling we couldn’t make any headway till it backed off. Good thing it was just a gust or two!! Would not want to try that in cold water and air temps.

Choose your poison!
…I mean boat.

I learn it fast when I started in San Francisco Bay: it’s ALWAYS windy!

After a couple of trips on different boats, I quickly realize the wide bathtub with peaked deck gets pushed around a lot more than boats with sleek low deck. So I focus on using only low windage ‘brit style boats, complete with at least a skeg.

With that, I can “enjoy” the omnipresent ~15 mph wind, with occasional gust of 25~35 mph (could be more). There had been time I found myself being blown backward by the gust. But as long as the steady wind doesn’t exceed 15 mph, I can make reasonable head way. Anything beyond that, it’s more survival than anything else.

So, wind tolerance is a function of both skill AND EQUIPMENT. A strong paddler can paddle a bathtub against 35 mph head wind. While a “whimp” like me will only go out at below 15 mph, which by the standard of someone else who’s got a 9’ non-rudder/skeg boat may still think it’s pretty “brave” after all!

Anything over 20 knots and I won’t go out. I have a rec yak and she can take rough weather but I don’t want to chance it in strong winds.


Yeah if only it had been a tailwind
we’d have smoked that 8 miles, but it was a dead on headwind. I think the waves did a lot of pushing us back too, they were quite steep.

That was just a reminder that the weather controls your plans out there.

Captain Mellow
Light breeze is about it for me wanting to be there. If it’s white capping I’m off the water. Here in the Rockies if it’s winter wind the water is probably solid on top. If it’s summer wind there is probably a thunderstorm brewing. Our mountain storms can be fierce and life-threatening, and the water is usually pretty cold. I paddle to enjoy-not-fight nature.


long haul
It was blowing maybe 20 mph behind me and was in a hurry that day and did not bother with skirt because no wind at my house but windy on st lawrence river- mile wide. Was havingfun surfing with glider and really leaned to stay perpendicular to wave and was soon swimming. Held unto paddle but boat blew away and was rescued by fd in zodiac. Got pic in paper and felt really dumb. Suppose paddle blows out of your hand? Do not mess with mother nature. Some people quit all outdoor stuff and become tv addicts after one bad experience on water or mt. Please be safe and stay outdoor active for rest of your long happy life!

Call me a skeptic, but…
…when I hear reports of people paddling in really high winds, I have to laugh. I’ve been out in winds of 30 knots - verified by data from a nearby weather buoy - and found it difficult to make much headway (probably less than 1/2 knot). Most books state that an average fit paddler will be stopped dead in the water or going backwards at ~35 knots, which sounds about right.

People seem to take forecasts and reports of high winds as gospel, which they aren’t. Winds measured offshore or well above the water’s surface are typically much higher than a coastal kayaker will actually experience. Localized winds can be much higher or lower than the average for an area. Unless there’s a weather buoy or station at or near your location, you can’t get accurate data.

Winds in the 70 MPH range are nearly impossible to walk against. I’ve experienced that on Mt. Washington and the wind literally lifted us off our feet and slid us backwards (on bare rock) at times. Such winds would surely flatten kayakers.

That was Joe the lurker…
That was fun though wasn’t it Talon. Just about all the way back from the dam we had a headwind. And as you said just a few hundred yards from the put in, the wind stopped us dead in our tracks. I’ll take a headwind any day over a quartering or wind off the beam.