Paddle board on a windy day
Billy Lush

Is Paddling Boarding in the Wind Easy or Difficult?

Today was a very windy day in Knoxville, in case you were in a bomb shelter for most of the afternoon.  Steady winds of 20-25mph during the mid-afternoon with gusts up to 35mph.  I almost shied away from my board today, but thanks to the memory of a former boss of mine, I had an amazing day out on the water and in the wind.

I once had an older boss who used to constantly parrot the phrase, “Every day is an opportunity!”  I think he really meant it too, because I can’t recall a single day when I went without hearing these words come from someone in our small office, and often times the daily reminder came straight from the horse’s mouth.  He never finished his exclamation of wisdom with any particular objective, he always left it open to interpretation, but it was clear he intended for his staff to finish the thought themselves.  He was a trying boss, but fair, and I appreciate the sentiment behind his hackneyed mantra to this day.

This experience of mine has nothing to do with paddle boarding directly, but without a doubt, it often reminds me to look for ways to move forward and onward even when I feel like I’m stuck or have no leverage to change my situation.

Paddling into the wind can certainly feel like you’re stuck in first gear, or perhaps worse.  Even a small amount of wind on flat water can make a significant impact on your rate of progress, and a strong wind on flat water will likely stop you in your tracks.  Have you ever paddled forward as hard as you can only to move backwards? Take it from me, it’s demoralizing.  And probably not that safe.


The key to having a safe, easy-going time on your paddle board in the wind is to move with mother nature, rather than fight against her.  At the Billy Lush Board Shop, we certainly recommend knowing your limits when it comes to paddling safely in windy conditions, but keep in mind that an inhibiting wind might just be trying to tell you that you’re simply going in the wrong direction.

Here are few helpful tips to making the most of your “downwinder:”

  1. Have plans to start and end in different places. Paddling with the wind generally implies traveling in one direction, as opposed to the common “out-and-back” sort of course.  The best thing to do is to go with a friend and leave a car at the beginning and the end of your pre-planned route.
  2. Be aware that your balance and maneuverability will be more important than your strength.  When paddling in calm conditions, it essentially feels like you’re pulling yourself along.  When you let the wind do most of the work, it feels like you’re being pushed along which can sometimes test your balance.  Being pushed by the wind isn’t necessarily more difficult than being pulled by your own paddling, but these are just two different sensations and its helpful to be familiar with both.
  3. Be prepared to paddle into the wind. It sounds odd but even when your route is generally downwind, there may at times be variable wind directions or a turn in your route that temporarily points you into or cross-ways with the wind.  In these sorts of situations, it can be helpful to paddle on your knees or from a sitting position in order to reduce drag.  Here are some more technical tips for effectively paddling into the wind when it’s absolutely necessary.