Wind speed and wind direction have significant implications for paddling safety and enjoyment—and it doesn’t take much to affect the paddling experience.
- A light breeze (4 to 7 miles per hour) is sufficient to alter the movement of most kayaks; paddlers will need to compensate to keep moving in a straight line.
- A gentle wind (8 to 12 miles per hour) easily pushes kayaks around, generates waves 2 to 3 feet high in open water (taller than the sides of a kayak), creates a headwind that reduces typical paddling speeds by roughly a third, and can be challenging for novice paddlers.
- A strong wind (13 to 18 miles per hour) builds waves 3 to 5 feet high with numerous whitecaps, generates a headwind that reduces typical paddling speeds by half or more, and is generally only safe for intermediate to advanced paddlers.
- Paddling in wind speeds above 19 miles per hour should only be attempted by experienced paddlers with the skill and fitness to handle waves that can quickly exceed 6 feet.