How Do You Kayak In The Wind? [Tips & Tricks]

Kayaking is a popular and gratifying sport among people who live nearby water surfaces. The problem with kayaks, however, much like with all other watercraft, is that they can be hard to maneuver in rough weather conditions. So how do you kayak in the wind, and is it possible?

You’ll have to apply strong edging and front-wheel drive strokes depending on the wind strength. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this means. We’ll cover it more in detail below, so keep reading. 

Even with weather broadcasts, you can never know what might happen. This can make your kayaking a bit challenging. 

What do you do when the weather changes for the worse? How do you kayak in the wind? Let’s find out. 

How Do You Kayak in the Wind?

Kayaking in the wind will require you to use more powerful arm strokes and maintain balance. In addition, the wind will attempt to blow you on the course, so you’ll want to ensure you’re paddling from both sides of the stern. 

While you’re paddling, the wind can hit you from different directions. 

The type of wind you’re dealing with while kayaking depends mainly on the direction from which it’s hitting you, and you should know what to do when each type hits. 

First, however, you should know that paddling into the robust and vigorous wind without experience doesn’t prove anything. 

You need to know the type of wind you’re dealing with so that you can adjust your paddling in a way that ensures safe kayaking. 

That said, here are the different types of winds a kayaker needs to know about:


A headwind is when the wind is coming straight at you. It might be the safest kind of unexpected wind. That’s because the wind and the waves, in this case, give you enough resistance to paddle safely. Extremely strong headwinds should be taken extremely seriously, though. 

Whether winds and waves are strong enough to assist or excessively strong that they can harm you, you have a lot of work to do! You must try to adjust yourself to the wind. 

Your first option will be going against it and using it as a resistance. It would be the safest option yet the hardest if you’ve been kayaking for a long time. 

Your second option would be to go with the wind, turning it into the tailwind instead of the headwind.


Tailwind is when wind and the waves it’s making are hitting your kayak from the back. This can be quite the experience for a kayaker. 

Tailwind is the absolute double-bladed weapon. Kayaking through this type of wind can be fun because it will be your invisible booster, but it goes without saying that it needs an experienced kayaker to control this booster. It’s hard to control yourself when something is pushing you from behind.

However, tailwind is the easiest option if it’s blowing in your landing direction. You can make use of it and make it help you reach the shore with minimum effort, yet don’t forget to be in control. It will feel like you’re surfing through the water, so enjoy it.

It’s also worth noting that it’s hard to adjust yourself to tailwind if you get motion sickness easily. So, be sure to take precautionary measures, like motion sickness medication. 


Crosswind is the most dangerous kind of wind there is for kayakers. Going through crosswinds holds a greater risk of weathercocking. 

Weathercocking is when the wind is pushing you toward an undesirable direction and changing the course of your kayak very frequently. 

Crosswind can be challenging if you’re kayaking straight to land, considering you’ll be zigzagging your way to the shore. 

A tip that can help you is to paddle faster and shorter to overcome the side resistance coming from the waves. This will help you adjust your position depending on the direction of the wind. 

General Tips to Help You Through Tough Wind

When you’re kayaking on a new water surface, make sure you know all the potential places to exit the water when things get out of hand. Then, turn to local kayaking groups and ask for guidance on the wind scheme for the place if you have to. 

Every water surface has its unique conditions, so make sure you know your areas. Also, make sure you know whether there’s any nearby shelter or safe house to turn to when SHTF.

A couple of pro tips for you are to learn how to use rudders or skegs on your kayaking boat and to check all the paddle types. However, don’t be glamoured by them because they can be very helpful or harmful if you don’t know how to use them.

Rudders or skegs can help you overcome your wind situation. However, they also can make it impossible to control your boat because you’re leaving a part of it for the waves to control. 

The right kind of paddles will assist with every kind of wind. Turn to your instructor and local groups to help you know what’s good for the local water surface and your experience.

Make sure you have an extra set of clothing with you just in case you capsize and readjust. Also, it’d be nice to change into dry clothes while you’re waiting for help, so you don’t get sick. 

Always readjust yourself to the best possible way to take advantage of your situation. It might not sound right, but don’t be too adventurous if you don’t have enough experience to support yourself in extreme conditions. 

Check for yourself whether you find it safe or not to kayak. It might look safe on charts but not as safe when it comes to checking the wind and waves for yourself. 

To add, try to have a kayaking partner so that you assist each other in tough situations.

What Do You Need to Know About the Wind?

Beaufort Wind Scale is quite reliable if you want to know more about the different categories of wind speed. 

According to the scale, you have many different wind speed stages or limits:

  • Calm, light air, and light breeze: limits that are safe for every level of experience, and the wind speed is lower than 7 knots. 
  • Gentle breeze: the wind is about 7-10 knots, accompanied by small waves. This makes for a beginner-level challenge for new kayakers.
  • Moderate breeze: wind speed can be about 11-16 knots. At this level, you’re looking at a good challenge for beginners and a stable experience for experienced kayakers.
  • Fresh breeze: wind speed is 17-21 knots. It’s the line for a solid, challenging experience for any kayaker who isn’t into extreme adventures.
  • Strong breeze: wind speed is between 22-27 knots. It becomes almost impossible to paddle without risking capsize. It’s not for beginners, but it’s a great challenge for experienced kayakers.

If the speed is higher than 27 knots, it’s not recommended to kayak or be in the sea, regardless of your experience level. 

Wind vs. Wind Gusts

You should also know the differences between normal wind and wind gusts. 

Generally, when the wind is discussed in a weather forecast, they’re mainly referring to normal, stable wind conditions, be it slow, average, or fast wind. 

On the other hand, wind gusts are sudden changes in wind speed, causing the wind to be about 40% faster. Wind gusts make for choppy waters, which can be challenging to kayak through.

Note that predicting normal wind speed is a significant challenge, so imagine predicting sudden changes! You shouldn’t trust weather broadcasts blindly because even they can’t predict wind gusts with reliable accuracy. 


Kayaking through strong wind is a challenging experience, but it can be fun as long as you know how to keep yourself safe. 

First and foremost, try not to be alone while kayaking; have a kayaking partner. Also, ask for help and information from local kayaking partners. 

Additionally, use the above-discussed tips to adjust your paddling according to your situation and the weather condition. 

Enjoy your kayaking experience and make it a learning moment.

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