SUP Upwind in 7 Simple Steps

How to SUP Upwind in 7 Simple Steps

If you’re curious how to SUP upwind, I imagine you’ve already had an issue.

You went out for a relaxed paddleboard session, only to find yourself with a minor problem. You cruised downwind too long. Now, you need to start going back upwind.

You’re a beginner paddleboard enthusiast. You never expected to need to battle to move upwind. Now, you’re barely moving. You’re paddling as hard as you can, but the wind is relentless.

The upwind monster is upon you, and you have no idea how you’ll make it home. You’re huffing and puffing. Paddling has exhausted your whole upper body.

How to SUP Upwind in 7 Simple Steps

We’ve all been there. Sometimes you cruise along for a while, and then the wind picks up out of nowhere. It’s no fun. Trust me, I know.
Even experienced paddlers like me have gotten caught in a strong wind while trying to get back to shore. It stinks.
Luckily, there are a few tips you can use to make paddling upwind much easier. So here’s how to SUP upwind in 7 simple steps:

  • Go Forward

Make sure you stand and lean forward a bit while on the board. Don’t make any herky, jerky movements. Just slowly inch a foot or more forward from where you normally stand.
This will allow you to push the nose of the paddleboard into the waves and create a nose fin. With the nose fin, you’ll be able to track better and cut through the waves.
Pro-tip: A board with a keeled nose like the Naish 2015 Glide Touring GS Paddle-Board makes this a lot easier.

  • Paddle Positioning

How you’re holding the paddle can make a huge difference whole paddling upwind. When the paddle comes out of the water, twist it. You want to keep the paddle thin against the wind.
If you keep it flat, the paddle will act as a sail with the wind. That’s not what you want.

  • Kneeling Helps

If the wind gets too crazy, you may want to kneel down. Standing up ensures your body offers a lot of resistance. By kneeling, you can cut this pressure in half. This will also reduce pressure on your back and legs.
My personal favorite position to SUP upwind is on one knee. This is a strong position and offers a lot of power when paddling against the wind.
When kneeling, make sure to take short strokes in a quick manner. This will make things easier.

  • Great Strokes

Speaking of how you paddle, you’ll always want to take short and fast strokes while paddling upwind. When talking about how to SUP upwind, this may be the most important tip I have.
You must conserve energy when battling the wind. Long strokes are not good for this. Instead, focus on quick paddles that make it easy to stay in a straight line and gain some speed.

  • Gripping the Paddle

Always be changing your grip when battling the wind. A hard wind will make you squeeze the paddle tightly. Eventually, you hand and muscles will get sore.
The pros use one trick to combat this fact: they continually charge how they grip the paddle when battling. By changing hand position, you’ll work different small muscles and stay fresh.

  • Always Stay Fluid

Keep your body fluid and moving. Kneeling down for a bit. Stand back up. Twist your torso to get less resistance from the wind. This will also ensure you have better balance on the board.  Teach yourself to balance better by practicing yoga on the water (you can see some recommendations here).

  • Stay Straight

Lastly, focus on tackling the wind head on. Keep things as straight as possible. If you get turned sideways, things become a lot hard when SUP boarding upwind. This will make you lose ground.
Keep the nose of the board head on and straight. This can be difficult if the wind is really strong, but it’s incredibly important.

How to SUP with Heavy Winds

It’s never fun battling the wind on a paddleboard. If anyone tells you it is, they’re lying. Luckily, these seven tips will ensure you win the battle with the wind and waves.

Good luck out there!

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