How Much Wind Is Too Much For Kayaking?

How Much Wind Is Too Much For Kayaking?

The wind can be a major part of your kayaking experience and, if it’s too strong, it can be tough to go anywhere or get any enjoyment out of the trip. In general, winds should be below 10 mph. If you’re in a sheltered bay or on a protected coastline, wind speeds can be higher. If the winds are too high for your skill level, it’s best to stay in-shore and look for calmer conditions. 

For other kayakers out there who wonder how much wind is too much, keep these guidelines in mind and check with your local water authorities to determine what limits apply locally. If you are kayaking/windsurfing in a bay or protected coastline and there are severe gale-force winds and waves, and you have a safety kayak on board, then there is no need to worry about strong winds. They are good for you and your safety. 

The sustained winds in the bay or ocean are much more important than the wind speed, though they can certainly be a factor in safety and enjoyment. The effects of winds that you’ll encounter will vary with weather patterns and seasons.

Wind Limit

  • <20 mph wind (caution required)

This is a perfectly safe speed for a kayak in these conditions, with some care taken to ensure you’re not susceptible to tipping over. Anything above this speed and you’ll likely want to take care of your safety gear.

  • 20-25 mph (caution & safety gear required)

Again, your kayaking gear will help you maintain safety, but above this speed is where the biggest risk lies. You will be vulnerable to heavy winds and waves that can be very dangerous. 

  • Above 40+ mph you should stay out of the water. 

Don’t even try to go out in these conditions, as you’ll likely end up in the water with a very high risk of injury or worse. When you’re kayaking in high winds, you should be wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). 

Safe And Dangerous Wind Limits For Recreational Kayaking

Many different factors come into play when it comes to wind limits, and you should always speak with your local water safety officials for the most up-to-date information.

1. In a protected bay or coastline: Wind limits for recreational kayakers are dependent upon the sea conditions and other safety factors. It is best to seek advice from your local water safety authority, and always wear a flotation device at all times while out on the water.

2. In open water: Kayaking in a strong wind (above 40 knots) is not recommended for anyone & should be avoided at all costs.

3. In coastal rivers: Kayaking in an open river is a great way to enjoy the nature of the environment, but make sure you’re never out in wind speeds that exceed 20 mph.

4. In a surf zone: When paddling in the surf zone, be sure to wear a vest at all times and keep your paddle low at the bottom of the stroke.

5. In an urban environment: Kayaking in an urban environment is often much faster than in other areas, but also more dangerous. Never paddle while wearing loose clothing and always use good judgment when paddling in busy areas.

6. In Whitewater: Kayaking in whitewater is a major factor in the dynamics of the water. Make sure you always wear a vest at all times and that your paddle does not drag through the water.

7. In Ocean Conditions: Strong ocean conditions require a strong kayak. If conditions get too fast, you won’t be able to move and you’ll most likely end up in the water.

8. In Severe Ocean Conditions:

Strong winds are a major factor in the dynamics of ocean conditions. If you’re out paddling in these conditions, you should have a safety kayak on board, as well as the proper safety gear.

Some of the most common ocean conditions are shown below:


Savannah-West Indies Currents

There are many currents in the Atlantic Ocean. One of the most common is known as the Savannah-West Indies current, which flows in a north and south direction. It’s warmest in the northern parts and coldest in the southern. 

Cold Water Currents

When you find yourself in the area where a cold current is located, you’ll experience very cold water temperatures, which can cause hypothermia. To avoid this problem, be sure to wear insulated clothing when out on the water. 

Warm Water Currents

At times, you’ll find yourself in areas where warm water continues to move. These currents are usually caused by ocean temperatures that continue to rise. To avoid accidents, be sure you’re wearing the proper PFD. 


You’re most likely to run into icebergs in a kayak when you’re in the arctic regions. The first sign that you’re near an ice mountain is that you’ll see birds going up and down. Be sure to stay at least a mile away from any icebergs. 


In the ocean, waves are constantly moving and vary in size. If you’re going through a stretch of waves that seem larger than normal, be sure to paddle with caution and remain calm. Strong swells are a huge threat to kayakers, and if they’re not avoided, it could result in a tragedy. 

Dangerous Wind Limits For Recreational Kayaking

Many factors come into play when it comes to wind limits, and you should always speak with your local water safety officials for the most up-to-date information.

1. Be sure to wear a vest at all times.

For instance, kayaks that are most often used for recreational purposes, such as the sit-on-top kayaks, will have a plastic shell around them to help protect the person inside. In this case, they will be considered “closed” or “shell” kayaks.

2. When paddling in high winds or storm conditions.

It’s important not to paddle faster than 20 mph if you aren’t comfortable doing so. When paddling in high winds, it’s important that you keep your paddle low when you’re on top of a stroke and not paddle so quickly that your forward motion is more than the current rate of the wind.

3. To start your paddle stroke.

Be sure to move your hips and shoulders in the direction of your blade. If you’re worried about waves, you may want to try different strokes that will help you stay afloat in case of an accident.

4. If you’re caught in strong winds that are going against the current.

You need to find a sheltered area where there is an overhanging branch or another structure for safety. For instance, if it’s wintertime and there are waves created by a storm setting up, it’s important to look for bomb holes (which are essentially trenches). Other areas that have been noted for safety include tie-ups and piers where wind speeds can be kept under control.

Kayaking Tips For Windy Conditions

Wind Limit: 12-15 Knots

Now that you know how to handle the most extreme conditions in the water for kayaking, you can get ready to paddle with both energy and confidence.

*Paddle Into The Wind: If you’re kayaking near the water’s surface and strong winds are coming from another direction, you can try to enter into the wind by paddling perpendicular to the wind. The alternative is to paddle parallel to the wind, which will create a headwind at your back.

*Have The Proper Safety Equipment: When you’re on the water, it’s important to have a few safety measures in place. For instance, you can have your phone with you to call for help if something happens.

*Pack Extra Layers: If you’re planning to go out boating in the wintertime, it’s important to bring several layers with you. For instance, you can wear a warm jacket or sweater just in case your kayak gets caught on a tree or pier.

*Always Paddle With A Partner: You must take along a responsible partner to help you keep your kayak in place. The person can also act as a spotter for the wind direction or even as a lookout for anything that might be coming near the water.

*Have An Exit Strategy: It’s important to have an escape plan ready if anything goes wrong. For instance, you can canoe back to shore instead of fighting the wind.

*Know The Local Authorities: If you have any questions regarding the local boating laws, it’s important to contact your local authorities. For instance, you might need to find out whether it’s legal or not to paddle in the area in which you plan to go.

Dangerous Wind Limits For Whitewater Kayaking

Wind Limit: 11- 16 knots wind

When winds exceed 16 knots, the amount of water that gets pushed into the river increases. This is because the wind creates waves that cause a backup of water downstream of a rapid, which raises the level of water in that rapid.

Tips To Prepare For Windy Whitewater Kayaking Conditions

In addition to following the safe boating guidelines in the kayaking section above, we recommend that you:

1. Always wear a helmet while paddling a whitewater kayak and always wear a flotation device.

2. Never paddle on a hot day, as heat exhaustion is a serious safety issue. Always plan for the worst weather conditions.

3. Make sure you have adequate clothing and a dry cell phone to call for help if needed.

4. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you.

5. Make sure your equipment is in good working condition.

6. Be aware of conditions at the put-in and take advantage of eddy lines or other safe locations for rest if necessary.

Safe And Dangerous Wind Limits For Kayak Fishing

Wind Limit: 20-knot winds

Some kayaks can be used for fishing, and if they’re not set up the right way they can cause a lot of problems.

1. Make sure you always wear a life jacket and not use a life jacket as part of your kayak’s design.

2. Neither fishing lines nor ropes nor wire/rope cleats should have any sharp objects.

3. Make sure you can always see the fish when you’re fishing, as they might be deeper than you think.

4. Be aware of the conditions at your fishing spot and be sure that there is an area where you’ll have some shelter if necessary.

5. Always bring plenty of water with you when fishing.

How We Watch Weather Conditions For Safe Paddling

Safety is a primary concern in the paddling community, as people enjoying out on the water while kayak fishing. To stay safe while out on the water, we recommend that you keep the weather forecast part of your overall paddling plan.

*Water Temperature: Make sure you check the water temperature when you’re paddling in the summertime. If there are warmer water temperatures, be sure to dress accordingly.

*Wind: Wind conditions can greatly affect your paddling experience on the water, as well as your comfort level.

*Cloud cover: Be sure to check the cloud cover when you’re out on the water. Cloudy skies can often indicate that there’s rain on the way.

*Waves: Look for waves that are 6 inches or higher when you’re paddling, as they can be dangerous if you’re not prepared.

*Tides: The tidal waves are a big factor in water conditions, and the currents can be strong when the tide is coming in.


The conclusion is that wind speed does not affect kayaking performance; however, when wind speed is too high it can be very difficult for the experienced kayaker to maintain balance. When the force of a wave is too much for the kayaker, he or she may get kayaking to capsize. The limiting factor for most kayakers is the force of waves; as long as the wind is not a factor, water conditions do not affect paddling performance.