How Much Wind Is Too Much For Kayaking? Stay Safe and Prepared!

Kayaking is an awesome activity anyone can enjoy, and it’s pretty easy to do. But that doesn’t mean kayaking has no challenges, especially when dealing with the wind. Not only can it get challenging when the wind hits, but it poses safety concerns.

That’s why you need to gauge the wind and weather before you go kayaking. But how much wind is too much for kayaking anyway?

Read on as I talk about the wind levels and directions when kayaking and how much is too much!

How Much Wind Is Too Much For Kayaking?

It’s important to learn about the forecasted wind directions and speeds, which can make or break your kayaking experience.

That’s why there are charts and measurements you can refer to, with most kayakers following the Beaufort Wind Scale. This was developed in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort of England, which will help people estimate wind speed by observing water conditions and vice versa.

It shows how the winds have specific implications made for kayakers. Kayaks would move into a “head to winds” position, with its bow forward. This results in corrective paddling, so you could keep the boat on course.

This is the basic wind scale to get a gist on how the wind affects your kayaking activities:

  • Beaufort Force Scale 0: The wind is less than 1.15 MPH, with the water surface looking smooth and mirror-like, which is optimum for beginners. The wind is calm, with smoke rising vertically.
  • Beaufort Force Scale 1: The wind is going up to 3.5 MPH, with the water surface having scaly ripples without foam crests, which is easy for beginners. You can know the wind direction by the smoke drift.
  • Beaufort Force Scale 2: The wind is up to 7 MPH, with the water surface having small wavelets, with the crests looking glassy and no breakage, still easy for beginners. The wind is felt on your face, leaving a bit of rustle as the vanes start moving.
  • Beaufort Force Scale 3: The wind is between 8-11 MPH, with the water surface having large wavelets with its crests beginning to break, still fine for beginners, and suitable for sailing. You can see leaves and small twists moving, with light flags extended.
  • Beaufort Force Scale 4: The wind is between 12-18 MPH, with the water surface having small waves up to four feet high, becoming even longer with more whitecaps. This is fine for intermediate paddlers and the best for sailing. You can see dust and leaves lift, with small tree branches moving.
  • Beaufort Force Scale 5: The wind is between 19-24 MPH, with moderate waves of up to eight feet, taking longer to form with a lot of whitecaps and a bit of spray. You’ll see small trees begin to sway, with this weather being best for advanced paddlers only.

Anything higher than Beaufort 6 means that paddlers should be off the water, as this means winds are above 25 MPH and the waves are getting larger, making it unsafe for paddlers.

As you can see, you have to measure the wind based on your kayaking skills. Anything over 11 MPH is a bit too much for beginners but fine for intermediate players. Winds between 11-16 MPH is optimum for intermediate paddlers, while winds between 1-21 MPH is good for advanced kayaking.

There are also different wind directions to look into, besides the speed.


Headwinds are winds that blow directly against your kayaking direction. This means it comes straight at you, which is a safe and easy way you can paddle, as you can see waves to determine where to maneuver the kayak.

BUT, the waves can slow down your progress, so you’ll need to exert more effort to continue moving it. When the waters are too strong, it’s better to avoid headwinds.


Tailwinds are those that blow behind from the direction of your kayak route. However, this can be beneficial AND challenging. The boost from waves can speed you up, just as how you’d kayak downstream.

This only works if the wind is small. The bigger waves may be a safety concern since you’re unable to see them come in.

Crosswind Winds that blow from either side of the kayak is the most challenging, whether you’re a novice or experienced kayaker. You’ll need to keep the course and maintain balance, which is like an uphill task.

The kayak would steer off course sometimes, turning to the direction of the wind. When counteracting the effects of the wind, it’s best to stay equipped with rudders or skegs.

Staying Safe During High Winds

But what if you’re already in the waters and experience harsh winds already? Fortunately, there are ways to stay safe until you can get to calmer waters or back to land.

  • Make sure that you have safety gear prepared, as well as a float plan that you share with trusted ones.
  • Know your limitations and assess the risk, such as the weather forecast and see if you have the right equipment.
  • And of course, stay prepared for any unprecedented emergencies, such as lost craft, broken paddles, strong wind conditions, and the like.

It all boils down to staying prepared and thinking ahead, knowing the weather and wind conditions before you head on kayaking.

Read More: How Do You Mount a Boat Seat in a Kayak? The Step-by-Step Process

Do you want to learn more about the wind levels for kayaking? Check out this video to learn how to maneuver your kayak well, no matter the weather:

Wrapping It Up

If you’re planning to go kayaking anytime soon, you have to look into various factors, such as the wind level. From the strength of the wind-down to its direction, you have to measure everything in order to move properly and stay safe. While these aren’t the only things to consider as you go kayaking, it’s definitely one of the most important!

I hope that this article answers your question, “how much wind is too much for kayaking?” Now that you know the answer, start polishing your kayaking skills and get ready for the weather.

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