Reading the weather. We all love a good natter about the weather, and it’s the perfect thing to think about before we go paddling. Just how the weather can affect your paddling plans is vital to know. It’s important to understand what the forecast is and how reading the weather can help a great day on the water. The Met Office and BBC website are great places to start. Here are our six tips for what you want to be looking out for when reading the weather ahead of a paddle.
- Wind – Having the wind on your back can be a great help when paddling! Knowing what the speed and direction of the wind is can help you plan the direction you paddle off in. It can also affect whether it’s safe to paddle or not too! Wind speed and direction affects all paddlers, but SUP’s can be a little more exposed to the wind due to the sail-like qualities of the paddler! Worth noting before heading out. It’s useful to check whether the wind will change direction during the day too. None of us want to be tired out by paddling against it all day!
If you’re paddling on the sea or large exposed areas of inland water, you should know about offshore winds. Find out more at our article here. It’s important to consider that wind can produce chop and waves, as well creating issues when launching and landing.
- Rain – If you’ve got your clothing right, a little bit of rain shouldn’t be a problem. We’re hardy souls, us paddlers, right?! In case you do get caught in a downpour though, make sure you have a change of clothes in a dry bag or waiting for you at the finish.
River levels can rise quickly in heavy rain, so it’s good to check them before you go. Be mindful of how they may change while you’re on the water too.
Also, having a phone in a waterproof case is important for ensuring your means of communication stays safe and dry!
- Sun – a little sunshine can really boost your day on the water. It’s important to protect yourself from any harmful rays by wearing sunblock and covering up. The water reflects the sun back up at you, so even if you’re wearing a cap, you will want a good dollop of sunblock on your face too!
Don’t forget, if it’s a hot day, you’ll need to be taking extra fluids on board too. Fill up that water bottle before you head out.
Still with us? Hang in there, this is important stuff!
- Look to the past – obviously, today’s weather is your main focus but looking back will help too. Has there been very little rainfall lately? Or perhaps there’s been days of downpour? Different water levels can change the nature of a waterway. At low levels obstacles can become exposed and getting on and off the water could be trickier.
At high levels the grading (or difficulty) of a river could go up. The water will be moving faster and rapids could become trickier. If they have been up but then come back down there could be debris. Be aware your route could have fallen trees blocking your route.
Paddlepoints is a great resource for checking the information that other paddlers have entered about certain rivers.
- Going to the extremes – it’s not great to get caught out on the water during a storm. If stormy weather is predicted consider whether you can leave your paddle to another day, or time it around the forecast. Have a plan of how you will get off the water and shelter if you do find yourself out in a storm. You can find out more about how to paddle safely in a storm if you did get caught out, here.
- All at sea – if you’re planning on paddling on the sea, you will also need to check the tides and currents for your location. In the UK, there are two high and two low tides each day. Generally speaking, you won’t want to be paddling against the tide as this will waste energy, so go with the tide. Plan your paddle around when the tide is going out and coming back in. The Met Office have a specialist forecast page for coast and sea, where you will also find tide times. It’s worth considering whether a high tide will create difficulties in launching and landing, or does a low tide mean a long walk?
Let’s talk about sudden changes in weather too…
Here in the UK, we live on an island. Because we’re surrounded by sea and different weather systems, there’s a chance the weather change quickly, and changes can catch us off guard. This is why it’s really important to make sure you’re out prepared. Wearing the correct clothing, taking extra supplies, keeping your phone in a waterproof pouch. All really important aspects of being a responsible paddler. For more information about planning for the day out and staying safe, click here.
Things to think about with sudden weather changes might be: has the wind suddenly changed direction and become stronger? Think about how sensible it is to keep paddling away from the start if this is the case. Can you hear rumblings of thunder in the distance? Again, assess the situation, is it still sensible to paddle? Constantly being aware of your surroundings is important in any outdoor pursuits. Make sure when you’re paddling you’re constantly weighing up any risk vs reward should these situations crop up.
The more you know before we go, the more enjoyable your paddle will be! And don’t forget, if the weather’s not great today, you can always come back another day. If there’s one thing we can be grateful for, it’s the weather variety!