Standup paddleboarding is a growing sport and there are several different kinds of paddleboarding you can do including racing, touring, surfing and downwinding. This past Saturday I had the opportunity to guide a couple and their son on a 5 mile downwind trip in Petaluma, CA. Downwinding is a concept that not everyone is familiar with. Generally speaking, whenever you paddle with the wind at your back you are travelling down-wind. Starting on a river or lake is best if you’re just learning as opposed to the open water of a bay or ocean.
You should always do downwinders with a group of experienced paddlers who understand the currents and tides of the area you are going to. It is always important to have a back-up plan if the weather changes for the worse or there is a change in the direction of the wind. In addition to having the mandatory leash, and PFD, you should also have your cell phone or a radio in order to contact help if needed.
Some tips to get you started
You want to be standing in the middle of the board with your feet slightly offset and your knees slightly bent. This will help you maintain your balance as the board if it’s carried on by a wave and as it stalls in the trough between waves. Boats or jet skis going by can also cause waves and you’ll need to paddle into the wave, and let your knees absorb the wave and use your paddle to help balance and paddle forward until the wave is gone.
With practice, you’ll learn the best way to take advantage of the wind at your back. So, if you haven’t tried downwinding, you should give it a go and see what it’s like!