Kayak Safety – Checking Weather Forecast Conditions
Are you an adrenaline junkie looking to quench your thirst for an exhilarating kayaking experience? A kayak fishermen? Or maybe just an enthusiast who enjoys the near-therapeutic appeal of paddling in the great outdoors? Whatever floats your boat, safety is of utmost importance. And nothing posses a greater threat to kayakers than unforgiving weather conditions.
“Meticulous planning will enable everything a man does to appear spontaneous.”
Although weather conditions can vary drastically from one day to the next, weather forecast from reliable sources can help you prepare for the worst. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to access detailed weather forecasts a week ahead. This helps you pick the best paddling time and day based on the likely conditions and your schedule.
Read on for tips on checking weather forecast conditions and the best apps/websites for improved kayak safety.
What to Look for – Best Weather Conditions for Kayaking
Whether you’re well-versed in the locate climate or not, you need to be well prepared—lest you end up unsatisfied, injured, or even stranded. Here’s the ideal weather forecast to look out for before heading out.
Wind – Direction and Speed
As any seasoned will kayaker will insist; wind speed and direction are two of the most important weather conditions to keep an eye on before and during your kayaking trip. This is especially crucial if your kayaking location is around a coastal waterway, slow-moving river, or lake. Wind can create other unwanted weather conditions such as waves or move your kayak around—making paddling an uphill task.
In reference to the Beaufort Wind Scale, ideally aim for ‘Calm’, ‘Light Air’, or a ‘Light Breeze’ WMO classification. And for good measure, head out when there’s a decreasing wind forecast – i.e. when conditions are poised to be better, rather than worse.
Waves – Interval and Height
This one goes out to those of you who kayak in large water bodies such as oceans or big lakes. The interval and height of waves are real risk factors to your kayaking safety. They significantly affect your ability to launch, paddle, and land. Unless you’re a skilled kayaker with years of experience under your belt, only head out when the waves are under 1 foot and the intervals are large.
Temperature – Hot or Cold?
Ever heard of the 50 degree rule? It states that the combined temperature of the air and water in your paddling location should average 50 degrees Celsius for an enjoyable experience.
Sure, you can kayak all year-round—whether it's bone-chilling or scorching hot. But you need to be prepared for temperature extremities. This includes packing a brimmed hat, long-sleeve breathable shirts, and sunglasses for hot weather—or waterproof wool clothing, fleeces, and thermal socks for cold weather.
Different cloud formations have varying implications for the upcoming weather conditions. Some offer much-needed shade on a sunny day while others signal a brewing storm. In addition to the weather forecast on clouds/rain conditions, it helps to learn how to spot different clouds when you’re out in the water – i.e., forecast are data-driven predictions and they’re not set in stone.
Best Forecast Apps and Websites for Kayakers
Your kayaking weather preparations are only as good as the data you base them on. With this in mind, it goes without saying that you need to use only the best weather forecasting apps and websites. Although there are tons of great options today, here are some of our favourite picks:
- Weather Underground: Wunderground gives you detailed forecasts for up to 10 days. Both the website and mobile apps boast a user-friendly interface that is gentle to the eye. It offers a ton of useful weather information and indices—plus extreme weather alerts to ensure you’re well prepared.
- NOAA Weather Radar: The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Android and iOS app basically pulls real-time data from some of the most trusted and respected weather monitoring organizations. It is best suited for long-range weather forecasts (up to 2 weeks).
- WindFinder: If there was a script on kayaking, the wind would be the antagonist, the kayaker the protagonist, and WindFinder would be the catalyst to the protagonist’s victory. The app and website offer access to thousands of wind stations around the world. This translates to detailed real-time data on nearly everything you’d want to know about the wind conditions on your kayaking day out.
- My Tide Times: Whether you’re on Android or iOS, few apps—if any—as better suited for accurate and relevant tidal forecasts than My Tide Times. It shows 7-day and sometimes 30-day forecasts on tides in your kayaking route.
An enjoyable and memorable kayaking experience comes down to preparation and planning. This starts with taking an in-depth look at weather forecasts and scheduling your trip and route appropriately. Also factor in other kayaking safety tips such as always having a PFD (Personal Floatation Device), sharing your float plan, and having buddies on your trip. For more details on safety equipment check our safety section here.
We hope these tips and insights help you the next time you hit the waters. And remember; if you’re not sure about the developing weather conditions (e.g., whether a cloud on the horizon signals rain or not), it’s best to take the safer route by calling it a day.