The Thrill of a Downwinder

A downwinder is a SUP session somewhat like running a river where you will go from point A to point B and have a ride waiting for you at the end of the line.

It’s a bit of a hybrid between river running, surfing and flatwater paddling.

Here's our take on downwind SUPing.

There are quite a few ways to have fun on your SUP: flatwater paddling, ocean surfing, river running, yoga – but are you familiar with downwinding? 

A downwinder is a SUP session somewhat like running a river where you will go from point A to point B and have a ride waiting for you at the end of the line.

Rather than a river propelling you though, you will be using the heavy wind and the swells that it has produced as your motor.  It’s a bit of a hybrid between river running, surfing and flatwater paddling.

There is quite a bit of skill required to become a proficient Downwinder. 

Picture yourself paddling 10-15 strokes and then surfing for 30 seconds before repeating the process.  So rather than having to paddle back to catch your next wave as you do when surfing, you just wait for the next wave to catch up to you.

The board required tends to be longer and narrower than your typical all-around SUP which increases the skill level required. 

paddleboard

Footwork, board control, cardio performance and balance are all tested when you take up downwinding.

Make sure you have the proper equipment. As mentioned, a long, narrow hard board is ideal but if all you have is an inflatable all around board, you will still have a ridiculous amount of fun.

You will want to wear a PFD and have a curly leash.  A Camelback is recommended as well to keep you hydrated.  It’s also suggested that you bring an energy bar, a cell phone in waterproof case, a whistle, and a mirror for signaling for help.

Having $20 in cash as well is also a prudent idea. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t attempt this without someone else.

stand up paddle board

For your first couple of runs, don’t pick a day that is too windy. Your hardcore aficionados are looking for days where there are whitecaps, starting out, you will just want small bumps that come from winds that are in the 10-12 mph range. 

You will need to feel comfortable repositioning your footwork while downwinding because if you aren’t able to move back towards the tail as you head down a swell, your board will surely nosedive.  If you are too far back on your board when trying to catch the next swell, you will probably miss it.

When picking out your downwind run, it’s suggested that you ask the locals about it so that you know the best put-in and takeout spots as well as any obstacles that might be near the surface of the water. 

Make sure that you are always a comfortable swimming distance from the shore in case you get into trouble.

There are a lot of little things you can do to make your downwind sesh more productive and less dangerous. 

downwind paddle boarding

For starters, when you feel yourself starting to fall, don’t try to put an arm on your board as you go into the water as that is a great way to strain your ligaments. Fall completely clear of your board and let the leash do its job and return the board to you. 

Because you will be in choppy waters, use your paddle to assist with your balance.  Letting the blade of the paddle skim the water while you are riding a bump can help you feel more stable. 

If you get too far ahead of the bump, using the paddle blade to dig into the water will act as a brake to let the wave catch up to you.  It’s also important to learn to read the nose of your board. 

If it’s starting to point down, you are being pushed by a swell and should back up.  If it’s pointing up, you are on the back of the next bump and should wait until the nose starts evening out to begin paddling again to catch that bump.

Paddling uphill on a bump is just wasted energy.

Conclusion

If you’ve ever wished for a “perpetual motion” mechanism to help assist with your SUP experience, you will find it in downwinding.  Plan ahead, stay safe and enjoy the thrill!

Check out our other blog posts to learn more about paddle boarding!