Local Weather Forecasting before you go out -

Shilshole Bay on Puget Sound in Seattle is my backyard, and have paddled there for a decade first in kayaks now on sups. I've seen it calm as a lake and within a few hours later up to 41kt winds and 5' waves. We have freighter waves that can give you epic rides, wind waves that can get as high as 7', and heavy power boat traffic in summer which creates great surfing wakes but also a lot of danger in you don't pay attention or don't have rough water skills. We always check conditions prior to going out either to benefit from a particular weather effect, or to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Here's the tools I use. Check similar sites for your local paddling spot or for one that you're traveling and are less familiar with.

NOAA wind station on West Point, Discovery Park - we use this to determine wind direction, speed, and to check the barometer pressure readings. If the barometer is dropping - expect the weather to worsen.
http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=wpow1

Webcam for West Point, Discovery Park - we use this to get a visual on tide level, wind conditions, etc.
http://www.brichmond.com/webcam/mywebcam_loop.htm

Tide Chart - Surprised to see a low tide? By checking the tide chart prior to going out, you can better plan your trip. I personally love low tides as it gives us better freighter waves in certain locations and is fun to see tide pools, etc., http://www.saltwatertides.com/dynamic.dir/washingtonsites.html

Freighter waves can throw ocean sized surf into shallow areas. In some areas, paddling by shore because it feels safer, isn't. Check for local boating traffic here, http://marinetraffic.com/ais/

Also note that we don't have right of way over boats, most power boaters don't pay attention to small craft, so be a defense paddler, watch your back, and don't cut in front of a moving boat. Wear that PFD (lifejacket) which make you more visible.

Padding in a straight line from point A to B isn't necessarily the quickest route. If the south wind is over 15kts, West Point provides wind protection if you paddle along the shore from Ballard. If you paddle direct to WP, you'll have a long trip. Also outgoing tides and a southerly will hit West Point and make Shilshole Bay a huge eddy, creating recirculating currents that circle around and flow south back to the point. Again, paddling near shore is easier than going straight to the point. Whereas paddling back to Ballard is easier further out as you ride the flow north.

Stuck paddling against heavy wind? Paddling sitting down cross legged or legs out front can be very efficient, and more comfortable than on your knees. Shorten up on your paddle by having your lower hand right above the paddle blade, and the other 2' up on the shaft. Paddle with straight arms which forces you to use your torso and adds more power thus less fatigue.

ALWAYS WEAR YOUR LEASH IN WIND. Ever notice how the board takes off under you when you fall? Add wind and you're in for a long swim. Forgot to wear your wetsuit? Not a good plan.

Check for local webcam and NOAA stations in your area, and/or ask a local kayaking or surf shop for info.

Comments