It doesn’t matter if you kayak inland on rivers, lakes or at the coast in open water, weather affects what you do. This may sound obvious but Mother Nature’s moods will impact each session – for better or worse.

There’s never been as much weather data available as there is today. All you need to do is hit up the interwebs, search for weather forecasts (and associated content) and you’ll be presented with a myriad of info. Some of this is super in depth and not needed while in other instances data gives indications of general conditions and a few extra facts for good measure. Knowing how to apply this knowledge to your local put in is a good idea…

Local effects

Each put in has its own specific set of weather influenced effects. The surrounding topography, how shorelines are aligned, proximity of other land mases and elevation all play their part.

Here at Sitons HQ we’re nestled at the foot of the South Downs (more or less) with the Solent and Isle of Wight to the west. Just a short hop across the Channel you’ll hit French soil while to the east the land drops away as you pass Selsey Bill.

Hayling’s proximity to the Isle of Wight does ensure we get a degree of shelter from certain weather phenomenon. Atlantic driven fronts, for instance, can unload before reaching us. Clouds then tend to bunch up as they hit the Downs. This means we’re gifted a small window – it’s not unusual to have rain sluicing down around us while Hayling basks in brighter glows.

That said the Isle of Wight can also slingshot other weather types full power at us. Think swell. In terms of waves we do better than you’d think for solid groundswell – especially during autumn, winter and spring. With the right wave angle, and combo of tide/wind, it’s possible to find much bigger (rideable) waves at Sitons HQ than you’ll get at surrounding spots. Likewise you may end up getting skunked time and again slowly adopting the belief there’s nothing happening.

Another common local factor is wind, or more precisely an abundance of it during summer. The south coast is breezy at the best of times, but when warmer temperatures hit this can increase due to theramal effects. Not familiar? See explanation below.

Rain, rain, rain

If you’re heading somewhere elevated cloud formations will hug protruding land masses and can become dense. They can shed their watery cargo, even when forecasts suggest skies will be clear – which may be the case where terra firma is lower lying.

A good example of this is the Lake District. Hillsides, fells and mountains can cause all kinds of weird weather patterns to occur. Gulley’s, valley’s and scars carved out of slopes create funnels for wind, rain, snow and all manner of phenomenon to be squeezed through. It’s not uncommon to have fairly benign conditions in one area only to be confronted with significant change when heading into a new space.

Micro-climates can also play there part. To use Sitons’ local as an example again, it’s not uncommon to have soggy conditions passing to the north while at the seafront we’re bathed in sunshine. For a variety of factors our weather is generally drier than other spots in the area.

Venturi effect

Winds play a big part in our local put in’s make up. The Solent (and to a lesser extent the close proximity of France) can funnel SW to NW winds. This ‘squeeze’ is commonly referred to as the Venturi Effect. It can often catch paddlers out…

Spotting a seemingly light wind day kayakers hit the beach only to find a moderate to stiff breeze puffing causing all sorts froth and flotsam to form in open water. (Tidal flows also get squeezed between land masses – another natural occurrence any open water paddler should be aware of).

Sea breeze

Open water kayakers should also be wary of summer sea breezes. This is a regular occurrence at Sitons’ put in. During early summer (May-June ish) day time thermometer readings rise significantly compared to cooler overnight levels. As a result the land warms up quickly.

Hot air, as we’re taught in school, rises and to fill the void cooler air rushes in from the sea causing a breeze to set up. If there’s a gradient wind in the mix then sea breezes can add to this. A once glassy calm morning can suddenly switch to a strong wind around early afternoon – only dissipating as the sun sets.

Tides

Tides, as with all these headings, commands its own article. And while not necessarily a weather anomaly they can certainly influence things. For instance with a stiff breeze blowing in the same direction current is flowing you’ll be surprised how quickly you move. In some case this can be a good thing. Time it right and your journey from A to B will be as efficient as possible. Get it wrong, however, and things may go awry (think trying to get back to your launch as you steadily get dragged further away).

Thermometer readings

And let’s not forget those all-important warmth levels. While air temperatures may be well into double digits at sea level, scaling heights to paddle at your favourite stretch of high rise water can see readings rapidly dropping.

You may have been roasting during the journey but come time to paddle and things have cooled off considerably. One of the main reasons it’s a good idea to carry extra warm layers in a secure dry bag.

Knowledge

There’s no accounting for experience and banking important info in the grey matter. We appreciate paddlers won’t have first-hand experience regarding every put in but there’s plenty of information that will at least give ideas of what to expect. It’s then a case of checking weather forecasts and interpreting them accordingly.

There’s no accounting for experience and banking important info in the grey matter. We appreciate paddlers won’t have first-hand experience regarding every put in but there’s plenty of information that will at least give ideas of what to expect. It’s then a case of checking weather forecasts and interpreting them accordingly.

If you paddle somewhere regularly there’s no excuse to miss the basic nuances that make up that spot’s weather make up. Take note each time you head out and every session will become more fulfilling. Likewise, you’ll end up with less aborted sessions due to adverse conditions.

This was first published March 2, 2017 and updated July 29, 2017.