Caught in a Wind Squall! (Paddleboarding)
Zoe and I have been getting more comfortable paddle boarding together. Now that we both have boards we’ve been able to travel farther. Since we are together it is safer and more fun.
Taking turns on a single board is rather limiting.
Today were set out to make one of our longer SUP journeys. We launched from a little salt water creek near my parent’s house on Long Island. Our goal was to paddle to the opening of the creek and across a much larger bay. Our destination was to arrive near Billy Joel’s house which overlooks Oyster Bay Harbor.
There was a possibility for a thunderstorm later that afternoon, but we were launching much earlier in the morning so didn’t think anything of it.
I had mapped out the journey online and we were looking at a paddle of about 6 miles round trip.
We headed down the creek with no problems what-so-ever. It was calm and especially peaceful. I noticed some cormorants drying their wings out while standing proud on top of buoys presumably after their breakfast.
As soon as we got into the bay the wind kicked up and was blowing directly out of the east which is the direction we needed to go in.
Okay, if we have a hard time fighting the wind now, surely it will be to our backs on the return journey, right?
Zoe and I made it to the inlet right in front of Billy Joel’s grand estate. His troller, the “Alexa” was docked out front. We though cool, we’ve heard that song a hundred times but, how cool was it to paddle past the actual boat? !!!
Content with reaching our destination it was time to turn around and head back.
What was going on?
The wind changed just about 180 degrees and started blowing from a west – north westerly direction. This was precisely the direction we were headed!
Yep, we paddle into the wind for most of the trip coming and we were heading back into the wind going. It sounds impossible but when you paddle for long enough over great distances the wind can change. And it did, just not in our favor I’m afraid.
We got back to the bay and as the water opened up to its vastness the wind was really blowing harder. If I had to guess it was a steady 15 mph.
I always remember the windsurfers telling me that white caps begin to form at around 12 mph. This site contains information confirming my understanding of wind speed and waves.
The sky was getting darker but we decided to make a break for it. We were going to cross the bay as fast as we could. At about 1 mile across we made it about halfway and the sky grew black. The wind cranked up to a very, scary level. Zoe was panicking a bit as everything she had tied into her board, water, sun block, blew right off.
It felt like we were headed into a hurricane and the sky confirmed this. This was no hurricane, however just a bad wind squall and we were in a terrible position… half a mile from land and paddling into the wind.
I never panic in these situations. I try to remain calm and use my head. It’s not that I wasn’t scared. I was scared as hell. I just know that panicking is very much the worst option in any situation.
I calculated that paddling into the wind squall was a bad choice. Instead I headed for a slightly farther piece of land. This piece of ground was about 90 degrees in the wrong direction but kept the wind to my side. I was no longer fighting a head wind!
As is turned out Zoe was panicking and still trying to fight the wind. We got separated very quickly. I made it to shore and dragged my paddle board onto through the eel grass and onto the beach. From there I kept an eye on her. No sooner than I made it to shore, the wind pretty much ceased. I could see that Zoe was tire but fine, so I decided to explore an old water pump house that was built into a wall not far from the shoreline.
All of a sudden; Zap! Zap! Zap! I must have disturbed a hornets nest because I was getting attacked like crazy. This was one hell of a SUP trip let me tell you! I ran down the shore line as fast as I could getting stung numerous times. After a moment I realized that the actual yellow jacket attack was over. I cautiously headed back and grabbed my board and paddle. I would walk several hundred yards down the shoreline to meet up with my wife Zoe.
Honestly it felt good to be walking on land after that life threatening paddle straight into the wind.
I launched from a kneeling position and met up with Zoe out on the water. She was exhausted and my fresh yellow jacket stings were really starting to swell up. She was kind of angry about the whole paddle boarding trip but she have been much less angry if she didn’t try to fight the 50+ mph winds and simply followed me to shore.
The worst was over but our troubles were not over with. Because our timing was several hours off. The whole wind squall debacle turned a 90 minute paddle into a 4 hour paddle. Now we were fighting against the tide. We had to paddle straight under a bridge fighting against the current. I had to kneel and paddle the current was so strong. Paddling as hard as I could only resulting in me moving up stream at a pace of 10-20 feet per minute!
The journey seemed endless. I mean what next?
After making it under the bridge was still had to fight the tide all the way back, but the current under the bridge was by far the strongest.
We finally made it back and were tired beyond description. Everybody part was sore and the yellow jacket bites I had all over my back were killing me. They would take several weeks to fully heal.
If not for anything else we had a really good story to tell and even more respect for life out on the water.