How to use the wind like a power steering to turn your kayak with ease

I still see even experienced paddlers completely ignoring the wind when turning.

Have you ever had this experience? You're paddling on a windy day, your kayak is constantly turning upwind.  So you do a sweep stroke to push the bow back downwind. It feels hard. The more you force the bow to move downwind, the more the stern gets pushed downwind as well. In the end you are still pointing upwind. If feels like you are playing tug of war with the wind, doesn't it?

I remember meeting a kayaker one time as I was paddling with my 191/2 feet long kayak. He said to me "it must be so hard to control in the wind". And I thought about it for a while. I made sense.

But here's the thing. There is as much extra length in the front as there is in the back, so actually it makes no difference. Not if you understand how the wind affects your kayak.

The kayak acts like a weather vane.

You can fight against the wind, or you can make the wind work for you. When the kayak is not moving, you are sitting in the middle, so the tendency is to move sideways in the wind. The kayak doesn't have a tendency to point into the wind or downwind.

When you are moving forward, more resistance is added in the bow. It is like moving the pin of the weather vane closer to the front. Now the back gets pushed downwind more. this results in the kayak pointing towards the wind. The faster you go, the more resistance in the front. It's like moving the pin even closer to the front of the kayak. So the kayak wants to turn into the wind even more.

Here's an exercise: think of where to put the pin to get the kayak to do the desired turn.

If you want to turn upwind, you can paddle faster to create more resistance on the bow. Let the wind push  the stern downwind. You can lean forward to release the stern to make it turn quicker, or place the paddle near the bow to pin it in place.

When you find yourself in the wind, pay attention to where it's coming from. Ask yourself: "Am I trying to turn upwind more or downwind?" You will find that it soon becomes easy to maneuver in the wind. Most of the time I just shift my body weight forward or back. You can let the wind do the work, but it starts with paying attention to which way the wind is blowing. 

Here's an exercise I like to show new paddlers.