How We Watch Weather Conditions for Safe Paddling

During the summer months, we become as obsessed about the weather as Al Roker. We constantly monitor temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and incoming storms throughout the day. Why? When we send our customers out on paddle boards and kayaks, it makes us really happy when they come back (especially again and again).

However, there may be times our kayak rentals may close early, or tours are diverted to an inland lake. Sorry to say, Mother Nature rules Door County. During the summer she may grace us with sunny skies and warm, light breezes. Or she may turn moody and bluster and churn the water with white caps.

So if you’re looking to rent for an hour or two, take a tour, or going out to paddle on your own kayak, we’ll share with you what we watch to ensure a safe paddle.

Water Temperature

Later summer weather and large bodies of water means the water in Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay take a while to warm up. Hypothermia is still possible in the summer. During the month of June, we take water temperature into consideration before launching our fleet of rentals at Sturgeon Bay, Ephraim, and Sister Bay.

Generally, the water temperature ranges in the 40s-50s in the month of June. If you’re out paddling alone, roll your kayak, and can’t get back in, you can be unconscious in as little as 30-60 minutes as your body temperature rapidly drops. Cold shock will impact your breathing, cause confusion, and affect your blood pressure. During the months of July and August, water temperatures raise to a more manageable 60s and the risk of cold shock and hypothermia takes longer to set in.

Winds & Waves

We don’t want to send you over to our Michigan neighbors – unless you’re really trying to get back home. Every day we watch the winds for both speed and direction. Generally, any wind under 10 knots (about 11.5 mph) offers safe kayaking regardless of wind direction.

Wind can be deceiving – an offshore breeze makes it difficult to paddle back – especially on a paddle board. Paddle boarding is more enjoyable at lower wind speeds with flatter waters and is dicey and really wet when wavy.

Even when wind is in the safe range, we’re still watching the waves, as gusts can increase the water choppiness. Our staff will recommend which direction to start your paddle so you have the wind at your back when you are more fatigued at the end of your paddle. When the the wind hits closer to the 12 knot mark, less experienced kayakers should play it safe and stay close to shore .

Good wind direction for paddling in Door County

When winds start to blow between 12 knots (14 mph) to 14 knots (16 mph), wind direction can make a huge difference. Large waves make paddling difficult and more seriously, will roll your kayak. Here are preferable wind directions for each of our locations:

  • Sturgeon Bay (Long-Term and Walk-Up Hourly Rentals) – South, Southeast, Southwest winds
  • Ephraim (Tours and Walk-Up Hourly Rentals) – North, Northeast winds
  • Sister Bay (Long-Term and Hourly Rentals) – South, Southwest winds
  • Lakeside Tours (Jacksonport) – North, Northwest winds

We do not recommend going out on the water in a kayak when winds are 15 knots or more. 

More wind means more waves. Eyeballing the water will give you a good idea whether you should embark out. When in doubt, hit one of Door County’s many inland lakes or take a wetland tour. Kayaking Door County’s inland waters means there is more shelter from the wind, and warmer water temperature from shallower depths. Bonus: you’ll also enjoy the less observed natural beauty offered by the undisturbed woods and wetlands.

Wear Your PFD

With every rental and tour, we provide a personal flotation device (PFD). It may be hot, the sun may be shining, but we require all paddlers to wear one when they are out on the water. Your PFD should fit snugly and not too tight. All our PFDs are Coast Guard approved and tested each season. If you do end up in the water, you’ll get wet. And you’ll also float with your head kept above water.

Use these golden nuggets of weather wisdom to plan your paddle, take the family out on a rental, or to book a tour. If you’re in Door County and looking for the best place to go out for a paddle or tour on a particular day, feel free to give us a call at one of our two Bay Shore Outfitters stores. Our Sister Bay store number is (920) 854-7598 and Sturgeon Bay number is (920) 818-0431. Our staff members can point you to the best place to go so your paddling adventure will be safe and highly enjoyable.