Chasing the Breeze: Best Downwinding Routes for the Summer
If you’ve never heard of downwinding, it is a type of surfing where one uses the wind generated swells (whitecaps) to surf on a stand-up paddle board, outrigger canoe, or surf-ski (ocean kayak). Similar to a downhill ride on a mountain bike or a mogul run on skis, downwinding paddling often presents a difficult terrain that creates a challenging but exciting ride requiring the surfer to read and react to an ever changing oceanscape.
Downwind kayaking is a fun and exciting activity for summer–anticipating the ocean’s every move to catch wind swells, stay upright, and get to your destination. Not to mention there’s lots of summer downwind routes and off-the-beaten-path downwinding destinations with incredible coastal views.
From best downwind kitesurfing routes for summer to tips on downwinding in different climates during summer, if you’re ready to try your hand (or board) at downwind windsurfing, here’s our crash course on all things catching waves and chasing the breeze.
What are the best downwinding routes?
Maliko Run, Maui
Located off the north shore of the island of Maui, Hawaii, Maliko Run is 9.6 miles, stretching from the Maliko Gulch to the end of Kahului Harbor. This is one of the most popular summer downwind routes, with peak times from June to October. Made easily accessible by shuttle service, downwinders are allowed multiple runs a day–which you’ll more than likely want to take advantage of, given the consistent nature of the waves, beautiful views, and warm sea water to greet you at every run.
Maui to Molokai Run
We recommend this for the solo traveler's guide to summer downwinder routes, as it is a 23-mile odyssey–but one you don’t want to miss. Starting at Flemings Beach on Maui and ending at Kaunakakai Harbor on Molokai, some call this the best run you can take. Make sure to plan a ride back to Maui after the run, and be prepared for 23 epic miles of gorgeous island views, catching wind swells, and pure downward bliss.
Columbia Gorge Run, Oregon
Can’t make it to Hawai’i this summer? You can still try out downwind kiteboarding at the Columbia Gorge run, also known as "The Gorge.” Located on the border between Oregon and Washington states near Hood River, the Gorge is home to one of the largest stand up paddling races of the year, the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. As Oregon is quite cold in the winter, summer months are the best time to visit and a more affordable, family-friendly downwind route for summer vacations.
Tools, Tips and Equipment for Safe Downwinding
It is important to learn some basic safety tips for windsurfing, especially if you’re a beginner. For possible emergencies, keep a whistle and attach to your wrist with a string or leash. Another important tool is the signal mirror, a shiny plastic 3x5″ rectangle that reflects bright light to signal to boats, even on cloudy days.
Check on the water temperature before you go out–if it’s chilly, you’ll want to wear a wetsuit. You’ll be in the water quite a lot!
You don’t necessarily need to own a board to take a downwind adventure! Check out SUP rentals wherever you’re headed–there’s likely a local rental place with all the boards, paddles, life jackets, and other necessities you’ll need for riding downwind waves.