SUP Weather

SUP Weather

Paddleboarding is heavily reliant on conditions – especially wind (strength and direction) and current (tide at the coast or flow on the river) can have a huge effect on the quality and safety of your session. Plus of course temperature, sunshine and rainfall will influence what you choose to wear! Therefore it’s very important that before you go out, you know what the weather’s doing … and what it’s likely to do next.
The various weather sites and services will often be driven by different forecasting models, so you’re always best to look at a couple of sources to see the range of predictions. And remember, weather forecasting is essentially based on probabilities – so while you should always know what to expect, there’s no guarantee of exactly what you’re going to get. You can learn more about weather in our SUP lessons.
Below are some of our favourite free weather resources for SUP in South Essex, centred around Leigh-on-Sea / Chalkwell on the Thames Estuary and Boreham / Papermill Lock on the River Chelmer… Just click the images and text links for external websites, plus iOS / Android apps where available.

The Meteorological Office – or Met Office – is the United Kingdom’s national weather service. Best for predicting sunshine, precipitation, cloud cover etc, yet in our experience the apps can often slightly under-call windstrength, particularly for coastal locations. The Inshore Waters forecast is ideal for more exposed coastal spots though.
www.metoffice.gov.uk

BBC Weather no longer relies on Met Office data, instead it’s now fed by MeteoGroup, so is definitely worth cross-checking with other forecasts as predictions may well differ. Great for weather, especially hour-by-hour forecasts, but can again under-call windspeeds…
www.bbc.co.uk/weather

Although not so brilliant for standard weather (rainfall, sunshine etc) Windfinder is – as the name suggests – ideal for predicting windstrengths and directions. Shows wind averages and gusts using Global Forecast System (GFS) data from the US national weather agency, NOAA.
www.windfinder.com

XC Weather forecasts are also driven by Global Forecast System (GFS) data – and are also best for windstrengths and direction. This British site can come in handy for live wind readings too…
www.xcweather.co.uk

If you prefer your forecasts visual, Windy.com is genuinely a thing of beauty… With animations for wind, plus all sorts of other weather too (including sea temperatures!) It comes into its own for cross-checking different forecasting models with six sources available: ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts), GFS, ICONICON-EU (Icosahedral Nonhydrostatic – Germany), NEMS (NOAA Environmental Modeling System), and AROME (Meteo France).
www.windy.com

Windguru doesn’t have an app (although there is a workaround to get it onto your phone) yet does offer an exhaustive array of forecasting models: GFS, NWW3 (wave model), WRF (Weather Research and Forecasting), AROME, ICON, Zephr-HD (a GFS / WRF hybrid), HARMONIE & HIRLAM (from the pan-European High Resolution Limited Area Model), EWAM & GWAM (wave models), and GDPS (Canada). But fortunately that’s all combined into one handy Windguru forecast up top!
www.windguru.cz

It’s very important you have tide time information that you can trust – actually, the widget below and apps above are from different providers (and be warned that these free app versions include occasionally annoying ads). Key thing is, the licensed information comes from the UK Hydrographic Office, who offer their own free 7-day prediction via Admiralty EasyTide. Apps and websites tend only to offer info up to a week in advance, so for any forward planning we’d recommend you invest in a printed annual tide table: www.tidetimes.org.uk are brilliant.
www.ukho.gov.uk/Easytide/easytide

The Port of London Authority – or PLA – offer some really useful tidal information for the Thames Estuary. Alongside predicted tide times, they show actual data of real-time water height that takes into account any tidal surges, atmospheric effects, etc…
www.pla.co.uk/Safety/Tide-Tables

River levels – and flow – can be hard to call for the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation. If there’s been heavy rainfall, expect higher water levels and increased flow for the following 48 hours or so… GaugeMap is a brilliant online resource mapping all sorts of water gauges across the UK, including river water levels, flow stations, plus groundwater and even rainfall readings. Sandford Mill Sluice and Chelmsford Gates Sluice are probably the most relevant for us. The RiverApp smartphone apps above aren’t from the same provider, they’re for the whitewater canoeing community and are much more limited, only including stations upstream of the managed navigation: Beach’s Mill on the River Can and Springfield on the River Chelmer. As per those links, riverlevels.uk and flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk were previously our go-to sites, but we’re now way more impressed with GaugeMap
www.gaugemap.co.uk

Magicseaweed – or simply MSW – has become the ubiquitous surf forecasting site worldwide. Although every surfer knows not to trust it implicitly, of course it’s essential viewing whenever we get away chasing waves. Quite how and why Southend’s included as a surf spot remains a mystery to us though! Does include wind and tidal information though, which seems to be pretty reliable these days.
www.magicseaweed.com

While there’s no Apple iOS app that we know of for sea temperatures, there’s a great free Android app – Sea Temperature – and take your pick of free websites offering current water temperatures for Southend on the Thames Estuary: SeaTemperature.org, WaterTemp.org and SeaTemperature.info
www.seatemperature.info

Sea water temperature

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that lightning isn’t good for SUP! It’s often very localised and not easy to predict for sure, so when thunderstorms are forecast it pays to know where and when any strikes are actually happening so you don’t risk being caught out on the water. Handily, you can follow clusters of strikes in real time thanks to a free community project called Blitzortung.org (in English that’s LightningMaps.org) that somehow monitors lightning strikes around the world as they occur. They don’t have their own apps but various developers do offer free options driven by their source data.
www.lightningmaps.org

No website for this one – only available on Apple iOS and Android – but Wind Compass is a cool little app, basically combining a compass and weather forecast, to show you which way the ambient wind’s blowing (in case you’re inland, sheltered, or otherwise confused!) Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s live data though: it’s not – what you’re seeing is the latest forecast data from darksky.net overlaid onto your phone’s compass functionality rather than a real-world reading…

And no apps for these, but for real-world live wind data our two go-to weather stations are: TBYC Live installed on top of Thorpe Bay Yacht Club, whereas we don’t know exactly where the Southend Rochford SkyLink gauge is located since unfortunately the RNLI read-out from the pier currently seems to be defunct…

And finally… Forecasts and read-outs are all very well – but sometimes there’s no substitute for just looking out of the window! Few of us are lucky enough to have a sea view, so here are the best local webcams we know of.

From the Thames Estuary Yacht Club (next door to the casino on Southend seafront):

Although it’s been blocked a bit in 2021 due to building work, we can normally see Thorpe Bay, courtesy of Thorpe Bay Yacht Club.

And if all else fails…