A Primer on Race-Day Conditions

Question: What conditions should I prepare for on race day?
Answer: All of them.

A Lake Ontario crossing is the definition of ‘you never know what you’re going to get’, and that is one of the great challenges, both mentally and physically, of this event.

The Crossing is tough. Sometimes it’s very tough – most big accomplishments are. Race directors use a 2-day window to improve the odds of good conditions, but paddlers still need to be prepared for almost anything. Even on race day, if your first hour is in glassy water, your last hour could be spent navigating 3-foot quartering swells.

This great variability is what makes this crossing the great challenge that it is.

As long as crossing the lake is deemed safe, it will go on, regardless of how difficult it might be. Molokai is not easy. Catalina is not easy. Lake Ontario is not easy. But it is usually glorious.

How It Looks

Here’s a quick snapshot of how conditions can change out there. The bottom line is that you should train and mentally prepare for flat water, serious open-water paddling conditions and everything in between:


Flat water paddling (the middle can be flat too)


Tedious cross chop


Quartering downwind conditions – challenging and fun


The holy grail: Smokin’ downwind conditions!