Many factors play a role in my decision where to launch from each day. I check weather forecasts against my work and personal schedules to determine what days I can hit the river. Once I know the days available and expected weather conditions I will determine where I will launch from based on the time I have and experience with my launch points. Overall, it is a juggling act between six-to-seven launch points, weather, and my schedule. I'll provide a bit more detail on each below.
There are many spots to launch from in this area, but my gear limits me to only a handful. I need to launch from a spot that has a flat, or relatively flat, entry so that I can easily load and unload. Unlike most other paddlers, I frequently need to make several trips to my truck after paddling due to the volume of trash I collect. The type of entry and proximity of the parking spot to the water play a key role in me using that launch point for SUP Garbage Man. I prefer flat entry points but will launch over rocks with my inflatable SUP in one area because I can park six feet from the river.
I am constantly checking, and rechecking, the weather forecasts 2-3 days ahead. I specifically look at wind, rain, and tide predictions. The whole process is fluid and changes day-to-day. I have made last minute changes when parking at one location only to drive somewhere else. I have been convinced that a weekend day will be perfect only to wake up and have it be raining unexpectedly.
The combination of wind and tides is the single most important consideration for me as I am planning my outings. I prefer winds of 10 mph or less because I usually have a board full of trash. The trash catches the wind and makes paddling and steering difficult. Also, the higher winds create choppy water. Choppy water isn't terrible on its own but the trash on my board often makes it a bit more challenging to balance. I'd hate to topple over and spill the trash back into the river.
Tides are important because they either allow or restrict access to certain areas. Certain launch points are inaccessible during high tide and low tide makes it difficult to get to some polluted shoreline areas. I also pay attention to whether the tide is coming in or going out. Doing so helps me plan my shoreline stops and prevent myself from being stranded or my board from floating away.
Wind direction is just as important to know as is wind speed. Luckily I live near a 90 degree bend in the Potomac River. This opens up more paddling possibilities than if the river were mostly straight. Because of the topography in this area, the land blocks the wind from several directions. With wind from the north I can launch at south-facing launch points. Wind from the west is blocked by the land at east-facing launch points. There are even a couple areas that are okay with either wind direction. If the wind comes from the east or south I'd have to be sure it would stay relatively calm before starting my session.
I never really minded rain when I was paddling but I mind lightning. I never went out in thunderstorms for I-don't-want-to-be-a-human-lightning-rod reasons but I have paddled in rain showers before. I don't go in the rain often anymore. Not because I don't want to get wet on the board but more because I don't want to load the trash into up my truck while it is raining. Also, rain causes water spots on my GoPro lenses and has ruined some epic pictures. No matter what the predicted percentage chance of rain happens to be, I still check the local weather radar.
The weather and tide predictions are important because I only have a limited time to get to the water. Because I work a full time office job, I'm limited on times I can get to the river. In the summer I go paddling before work, in winter I go after work. This prevents me from getting to certain spots due to their distance from my house or work. It is a balancing act. Weekends give me more time to get to the further launch points.