You have your SUP board, and now you want to go out for your first paddling session, but you’re not quite sure what to wear paddle boarding?
Fear not; it’s actually quite simple if you follow these guidelines.
As you might have guessed, for summer, it’s pretty straightforward. But it gets a bit trickier when the weather is colder. However, with appropriate clothing, you can also paddle in winter.
It may be a surprise to some, but paddleboarding is quite versatile, and it can be done throughout the year.
First and the most crucial point, though, is about safety equipment regardless of the season, be it summer or winter.
This is an important point that everyone should follow regardless of how good they feel on the board and in the water.
You should wear a personal floating device (PFD) at all times. I know, I know some would say that the life vest limits their movements or does not look good.
But hey, we’re talking about your safety, not looks.
You never know what could happen, and it would be better to have one when you need it.
PFDs save lives
Key points about life vests:
- They do have sort of “expiration date” The material can become brittle, and inner foam of it can become soggy, thus loosing the required characteristics. So check the status of yours if you do own one and find a replacement if necessary.
- Look for US Coast guard approved inscriptions.
- It’s a personal preference, but favor brightly colored life vests so you could be seen from distance.
Recommended PFDs and SUP leashes
We’ve selected a couple of life vests that are both comfy and US Coast guard approved. Yes, it’s an extra expense, but that’s a small price to pay for your safety.
For young teens
O’Neill Teen Reactor USCG Life Vest
O’Brien Youth Neoprene Jacket/Vest
For adults (male)
O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG Life Vest
For adults (female)
O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo Life Vest
And the second thing you should also have would be a SUP leash. Falls are still a possibility even for competent paddlers, and it’s not a pleasant sight when the board floats away from you.
There are three SUP leash types – waist, calf, and ankle. The first two – waist and calf usually are coiled, while the one for ankle more often is straight. Each one is used for different reasons and situations.
This type of leash is often used in SUP racing and whitewater river paddling. That is due to easy and quick release e.g. if you are blocked by some obstacles – trees, rocks, etc. This leash typically attaches to your PFD.
Calf leash is the most common leash used in SUP racing as it’s not dragging in the water, and it does not tangle up, thus limiting your movements and slowing you down. Practically all calf leashes are coiled.
This is the most popular leash type among paddle-boarders, especially around first-time paddlers. The most common use for this leash is all-around SUP boarding. But this type is also widely popular among surfers to keep the board in a safe distance away from you when you’re pummeled by the waves.
These mostly are straight leashes, often quite long to keep the board in a safe distance.
Another essential safety equipment would be a whistle and a light. With the first one, you would signal others around you if you got in trouble. And a light is an absolute necessity if you’re thinking of paddling after dusk.
Although we would advise beginners to avoid night trips at all costs as they come with additional risks.
Apparel for warm and sunny season.
These are the conditions that most paddlers prefer and which are not that cost demanding on the apparel. But a beginner could have second thoughts about what to wear paddle boarding.
Swimsuits, shorts, and shirts.
One of the most common choices are swimsuits and swim trunks. These are especially great if you also want to go for a swim when you are paddle boarding.
Another option is to go with shorts which many surfers do prefer. They are comfy and quick drying. Plus, they do have bigger pockets where you can store essential things.
But wearing only shorts or swim trunks have its drawbacks in sunny weather.
That’s why a T-shirt also would be a great idea. If you go for a more extended paddling session, you could get a nasty sunburn. A shirt would cover your back and shoulders, eliminating this problem.
Extra protection from the sun.
On top of that, it would be wise to take a hat and/or polarized sunglasses for extra protection from the sun.
Try to pick a hat that can float for a while or has a safety strap around your neck. Otherwise, if it’s accidentally dropped in the water, it could be gone for good.
If you’re thinking about glasses, take the ones with blue, gray, green, or amber lens color. These are best for water sports as they will reduce the glare from the water, and your eyes will be strained less If you want to learn more about sunglass lens color, here is a great article that is easy to understand.
And finally, we get to the last point – shoes. Surfers and long-time riders would swear by the barefoot approach. But there are times when shoes do help. Plus, it’s also a personal preference.
If you feel more comfortable and stable on a SUP board with shoes on your feet, then go with shoes. Drawbacks, though, would be swimming. Not everyone is comfortable swimming with shoes.
Plus, they must be designed for use in water. Otherwise, for example, regular sports shoes will become quite heavy once they get wet and could potentially drag you down if you fall in the water. And on top of that, they would not provide the best possible grip on the SUP board.
However, shoes do help and protect your feet if you paddle in shallow water, and your feet can touch the ground, and it contains rocks and other sharp objects.
There are multiple options to go with, but most prevalent in warm weather are water shoes, socks, and glove-like shoes. The later ones are the most pricey.
- Breathable, lightweight, and stretchy material allows the foot to breathe and dry quickly.
- Good drainage from multiple holes under the sole.
- Offers good grip on wet surface and protects from sharp rocks.
- A looser fit than water socks or glove-like shoes
- Breathable, and super lightweight. If you’re looking for the lightest feet protection, then these are for you. But they offer worse protection if compared to water shoes and glove-like shoes.
- Water socks offer an excellent grip on a wet surface.
- Very stretchy and quick drying.
- Lightweight, flexible, and very comfortable.
- Provides excelent feet protection from sharp objects.
- Excellent grip and minimal movement restrictions.
What to wear paddle boarding in cold weather.
Now let’s have a look at what to wear when the weather is colder. As both water and air temperature is lower, then you must also dress appropriately.
But don’t let that scare you away from paddling in colder weather. Just make sure that the water temperature poses no danger to you if you do fall in it. As even experienced paddlers do fall off from their boards, so do not take any unnecessary risks.
Water temperatures around 70-60F (21-15C) require caution, and you should dress appropriately for them. Under that, it gets just more dangerous.
But regarding the apparel, there are a couple of options to go with, so let us have a look at them.
This is a popular option if the weather and water are not that cold yet. Wetsuits design traps a thin layer of water between the skin and the fabric itself, which is warmed by your body, thus keeping you warm.
For colder temperatures, a full-body suit is advised for better protection against the cold.
Note that it will need to be thicker (around 5mm) for colder weather. But as it gets thicker, it affects the movement. If you don’t like the feeling of a wetsuit at this point, then another option for you would be a dry suit.
- It does not limit your movements that much compared to dry suite. If the weather allows it, go for a wetsuit.
- It helps to stay afloat as it’s made of neoprene.
- Easy entry and exit from the suit.
This is another option for cold weather paddling. Dry suit also is way warmer compared to a wetsuit. As the name implies, then there’s also the difference between the wetsuits. A dry suit creates a layer of air between your body and the fabric.
The downside, however, is that a dry suit limits the movements of the paddler. But for really cold weather it’s the only logical choice.
However, a good quality dry suit is quite expensive.
Dry suit for cold weather
- Quite light, but it for sure will be heavier than a wetsuit.
- Warmest option available for cold weather paddling.
- The price of a good quality dry suit is quite high.
- More limited movements compared to a wetsuit.
At colder temperatures, shoes become essential. Whereas at warmer weather, they were more like a personal preference or a necessity in shallow waters filled with rocks and other objects.
Though for cold weather, different types of shoes are used. They are not that ventilated, and they cover the feet fully.
Also, neoprene boots are quite flexible and durable. For colder weather, you’d generally want above the ankle boots.