Everything You Should Be Wearing While Paddle Boarding
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Seasons come and go, but the need for paddle boarding remains ingrained in anyone who’s hit the water at least once. The thrill, and rush, know no seasonal bounds. I applaud your interest and desire in hitting the water, even if the temperatures might be dropping, or hopefully, rising. I do, however, want to tell you all about the gear you’re going to need for each season.
While most of it overlaps, there are some noticeable differences in what you need between the seasons and their varying temperatures in and out of the water. So, I’m going to tell you what to wear for paddle boarding in all four of the seasons; Winter, Summer, Fall, and Spring!
The Right Clothing For the Right Environment
Most of the suggestions you find on the different lists for different seasons can be worn whenever you want to, and you’re not held to a recommendation I provide. The meaning of this list is more to explain why certain items of clothing work better in some seasons than they do in others.
Cold weather, where you’ll be spending a lot of time on the water, means going with a wetsuit because it can keep you insulated. On the other hand, in the Summer, you might want to opt for the ‘less is best’ method and go with some board shorts and a top.
But, at the end of the day, most of this is all up to you, and I’m just here to provide context to those decisions before you lay your eyes on the glistening ocean water.
Recommended Summer Clothing
Who doesn’t love hitting the water in the Summer? Sunshine and good times exist at the lakes and beaches, so it’s no surprise that you’re considering going paddle boarding during the party season!
Summer is generally one of those carefree seasons, and it’s not a very demanding season for paddle boarders. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t things you need to think about before going paddle boarding.
Board Shorts or Bathing Suit
Suns out, buns out! No, I’m kidding. We have to have some clothing on when we’re paddle boarding, and in the Summer, nothing beats a simple pair of board shorts or a bathing suit! You’ll feel so free as you sail on the open waters, with the sun on your skin and the win washing over your body with some rogue water thrown in for good measure.
Be warned that minimal clothing does offer less protection in rough weather, so dress accordingly. Summer doesn’t mean rain and strong winds don’t exist!
If you worry about the sun and want to avoid sunburns, consider wearing a rash vest. These moisture-wicking athletic shirts are perfect for protection against the sun and are often equipped with SPF 50 protection.
Additionally, what’s excellent about wash vests is that they’re quick to dry and shed water, perfect for those more humid days. Another thing a rash vest can help you avoid is chafing, as you’re able to wear them underneath your lifejacket.
If you’re planning to be on the water for longer than 15 minutes, and let’s be honest, you will be on the water for way longer than that, then you need a hat! I get that maybe I sound like a broken record, but it’s about the sun again. A hat will keep your face mostly shielded from the sun and can prevent fatigue from sun exposure. You can find some of my hat recommendations here.
My main objective is to make sure you understand the dangers of not taking those necessary precautions against the sun. Nobody wants to have a nice day of fun on the water, ruined by a nasty sunburn. Furthermore, I don’t want you to avoid the water because you had a bad yet avoidable, negative experience.
Footwear (Only Necessary In Certain Situations)
A hat isn’t necessary unless you’re in an area filled with rocks and other foreign objects that the ocean harbors, like fishing hooks. Bare feet are great in open waters, but I’d recommend considering shoe options for certain occasions. For example, the best time for shoes is when you’re;
- planning to explore the shores,
- are close to rocks of any kind,
- in a lake or river,
If you’re in any environment where bare feet might not seem the appropriate choice, throw on some shoes. It’s a discretionary choice that only you can really make.
You cannot spend all day out on the water without taking proper precautions when it comes to the health of your skin. In combination with the hat, you’re providing protection to your skin against sun exposure. While a little Vitamin D is always great, too much exposure to the sun can lead to a terrible sunburn or something far worse down the line.
Non-Summer (Winter/Spring/Fall) Gear
Summer is great and all, but when it’s gone for a while, I doubt you want to just hang up the board for nine months and move on. Right? Didn’t think so! So it’s important to know what kinds of options you have in the colder seasons for gear to make paddle board a great experience, Summer or no Summer.
When the water gets colder, a wetsuit becomes your best friend. Unless you have a surfing background or are familiar with wetsuits in any way, you’ll never know how amazing these can be for fighting off the cold.
Wetsuits trap layers of warmed water thanks to your body heat to keep you warm. It doesn’t matter if the water is cold; the warm water layer remains true. Over the years, wetsuits have continuously improved in design, quality, and materials to bring the best performance to the table.
- Summer ¾ wetsuits, as the name suggests, are primarily used in the Summer. They provide the wetsuit at shorter lengths on the arms and legs.
- Lightweight wetsuits are standard in Spring as this is the transitional season between Winter and Summer, so the temperature isn’t as cold but still isn’t as warm.
- Heavyweight wetsuits apply to the colder seasons such as Fall and Winter. They’re usually 4-6mm thick and stretchy when wet, thanks to the neoprene.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the point of a drysuit is to keep you nearly 100% dry – it loses percentage points for head and hands! The drysuit is common in kayaking or scuba diving but still has its place in the paddle boarding community.
A big downside to drysuits is that they don’t provide insulation, meaning you need to prepare to layer up underneath if you want to remain warm. Another somewhat unfortunate reality of drysuits is their ability to slow you down through their ability to unintentionally trap air. Overall, however, drysuits can be what you need in the coldest of temperatures. They will retain heat, made through the use of layers, in temperatures up to negative 50 degrees and in some cases higher.
Hood or Hat For Colder Waters
With colder weather, a hat or hood just makes sense to keep your head warm. Your head, well all heads, are sensitive to cold water immersion, which can cause brain freeze, and nobody wants that while trying to enjoy the water.
Seeing as you’ll be using your hands, maybe it’s best you keep them properly insulated with the use of special gloves. Neoprene gloves can help with grip and warmth to keep your hand performing at the necessary levels to paddle board correctly.
Other Items To Consider Wearing!
Beyond the seasonal choices, here are some of the items you should probably consider bringing with you regardless of what seasons you’re paddle boarding in. While some of these items are meant to save lives, others are purely for convenience.
A helmet isn’t something you need to wear in every paddle boarding instance. However, when you’re paddle boarding on rivers with whitewater, it’s a different story. It’s essential to use a helmet in situations where whitewater is involved due to the volatile nature of the rapids. In the event you’re thrown from the SUP, you’re able to hopefully prevent any serious head injuries.
Paddle boarding with a leash is so vital to your gear kit.
The reason behind its importance is because of how easy it is to fall off and lose a board that isn’t attached to an ‘anchor.’ With a leash attached to your leg, you act as the necessary anchor keeping the board from drifting out to sea.
If you’re paddle boarding down rivers, there are various options like a waist leash where you can easily unclip it in time to avoid life-threatening situations. In a situation where being attached to your paddle board is dangerous, having this option can be the difference between life and death.
Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
This is almost a non-negotiable. PFD’s in some states, counties, districts, etc., are actually required by law. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every state, province, or country for that matter, but in most cases, it remains true. The point of PFD’s is purely for safety. The point isn’t to make a fashion statement; it’s to keep people alive.
The rare exception to the rule of personal floatation devices is surfing. Surfing is provided ‘surf zones,’ and people are aware of the risks and believe it’s up to surfers to make that determination. Here are my top pfd recommendations.
Dry bags are perfect for storing things that aren’t meant to get wet but aren’t meant to stay out of sight. Items like car keys, wallets, phones, etc., can remain in your dry bag and go paddle boarding with you. Another great benefit of carrying a dry bag is that if you’re in a dangerous situation trapped out at sea or lost, you can call from the phone you brought with you.
Dry bags either come in backpack form or in bags that can be stored in cargo bungees.
Hydration is essential no matter what you’re doing. When you’re on the water and using your strength for paddle boarding while out in the sun, then hydration becomes even more necessary. Find yourself a vacuum insulated bottle that can be kept clipped to the SUP’s cargo bungees. This will keep the bottle cooler while you’re in the sun.
This is definitely one of those optional items that don’t necessarily serve any necessary purpose other than convenience. When you get out of the water, soaking, and want to get dressed in privacy, a dry robe is something that can come in handy. Covering you in a poncho/rain coat-like fashion, these provide a semblance of privacy for you to go about getting changed.
I hope this has helped open your eyes more to what is required of you when it comes to gear, and more importantly, safety. Paddle boarding is meant to be fun, and let’s be honest, injuries and sunburns are just a bummer that has the power to ruin an otherwise great day.
Take this advice and run with it, and if you want to see some more extensive season-by-season gear requirements check out this article on SUP Inflatables.