What to Wear Paddle Boarding

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You got your board and paddle, but now you ask yourself, “Hmm What to wear paddle boarding?”. Below are the 4 W’s I ask myself when I’m looking for what to wear paddle boarding.

  • What Environment are you paddling in?
  • What time of year are you paddling?
  • What’s the weather supposed to do?
  • What type of paddle boarding will you be doing?

These are all important factors to look at before going out. Sometimes these decisions can even be the difference between life and death, especially in the winter months. 

It’s important to dress as if you are planning to fall into the water. Because let’s face it, we like to convince ourselves that falling in will not happen to us.  Read on as I give you the down low on what to wear in each condition. 

(Click the below links to the left of the table below to jump to each section)

SeasonMenWomen
Must HavesLeash, PFD, Whistle, WaterLeash, PFD, Whistle, Water
SummerHead: Hat, sunglasses 

Upper Layer: tank top, waterproof sunscreen

Bottom Layer: Swim trunks, track pants

Footwear: Sandals, watershoes

Optional if Colder: tank top, rashguard, fleece/ hoodie, track pants
Head: Hat, sunglasses

Upper Layer: Bathing Suit/ bikini Top, water proof sunscreen

Bottom Layer: Swimsuit/ Bikini bottom, shorts or leggings

Footwear: Sandals, watershoes

Optional If Colder: long sleeve top, rashguard, fleece, leggings
Fall/ Spring(Paddling Close to Shore)

Head: Cap or Toque, sunglasses

Upper Layer: long sleeve shirt, water resistant jacket

Bottom Layer: Swim shorts, long johns, waterproof base layer, moisture wicking pants or skii pants

Footwear: Water Shoes or Surf Booties

If Colder: Wetsuit, or neoprene tops/ bottoms, surf booties, toque, neoprene gloves
(Paddling Close to Shore)

Head: Cap or toque, sunglasses

Upper Layer: Long Sleeve breathable shirt, rashguard, water resistant jacket

Bottom Layer: Leggings, long johns, waterproof base layer or moisture wicking pants
 
Footwear: Water Shoes or Surf Booties

If Colder: Wetsuit, or neoprene tops and bottoms Surf Booties, toque, neoprene gloves
Winter(Paddling Close to Shore)

Head: Toque (that covers ears), sunglasses

Upper Layer: Rashguard, Wetsuit or Noeprene tops, Fleece, a warm water resistant jacket, neoprene gloves

Bottom Layer: Water wicking bottom layer, Wetsuit, or neoprene bottoms, water resistant fast drying pants  

Footwear: Surf Booties or insulated water proof shoes

If Colder: Drysuit (10 C and below) with appropriate layering such as jackets, fleece’s, toque, thicker surf booties and neoprene gloves


(Paddling Close to Shore)

Head: Toque (including coverage for ears), sunglasses

Upper Layer: Bathing suit, Rashguard, Wetsuit or Neoprene tops, Fleece and a warm water proof winter jacket, neoprene gloves

Bottom Layer: Swimsuit, or water wicking bottom layer, wetsuit or neoprene tops and bottoms, warm water resistant pants

Footwear: Surf Booties or insulated waterproof shoes

If Colder: Drysuit (10 C and below) with appropriate layering such as jackets, fleece’s, toque, thicker surf booties and neoprene gloves
A quick Layering Guide

The Two Most Important Items Before Going out on the Water

The two most important things to wear in all seasons are a PFD and a SUP leash. Preferably both if you are just starting and need a refresher on those swimming lessons you had 20 years ago. 

First, let’s start with this stat…

In 2021 Out of the 18 listed Paddle Board Deaths in the United States 15 (83%) Were caused by Drowning which could have been prevented if they have the right PFD on.

USCG Boating Statistics 2021 (Page 48)

While the fatalities with paddle boarding are low compared to other water sports activities it’s still quite a remarkable stat that 83% of these fatalities could have easily been prevented if they were wearing a PFD. 

For those who are not proficient at swimming, I’d recommend a life vest. Otherwise, you can use a belf PFD or vest. We go through the Best Paddle Board Life Jackets here. 

We also highly recommend a SUP leash. This is especially crucial in moving water conditions as the board is attached to your ankle and comes right back to you. The good news is in most cases these come with the paddle board.

Now let’s get to our paddle board outfit guide

What to Wear Paddling in the Summer

Who said Chivalry is dead!?

Deciding what to wear in the summer is relatively easy. Still, we do recommend looking at the hourly weather forecast as sometimes hot days can turn into windy days. Take a look at the conditions and the speed of the wind. If you are on the ocean look at the tides. Let’s face it, getting caught in these conditions without the right clothing is not pleasant. 

Summer Paddle Board Clothing For Men

Of course, as mentioned above this depends on what the weather is doing, the region, etc. But if the heat is on you can go tarps off and a bathing suit. Just don’t forget about the sunscreen, unless you want to mimic the lobsters down below! 

What I like to wear is a bathing suit, tank top, hat, sunglasses, and sandals for boarding and docking the paddle board. If you are planning to paddle around dusk or dawn, I would recommend bringing a hoodie or waterproof fleece with you. You can place this in a dry bag to keep it from getting wet.

Summer Paddle Board Clothing for Women

If it’s hot out grab your board, bikini, and go for a nice tan while napping in the middle of the lake. As it gets cool outside you may want to consider bringing leggings with a rashguard or UV-resistant top. Waterproof Sunscreen is once again highly recommended along with sandals or water shoes for launch/ docking. a hat and sunglasses are also useful. What style you wear is up to you!

What to Wear Paddling in the Fall/ Spring

This can be a bit more difficult a question to answer as it depends on how early or late into the season it is. So dress as if you are going to fall in and you will be gravy. 

Water Temp C and FWetsuit ThicknessWhat to WearType of Seal 
22 C (72 F) +ThinRashguardRegular Stitch
18 – 24 C (65 – 75 F).5mm – 2/1 mmShorty WetsuitFlatlock/ Regular Stitch
16 – 20 C (62 – 69 F)2mm – 3/2 mmFull WetsuitFlatlock
14 – 17 C (58 – 62 F)3/2 mm – 4/3 mmFull Wetsuit + BootiesSealed
11 -14 C (52 – 58 F)4/3 mm – 5/4/3 mmFull Wetsuit + Booties + Gloves + HoodSealed +Taped
6 – 11 C (43 – 52 F)5/4 mm 0 5/4/3 mmFull Wetsuit + Booties + Gloves + Hood or DrysuitSealed +Taped
6 C and Below (42 F and Below)6/5 mm – 7mm +Full Wetsuit + Booties + Gloves + Hood or DrysuitSealed +Taped
This chart comes from the Evo wetsuits guide. Keep in mind each manufacturer will be a bit different but these are the general ranges

For both men and women, it’s appropriate to start thinking wetsuits so above is a chart that will let you know exactly what thickness you should get for what the water temperature is. 

Take a look at our Best Wet Suits for Paddle Boarding Guide to see our top picks. 

Fall/ Spring Paddle Board Clothing for Men

As it gets cooler you will want to get into rashguard/ wetsuit territory. If you can’t afford a wetsuit, paddle close to the shore in calm conditions and have a long sleeve base layer with waterproof long johns. Avoid wearing cotton or wool as this will stay wet and keep you cold. 

Consider waterproof shoes, but preferably surf booties with a jacket and cap to keep the heat from escaping your head. 

Fall/ Spring Paddle Board Clothing for Women

Unfortunately, bikini weather will most likely be over and it’s time to layer up! For those paddling close to shore and don’t want a wetsuit you can use things such as leggings and long-sleeved shirts as a base layer and build up from there with a sports jacket. As it gets colder, wetsuits will be more appropriate so bundle up accordingly! 

Like men, you can wear water shoes, surf booties, neoprene gloves, and a toque to keep warm while paddling. 

What To Wear Paddle Boarding in the Winter

This is where checking the water temperature of the area you are paddling becomes more and more important. When it’s snowing its best to look into dry suits. Drysuits will give you more range of motion while allowing you to layer appropriately underneath. A good rule of thumb is if it is 10 degrees C or lower get yourself a drysuit! We have a Best Drysuits for Paddle Boarding guide that goes through some of our favorite brands. 

We have a whole section on What to Wear Paddle Boarding in the Winter here. 

Winter Paddle Boarding Clothing for Men

Wetsuits may be appropriate for 10 degrees C and above or for SUP activities where you will be headed into the drink more than a few times. Neoprene tops and bottoms can also be appropriate if you do not have the budget for the wetsuit and are sticking close to shore. 

Rashguards, fleece sweatshirts, and winter jackets are all things that can be your top layer. On the bottom layer, you can wear jogging leggings and/ or track pants followed by skiing. Winter pants. My advice to you is to avoid cotton like the plague. A general rule of thumb is if you see snow on the ground, it’s best to start looking at dry suits. But make sure you check the water temperature as well!

It becomes even more important to wear things such as toques, neoprene gloves, and 4-6mm surf booties to keep your feet warm. 

Winter Paddle Boarding Clothing for Women

As a base layer things such as neoprene leggings or yoga pants are a good start for a bottom base. If you are not wearing a wetsuit a top base layer can include a rashguard, waterproof fleece, or a neoprene top followed by a winter jacket. All of these are good things to have underneath a dry suit. 

If you are going the wetsuit route then you can wear your layers on top of the wetsuit. Things like track pants, jackets, or fleece can go on top while you have a swimsuit underneath your wetsuit. 

Since it is cold it becomes more important to wear neoprene/waterproof gloves that keep your hands warm, a toque, and a good pair of surf booties with the appropriate thickness to them. Booties will be the things that are most likely to get wet so pay special attention to them and make sure you order the right size!

Handy SUP Add-Ons to Consider

What my front bungees ususally have stashed.

Below is a list of add-on accessories that i find handy to bring with me when I’m out paddling. To see our Complete Paddle Board Accessories List click here.

  • Water: For me, this is the most important thing to have onboard. Especially if you are paddling on a hot summer day. Dehydration is a B^%^& so try to avoid it as much as possible by keeping hydrated. I usually bring at least 2 water bottles on a 2 hour-long SUP adventure. 
  • Waterproof Sunscreen: Make sure it is waterproof otherwise it will be of little use if even your arm or foot gets wet. I like to store this in my dry bag. 
  • Whistle: In some areas like the waters of British Columbia this is required by law to have. So get one! Note, that some PFDs have them included in their pocket.
  • Dry Bag: Dry bags are super hand and it took me long enough to get one! But for $20 it’s something I use every time I go paddling. I like to store my car keys, wallet, fleece, and possibly a change of clothes.
  • Sandals: I don’t wear these on my SUP but rather use them for when I’m boarding/ docking and walking to my car. They are easy to stow under bungee straps
  • Water Proof Phone Case: It’s just a nice thing to have on you so you can quickly snap a picture of that seal without having to dig for 2 minutes in your dry bag. 
  • Waterproof speaker: Some people think this is a no-no but I like creeping people out with my bizarre taste in music, and the seals seem to be curious. In all seriousness thought this is a great companion when you are paddling with friends.
  • Kayak Seat/ Kit: This is a nice thing to have if you are on the water for long bouts at a time and want to switch it up to kayak mode. However, this does add extra weight to the board so carrying it to the shoreline and back to the car can be a pain. 
  • Soft Cooler: You have to keep your drinks warm somehow right? This is ideal for having those drinks on the water with friends or keeping your beverages nice and cool. 
  • Paddle Board Anchor: Although this is heavy it is handy to have when you want to be stationary. Especially if you are in the middle of the tides. This is also a necessity for SUP Yoga and SUP fishing. 

Paddle Boarding Activities and What to Wear

Not everyone just wants to paddle on the lake casually and take pictures for the gram. Some SUP activities require more flexible wear compared to having something like a dry suit on. 

SUP Yoga

SUP Yoga requires flexibility that things such as thicker wetsuits will not provide. SUP Yoga is best done in calm and warmer conditions where there is little to no breeze. Depending on how cold it is outside you can wear anything from a bathing suit/ bikini to leggings, rash guard or a thin neoprene top. Yoga clothing is also a good choice and may be ideal as you are used to practicing in it in the first place. 

We have a full What to Wear for Paddle Boarding Yoga article here.

SUP Fishing

For this, you can dress similarly to how a recreational SUPer would dress. Or you can put on your boating gear and get at er! Things such as waders may also want to be included if you are fishing in the shallows. Anchors and fishing spears are also recommended to keep the board in place while casting

SUP Surfing

This is where wetsuits and rashguards come into play depending on the temperature of the water.  When you are SUP surfing you are guaranteed to be falling into the water, getting splashed, and all that jazz. 

Remember the wetsuit guide in terms of thickness and dress according to the weather and the water temperature. In warmer temperatures rashguards and neoprene bottoms are appropriate as not only will they keep you warm from the colder water but they also will provide UV protection. 

If the water is colder you will also want to consider surf booties that are thinner so you can get a feel for the board. 

River/ Rapids Paddle Boarding

You will have a similar kit to surfing except you will need a helmet and a straight leash depending on the weather layer up or down but be sure that a PFD, leash, and helmet are mainstays to your equipment.

So What Do I Wear Paddle Boarding?

In the summer months, anything from bathing suits to rashguards is perfectly acceptable provided it is warm out. As you get into more chilly weather you may hybrid your bathing suits with rashguards, neoprene tops, or yoga leggings. In cold conditions, anything from a wetsuit to a drysuit will be acceptable depending on the water temperature. 

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Author:
Hey, My name is Derek Lenze and I'm the owner of Inflatable SUP Authority. I've had over 20 years experience with watersports and over 10 years of various paddle boarding experience. My new-found passion is bringing my stand up paddle boaring knowledge in an explainable and actionable way all the while giving you my unbiased takes.

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