Paddle Board Clothing – What to Wear
So you are hearing all of the hype and you’ve decided to give paddle boarding a go. After all it is one of if not the fastest growing water sports globally. You’ve checked out YouTube or borrowed a friends board or perhaps taken a lesson or two. You may have even splashed out and bought yourself a board.
As it’s pretty much an all season water sport you really want to make sure that you have the right kit on though. It stands to reason that the more proficient you are on your board then the less likely you are to end up taking a splash so you will be able to tailor what you wear within reason. You should always expect the unexpected when out on the water though so a bit of commonsense should prevail.
Unless you are an experienced paddler and competent swimmer then a PFD is really important. You may become flustered or lose your bearings if you unexpectedly fall into the water particularly if you are paddling in challenging weather and water conditions so taking your safety seriously should always be a priority. In some countries, wearing a PFD is compulsory for juveniles in particular as SUPs can also be referred to as ‘vessels’. Understanding the local regulations in the country / region where you are paddling is an important safety requirement so if you’re unsure, then find out more.
Wearing a leash is of equal importance as it will ensure that you and your board do not become separated. In the event that you do take a spill it is very easy for your board to get away from you more so in rougher and windy water conditions so for both peace of mind and your own personal safety, leashes are also a must.
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It might take a little more effort in a colder climate, but it is time and effort that will be very well spent – hypothermia is no laughing matter.
Akin to surfing, a wetsuit is always a great place to start for colder weather / water conditions. There are various types of wetsuits but essentially, the colder the weather the thicker the wetsuit. Made from neoprene and varying in thickness (typically 3mm – 7mm), a wetsuit is not 100% watertight as it allows a small amount of water into the suit. With the water on your skin, your body temperature will warm the water so you’re nicely protected from the elements. It’s also quite common to wear a wet shirt or ‘rashie‘ under your wetsuit which will provide added warmth as well as stopping annoying skin irritations, chaffing or rashes – hence the name.
If the conditions are particularly cold then you can opt for a drysuit which will keep you totally dry. They work by trapping air instead of water between your skin and the suit as they have airtight seals or gaskets around your neck, ankles, and wrists which keeps the water out. They can be quite expensive and aren’t particular comfortable so may restrict your mobility. You should wear a rashie underneath and can in fact wear other layers of clothing although this may be an overkill unless your in extremely cold and icy conditions.
This leaves us with the extremities of the body, your hands, feet and head. Made from the same material as your wetsuit, neoprene boots or ‘booties’ and gloves are a great addition and will give you that added protection from the elements. Make sure that they have grip on both the soles and palms of the hands. While there are now debunked myths that you lose a high percentage of your body heat from your extremities, I think we can all agree that ice-cold fingers and toes won’t make for the best paddling experience.
If you’re not keen on going through the extra expense of buying a wetsuit or other neoprene items, then wearing multiple layers of clothing is the key. You should be confident that you won’t be taking a spill in the water mind you. Something like a pair of leggings or yoga pants and a rashie or fitted gym top as a base layer followed by a lightweight fleece jacket is a good starting point. For colder weather, add additional layers underneath and perhaps finish off with a waterproof spray jacket for added protection. Waterproof or non-slip shoes and a hat or beanie are also nice additions. Remember you can always stow away clothing and other items in your waterproof bag using your boards bungee straps. Think about sunglasses and sunscreen as well. If you can get sun burnt snow skiing then the same applies for cold water paddling.
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The warmer the weather the easier paddle board clothing gets – somewhat logical of course.
It can still get chilly out on the water mind you so you should start with your lightweight summer beachwear and then layer up as needed – similar to winter wear, layers still remain the key. A fleece or waterproof / spray jacket to offer your core some protection will be useful particularly in windy conditions. Quick dry style and breathable clothes are ideal for when you do get wet. A wet shirt or rashie is actually a good option for all seasons whether worn as a layer in the cooler weather or on its own. Rashies not only offer protection from the elements, they also don’t restrict your movement, are lightweight and dry quickly. If you do plan on SUPing year round, then having a second thinner wetsuit is also a nice choice for when you’re transitioning between the colder and warmer seasons.
Sun protection (hat, sunnies & sunscreen) is still advisable and if fact is important in all weather conditions. Depending on how cold the weather is, you should also consider some form of non-slip footwear as well. If neoprene booties are not your thing then a pair of good grip watersports shoes or scandals are always a good idea. Importantly, stay away from heavier shoes or regular sports shoes as they will become cumbersome and potentially give you less grip once they are wet. Your board will have some form of EVA deck padding for added grip and support but footwear should also be considered if the weather is on the colder side.
We saved the best for last as when its comes to the hotter weather its all about the B’s – beachwear, boardshorts and bikinis!!
Summer is the one season where you probably want to take a dip or end up in the water so wearing your swimwear while SUPing is both the easiest and most logical option. Lightweight, quick dry boardshorts and a rashie for the boys and a bikini or one-piece for the ladies again with a rashie if desired. As your deck pad will offer ample stability and grip, barefoot paddling is the best approach for summer as this will give you the most optimal feel for your board.
More so than any other season, sun protection is particularly important in hot weather conditions. As you’ll be out on the water exerting yourself, you can very quickly become dehydrated and / or sun burnt so protecting yourself from the heat can never be underestimated. We recommend a waterproof SPF 30 (or above) sunscreen as this will offer you the best skin protection. You should also wear a wide brimmed hat as well as sunglasses with a strap so you don’t lose them. In fact there are some reasonably priced polarised sunnies that float which are a great option if you do take a spill. Whilst not clothing related, its always a great idea to also carry a water bottle with you as well – either under your bungee straps or attached via one of your boards D-rings. Hydration is important so don’t let this one fall off the to do list.
Beyond the climate related ‘what to wear’, you might be out on the water doing something other than general recreational paddling. If your SUP surfing for instance, like traditional surfing, swimwear, rashies and wetsuits will be the order of the day dependent upon the weather conditions. If Yoga is your thing then normal yoga or gym wear will typically suit with perhaps a rashie for the added sun protection. Lightweight and quick dry fabrics are important as they shouldn’t restrict your mobility and will provide you with added protection from rashes and skin irritations.
Paddle Board Fishing is also increasing in popularity so in addition to wearing your normal fishing kit perhaps also consider wearing gloves as well as a fishing vest which will give you quick and easy access to your kit. Again, aim for lightweight attire as you have a greater chance of ending up in the water when compared to fishing from a boat for instance.
If you are at the more extreme end of the SUPing curve – whitewater and river paddling, then above and beyond your seasonal related clothing, safety attire is critically important. Rough water paddlers will likely know this of course as this is typically for the seasoned and experienced SUPers. One of the core assumptions when paddling in rough waters is that you will more than likely end up in the drink. This means that in addition to wearing a wetsuit, you should always wear a PFD, booties and of course a helmet. Even in warmer climates, you can easily come into contact with rocks or other submerged debris so putting your safety first and foremost is not really negotiable.
At the end of the day the whole idea about getting out on the water is to enjoy yourself and have some fun. If you pre-plan, look at the forecast and use your commonsense then you probably won’t go too far wrong. Consider the climate, keep yourself warm if needs be, wear your safety kit and remember your sun protection. Unless you are looking to capture some ‘attractive people’ pics, then you’re not out there to make a fashion statement. Or perhaps you are?!
As always we would love to hear from you so please feel free to leave your thoughts below and we will get back to you.
Until then, stay safe and get wet.