You would be shocked how many people have no idea what to wear when going stand up paddleboarding. This does not come as a surprise. There are many aspects of SUP and it is a sport for all seasons; which makes the issue of SUP clothing a little tricky. Not to worry though, you do not need anything too fancy—just the right gear for the right occasion (or season in this case).
Because stand up paddle boarding is done across the world in different ways, this article seeks to be useful to all types of SUPers all around the globe. After reading, you will know what to wear and what not to wear.
Winter Paddleboarding Wear
Whether you want to ride the waves or just paddle leisurely on calm waters, your primary concern should be keeping yourself toasty in the low temperatures. You also need to stay dry and be covered in case you fall in the water—oh, you have to look good too. Check out some of the cold weather SUPing gear.
A wetsuit, just as its name suggests, is meant to keep you warm when it is wet. It is not usually recommended for paddleboarding because you might not get wet which will lead to the pangs of cold getting to you. However, only you know what you will be doing in the water and you deserve to know how it works so you can decide for yourself.
A wetsuit lets water in it; your body heats the water and gets warm. The water fits in between your skin and the suit. It has to be tight fitting otherwise too much water will get between your skin and the suit and cool your body instantly. That might be the last SUPing session for you, and you do not want to go out that way.
One more thing you need to know about a wetsuit is that the thickness matters. The suit, being neoprene, provides insulation to your body from the cold water. However, it does not do a perfect job and a little heat may escape from your body or the thin layer of water into the cold water and try to warm it up. This will make you cold—so the thicker the neoprene the better.
That said, a wetsuit is more suited for someone who will be getting in the water, like a surfer. If you insist on wearing a wetsuit to paddling on top of the water, layer up properly, both underneath and on top. A woolen garment under the suit and a fleece on top will keep you warm. Don’t wear too many clothes as they will become heavy and may be hazardous if you fall in the water.
Wetsuits are cheap and easy to find, but they are tight and restrictive to movement. There are sleeveless, short sleeves and full body-length wetsuits.
The drysuit is designed to keep you dry. Unlike the wetsuit, this suit provides enough room for movement. It is more suitable for leisure paddling in extreme conditions (45 degrees or less), lest you overheat. It is made up of nylon with a coating of waterproof/breathable laminate, and it often has latex gaskets at the neck, wrists and ankles and a zipper to lock water out. A drysuit will keep you completely dry even if you fall into the water.
However, note that it does not have insulation. You have to layer up for warmth—not too much though because you will be active and the heat may become too much.
Note: sometimes, neither a drysuit nor a wetsuit is necessary; especially if you are going to race or leisure paddle until you heat up. For recreational paddling in not-so-extreme conditions, put on thermal base layers, dry trousers, and a waterproof top. For racing, thermal shorts and a neoprene top will serve you.
With your body taken care of, it is time to think about the extremities. How do you keep those warm (and dry?)
There is not much talk about what to wear on your head while cold weather paddling but you would be making a mistake if you don’t have something. It is advisable that you find whatever makes you warm and comfortable such as a wool cap or neoprene hood.
Some people prefer wool gloves while others prefer neoprene gloves. It is all a matter of choice as long as you keep warm. Most neoprene gloves are specifically designed for paddlers and even have curved fingers to make paddling easier but they tend to be pricey. Woolen gloves are cheap and if you get light ones, mobility will not be an issue.
Now, even if you wear all the layers that you own and fail to cover your feet, your whole body will feel cold. When the feet are warm, the rest of the body will follow suit. The best shoes to wear paddleboarding in colder weather are neoprene booties.
They are super warm and in case you fall, they will dry fast. For extra warmth, heat them up before you hit the water. Just like the wetsuit, the boots come in a range of thickness, usually 2mm-8mm. The weather conditions should dictate the perfect thickness but the thinner, the better. There are socks available to wear beneath the boots and provide added warmth.
If your drysuit has socks, there is a range of footwear such as Wellington boots, crocs, etc. that you can wear to protect the fabric.
Autumn Paddleboarding Wear
With the temperature being a little higher than in winter, dressing for SUP in autumn is more like dressing for winter, only with reduced layers.
If you are going surfing, wear a wetsuit and 3mm thick neoprene boots. You are likely to get wet and this will keep you warm, as discussed earlier. If you are just paddling leisurely, have shorts that are quick to dry in case you fall in, a base layer top and a light waterproof top layer. Neoprene boots are also advisable, lest your feet freeze on the board.
For SUP racing, you will be getting heated up pretty fast. Wear thermal shorts and maybe a short-sleeved neoprene top. Put on 3mm or 6mm boots, depending on the extremity of the weather.
A general tip to guide you: wear lightweight garments that will not get uncomfortable if you begin to heat up and are quick to dry in case you take an unexpected swim. Because the conditions are unpredictable, pack extra layers in a bag to wear if it gets too cold.
SUP Yoga Wear
Yoga and standup paddleboarding seem to be the best duo (well, after bread and butter). SUP is a hybrid of surfing and canoeing. It requires immense core strength and balance. Yoga, on the other hand, is a skill that you learn and it calls for great balance, core strength and flexibility since you move through different body poses. The paddleboard is used as a yoga mat and doing the poses on the water makes the exercise more intense. The intensity of this activity and the serenity of being on water heighten the experience. SUP yoga challenges your spirit and physical strength to help you connect with nature, enhance focus and build your core strength.
SUP yoga may seem like a difficult activity but it is not—as long you learn how to balance, you will be fine. Now, this does not mean that it is a piece of cake; it only means that anyone can do it.
What should you wear? First of all, check the weather. It is the most critical determining factor. Secondly, be aware that you will be stretching and doing many kinds of poses and the clothes should be comfortable. Thirdly, wear something that is wardrobe malfunction proof and one that won’t have you worrying about giving people a show. Finally, what you choose to wear should not get bulky and uncomfortable if you happen to fall into the water.
Swimwear is the one thing you can never go wrong with, whatever you normally wear while going for a swim. Before going to SUP yoga, try a few poses in front of a mirror to make sure the areas you want to be covered will be covered regardless of the pose. For women, a one-piece swimsuit or bikini is an excellent choice. Carry along a skirt or shorts to wear over it. Men can go with swim trunks or board shorts.
If it is too sunny, consider bringing a rash guard with you to protect you against sunburn, in case you are out in the sun for long.
Your usual yoga clothing is also suitable for SUP yoga. It is not restrictive when doing poses. Besides, if you wear it to yoga classes when it is hot, then it is definitely perfect for wearing in water.
For the feet, some people prefer to go barefooted because then the feet stick firmly onto the board. If you insist on shoes, go for water-safe shoes. Aqua socks, water sandals, and flip-flops are all ideal.
What Not To Wear SUPing
So your sweatpants feel great, and since you are not planning to take a swim, you might as well get all comfy as you paddle, right? Wrong! If by any chance you fall into the water (which is very likely, regardless of how good you are), your day will be ruined. Cotton sucks up water like a sponge and it takes forever to dry up. Now imagine paddling with a heavy, wet sweat pant out in the sun; not so comfortable, huh? Do yourself a favor and avoid cotton.
Please, save your shoes for running. Unless it is cold and you have to wear water-appropriate boots, or sandals for yoga, leave your shoes on the beach. Your feet muscles are usually very involved during SUPing. Having shoes on will only restrict movement and make it harder to make adjustments. If you fall in the water, they may also fill up with water and make things harder for you. Think about it; there is no need to wear shoes paddling. They won’t even protect you from oysters; they will scrape you with or without shoes.
Huge Heavy Shorts
This is a mistake you must never make. You may not expect to swim, but there is no sure way to avoid falling while paddling. If you do, those huge shorts will get heavy and uncomfortable. You can also get a nasty rash from the wet shorts. Even worse, they are very likely to slide right off should you fall in the water—then how will you get back on your board?
These don’t necessarily count as SUP wear, but they are very important; you should have them.
PFD: a personal floatation device is mostly for your safety. In some places, you can’t go paddling without one. Always wear a SUP PFD even though you think you are a good swimmer. The waters can be unpredictable and you want to be prepared in case of anything.
Camelback: you might need water, your cell phone, a snack and anything else while out there in the water. Instead of paddling to the shore every time you want something, why not carry it with you?
Sunscreen and sunglasses: this is a no-brainer; if it is hot carry sunglasses and sunscreen to protect yourself. The sun can be harsh, you know.
A whistle: even if it does not seem useful, just carry one. Better safe than sorry.
Stand up paddle boarding is a fantastic sport for all seasons and water bodies. However, you need to be informed to be safe and protect yourself from the elements. When the weather is extremely cold, have a wetsuit on; although a wetsuit is not usually recommended by many professional SUPers because you might not get wet. You can also get uncomfortably hot if the weather is not that cold. To be safe, just save it for extreme conditions. A drysuit, on the other hand, will offer you freedom of movement but it is a little bit expensive. Nevertheless, it is a good investment.
The temperatures during autumn vary from place to place. It is wise, therefore, to use your best judgment and use the above guidelines to know what you should wear. The same goes for winter and paddle boating. Dressing up for SUP Yoga should not stress you as you can wear pretty much anything as long as your comfort and modesty are guaranteed. Stay safe and enjoy your time in the water.