What to Wear Paddle Boarding: The Guide to All Seasons

What to wear paddle boarding

There’re a few things that can completely ruin your stand up paddle board experience – gusty winds, rain and last but not least, wearing the wrong attire. Weather can be unpredictable, but preparing the right clothes is up to you.  You always need to be prepared with the proper clothing before you leave for a paddle boarding trip to ensure you’re comfortable the entire time you’re on the water. So, what do I wear man?

Today, we will explore the best clothing used for paddle boarding. We will cover the proper attire for all seasons and locations in the United States. Believe it or not, you can paddle board year-round wherever you live. Paddle boarding up north in the dead of winter can be frigid, but it’s the novelty that makes it worthwhile. Let’s dig in!

What to wear paddle boarding

The most important thing to wear paddle boarding

You need to always wear a leash and have a USCG-approved life jacket with you when you go paddle boarding. Paddle boards are recognized as a vessel by the US Coast Guard which means you are always required to have a USCG-approved life jacket with you while paddle boarding. However, we highly recommend that you wear your life jacket during your entire paddle. Kids under the age of 12 are required to wear a USGC-approved life jacket at all times when paddle boarding. The only exception to this requirement is if you’re SUP surfing. If you’re SUP surfing you are not required to have a USGC-approved life jacket with you.

For a personal flotation device, there are a variety of jacket styles for you to choose from. Today, you can find smaller more compact life jackets that simply buckle around your waist like a belt. We recommend checking out West Marine’s life jacket selection because they have the most comfortable and stylish ones around.

What to wear paddle boarding

What to wear paddle boarding when it’s hot

Everywhere in the US experiences warm, beautiful weather in the summer. Because of the warmer weather, the summer is considered paddle board season nationwide. Everyone and their moms, aunts, nephews, and dogs are taking their paddle boards out to enjoy the endless summer sunshine.

Paddle boarding in the summer means occasionally diving off your SUP to cool off and enjoy the water. This means you will need waterproof clothing like a bathing suit, rash guard or water resistant activewear to be happy and comfortable. The most popular summer paddle board attire is boardshorts for men and a swimsuit for women (bikini or one piece). However, there’s one thing these ideal summer outfits are missing – sunscreen. Waterproof sunscreen to be exact. Your summer paddle board attire should always be paired with waterproof sunscreen, so you don’t grow old and wrinkly like Aunt Bettie who takes extended vacations in Florida every summer.

We recommend paddle boarding barefoot in the summer. The feeling of paddle boarding begins with your feet, so being barefoot is the best way to be one with your SUP. Paddle sports footwear does exist, but we recommend the barefoot approach. However, for cold weather paddling boarding, (we explain in more detail later) you will need to wear wetsuit booties when the conditions become freezing, so your feet don’t turn into icicles.

It’s important to know that you can always de-layer out in the water by bringing a dry bag with you. For example, if you go paddle boarding for sunrise in the summer and it’s still cool out, wear a light sweatshirt or long sleeve tee and then when it starts to get warmer, take it off and put it in your dry bag. A dry bag will also come in handy when air temperatures are scorching out there and you want to dive in and swim around without getting your top wet or more importantly your cell phone, wallet or car keys.

Summer paddle board styles for men:

  • Just boardshorts
  • Boardshorts with a rash guard or tee shirt
  • Light flannel or sweatshirt
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses

Summer paddle board styles for women:

  • Just a bathing suit (bikini or one piece)
  • Waterproof performance shorts with a rash guard
  • Light flannel or sweatshirt
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses

What to wear paddle boarding

What to wear paddle boarding when it’s cold

The fall and winter months bring cold weather across the U.S so if you’re going to continue paddle boarding through the seasons, you’re going to need the proper gear. Wetsuits are a must in any weather below 50 degrees. A rule a thumb: as the weather gets colder, your wetsuit gets thicker.

The most common type of cold weather paddle boarding is SUP surfing. There are many SUP surfers who still paddle out in the dead of winter when the water reaches below 50 degrees. A wetsuit is a must for SUP surfing in colder weather because you’re more likely to wipeout.

Wetsuits are designed to trap a small portion of water between your skin and the inside of your suit. Your body heat warms this thin layer of cold water keeping you surprisingly warm even in the coldest water.

If you want to stay warm while paddle boarding in cold weather, you need to get a wetsuit that fits you properly. If your wetsuit is too loose, too much water will get inside your suit, which will break the warm water barrier we mentioned in the paragraph above. The perfect fitting wetsuit will fit snug across your whole body – the arms will end right before your hands and the legs will end just before your feet. It should fit you like a rubber glove. Here is a wetsuit sizing guide to help you find your perfect size.

The thicker your wetsuit, the more warmth it will provide you. There are 5 thickness’ of wetsuits. Generally, a winter wetsuit should be between 4 to 6 mm thick. However, increased thickness does decrease mobility. See below to find out which thickness wetsuit you will need for cold water paddle boarding.

50-degree weather

30-degree weather

Less than 10-degree weather

What to wear paddle boarding

Alternatives to wetsuits

If you aren’t paddle boarding in 30 to less than 10-degree weather, you don’t necessarily need to wear a wetsuit. Winter wetsuits are pricey, so if you’re cold weather paddle boarding on a budget, the best way to protect yourself in 40-50-degree weather is to layer up.  Wearing a warm, long sleeve base layer and then a throwing a winter jacket over that will do the trick. Same goes for your bottom attire. A warm base layer (leggings or long johns) and then water resistant pants. In addition, don’t forget a winter hat and gloves.

What to wear paddle boarding

What to wear for SUP yoga

Wearing the proper attire for SUP yoga is key to effectively practice yoga flows. Before you do SUP yoga, make sure to check the weather to see if you will need to layer up.

SUP yoga styles of women

SUP yoga styles for men

What wear for SUP yoga

What to wear for SUP fishing

SUP fishing is a new paddle boarding trend that many fishing fanatics are getting into. Fishing from a paddle board has many perks that are explained here. We also compare fishing from a paddle board vs. a kayak. Which is better? In terms of what to wear while SUP fishing, you can pretty much throw on the outfit you would typically wear when fishing from a boat.

What to wear SUP fishing

Posted in Paddle Board Gear, Paddle Board Lifestyle, Paddle Boarding Tips & Tricks
Douglas Robichaud - Doug is the Marketing Content Manager at ISLE Surf and SUP and has been surfing and paddle boarding for over 10 years. With a degree in English/Journalism, Doug has been an outdoor adventure content writer for over 4 years. Since joining the ISLE team, he has become a paddle board expert in all topics ranging from products, basic tutorials, tips & tricks, SUP safety and new trends.