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Ultimate Guide on What to Wear Paddleboarding - Dress Right & Stay Comfy

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


You’ve seen the magazine photos - smiling bikini-clad models paddling in the sun sporting dry hair and no pfd, or in some cases wearing nothing at all (we saw you, Orlando Bloom). As romantic and dreamy as paddleboarding in your birthday suit may appear, the reality of taking off most of your


clothes and safety gear while paddleboarding is impracticable and often unsafe. So if you shouldn't be in your birthday suit what paddle board clothing should you be wearing?


This question often comes up, especially with new stand-up paddle boarders. So what should you be wearing while out on the water?




Must Wear (Safety Gear)


Transport Canada recognizes stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) as human-powered vessels when they are used for navigation, similar to how kayaks and canoes are classified. This classification means that SUPs fall under the same rules and safety regulations as these other small, human-powered boats.


For instance, every person on board a stand-up paddleboard is required to wear a personal flotation device or lifejacket, just like those on a kayak or canoe. Furthermore, SUP operators do not need a boating license in Canada, as the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations only apply to motorized pleasure crafts. Hence, whether you're on a SUP, kayak, or canoe, you're expected to follow the same "rules of the road" and prioritize safety above all else.


The following safety gear is the most important part of any paddle boarding outfit and must always be taken, no matter what environment you are in:

  • A properly fitted PFD or life jacket

  • A pealess whistle or other sound signalling device

  • A coiled SUP leash (*for flatwater paddling)

  • Water shoes or sandals for beach landings



If you are looking for a PDF check out our post on best PDFs for paddle boarding.


Want a quick checklist to make sure you’re dressed and ready for your next SUP adventure? Grab a copy of our FREE downloadable Day Kit Checklist!


What to Wear Paddle Boarding in the Summer (>20°C)


In summer, opt for lightweight and moisture-wicking clothing like board shorts or a swimsuit, paired with a rash guard or breathable top to stay comfortable while paddleboarding.

  • Bathing suits, rash guards, board shorts or swim leggings

  • Workout clothes (short sleeve/board shorts) made of quick-dry fabrics - NOT COTTON

  • Sports sandals or water shoes

  • Sun protection - Sun hat, Sunscreen, Sunglasses with strap

  • Wind Breaker (take in your dry bag)


Can I wear leggings paddleboarding?

Yes, leggings are a suitable choice for paddleboarding as they provide comfort and flexibility while ensuring ease of movement on the water.



What to Wear Paddle Boarding in the Spring/Fall (10°C - 20°C);


During spring or fall, wear a wetsuit or layered clothing to stay comfortable while paddleboarding, considering the cooler air and water temperatures during these seasons.


  • Wetsuit (2-3mm for core warmth) or neoprene top + bottom

  • Insulation Layer (top + bottom) preferably wool or polyester

  • Wind-blocking layers over top of the wetsuit (paddle jacket/rain pants)

  • Toque and/or Sun Hat

  • Wool socks

  • Neoprene booties

  • Neoprene gloves

  • Buff or neck gaiter



What to Wear Paddle Boarding in the Winter/Cold Weather (<10°C):


In cold weather, wear a wetsuit or drysuit to stay warm while paddleboarding, along with neoprene booties and gloves to protect against the cold water.


With Wetsuit:

  • Wetsuit (5+ mm wetsuit thickness) preferably hooded

  • Base layer leggings + top

  • insulation layer leggings + top

  • Wind-blocking layers over top of the wetsuit (paddle jacket/rain pants)

  • Wool socks

  • Neoprene booties

  • Neoprene gloves

  • Toque and/or Sun hat

  • Buff or neck gaiter

Note: The colder it gets the thicker the wetsuit you will need to stay comfortable out on the water.


With a Drysuit:

  • Drysuit

  • Base layer leggings + top

  • Insulation layer pants + top

  • Wool socks (inside a drybag)

  • Neoprene booties

  • Neoprene gloves

  • Toque and/or Sun Hat

Note: Drysuits only work as well as the layers you wear underneath them.




If you don't have a wet suit, some suggest layering your winter clothing when paddle boarding and trying not to fall into the freezing cold water. This is not something we would recommend here at Blue Jellyfish SUP. While a thick wetsuit or a drysuit is expensive they are the only thing keeping you alive if you fall in. Not to mention, wearing all your winter clothing will weigh you down and make it harder to swim if you fall in.


If you're curious about the benefits of wetsuits and drysuits, check out this great video by Our Kite Life.


Should you wear shoes while paddleboarding?


While some paddleboarders choose to wear water shoes for added grip and protection, it's common to go barefoot or wear lightweight footwear for better connection with the board and water.


What should you wear white water paddleboarding?


When white water paddleboarding, it's crucial to wear appropriate gear including shoes, a helmet, insulation like a wetsuit, a PFD for flotation, padded protection, and carry a signaling device like a waterproof whistle. This gear combination ensures safety and comfort in challenging conditions.


Can you wear normal clothes while paddleboarding?


Yes, you can wear normal clothes while paddleboarding, but it's recommended to choose lightweight, quick-drying options that won't restrict your movement and will dry quickly if they get wet.


It should be noted that regular clothing should only be worn during the summers months. All other times of year, atleast in the Northern Hemisphere you should consider wearing a wetsuit or a drysuit.


Factors that Affect What to Wear


Here are some of the most important elements that affect what you will be wearing out there on the water.

  1. Water temperature

  2. Air temperature

  3. Wind Chill

  4. Heat generated from paddling

  5. Distance from shore, expected time on water & weather changes

  6. Sun Exposure

If you want to know how different environmental factors will affect what you wear and bring on your next paddling adventure, check out our article on the subject.


Don't Forget to Dress In Layers


Having an efficient layering system not only makes it easier to get dressed for the weather conditions at hand, but also guarantees that you will be prepared if the conditions unexpectedly change.


A three-layer system is the best way to ensure you'll stay warm and dry while paddling. The first layer repels water, the second keeps you warm, and the third protects you from dangerous conditions.


For paddling in cool, wet conditions this could mean a thin wool shirt, a fleecy and a rain jacket. In cold conditions, wool long underwear, a wetsuit and a windbreaker might be a good layering system for you. A system for warm conditions might mean wearing a bathing suit with a light fleecy and rain jacket stowed in your dry bag. It may take some trial and error to refine what works best for you, but over time and with gained experience you will start to learn your preferences.


A great place to buy SUP clothing in Canada is MEC


If you're looking for a fantastic variety of SUP clothing, accessories and different apparel at very competitive prices, then we highly recommend that you check out MEC (Mountain Equipment Company). They also have great customer service and a pleasant online shopping platform.


Conclusion


We've covered a lot of ground, and more questions may come up as you start to stand up paddle boarding in different weather conditions and surroundings. Seeking professional help before any journey is always a good idea and Safety should be paramount when planning your paddling trips and knowing what to wear and bring along on your board, will ensure you enjoy your outings with peace of mind and loads of stoke! And remember bringing an extra layer of clothing never hurts.


Now that you know what to wear while paddle boarding, it's time to learn how to pack a dry bag so you can be prepared for your next adventure.


Do you have a favourite drysuit or waterproof gloves you never leave shore without? Tell us in the comments below about some of your go to paddling clothes and the awesome adventures you wear them on.


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