WHAT TO WEAR PADDLE BOARDING
As Autumn draws in, one of the most commonly asked questions that we receive are from people wanting to continue paddle boarding into the colder months and are unsure about what clothing is best for year-round paddling. We have therefore decided to put together some information, to help those new to the sport to consider some of the clothing options that we use at TJBoardhire. This is not meant as an exhaustive list, just a helpful guide towards the kit that we find works best for us throughout the changing seasons.
We love to enjoy all seasons on the water and the colder days are no reason to stop having fun. However, the cooler temperatures do mean more thought (and expense) to make sure that your adventures are enjoyable and safe.
On warm summer days, paddle boarding is a sport enjoyed by many and it is common to see people out in swim shorts and bikinis. The warmer air and water temperatures mean that paddlers are far more willing to fall in and dry off naturally. Whilst this is great for short paddles on the sea and canals, it is helpful to think a little bit more about clothing if you are planning to spend a day out on the rivers or on any coastal excursions. In the UK, it is a rare few days that we experience warm sunny days with low winds and as such, if you plan to be out for any period of time, we would recommend that you always prepare for the worst. At the very least, invest in a decent drybag such as those by Overboard. These bags come in different sizes and when sealed correctly, will keep your kit dry through any submersions. When packing your bag, consider the possibility that you may fall in. Whilst many of us might consider ourselves competent and unlikely to fall in, the reality is that paddle boarding is a water sport and the risk of taking a dunk is always a possibility. If you are out on a river or coastal trip for a day and get wet, it is always advisable to have a change of clothing on board, so that you can get dry and avoid that uncomfortable wind chill which can soon impact on your enjoyment. A light, long-sleeved top and leggings, do not take up much room and are certainly advisable, on cooler days, it is also advisable to take a warmer layer and a waterproof cag such as the PalmTempo. This will come in very handy in the event of a shower and to protect against any wind chill. Light short or long-sleeved rash tops such as those by Da Kine and O’neill are great to layer up and often these have the additional benefit of UPVC protection. On cooler days 1-2mm neoprene leggings and SUP jackets such as Prolimit, Palm, Decathlon, will provide that additional layer of warmth.
When learning to paddle board, particularly on the sea, you will likely fall in a few times and this may mean you get colder more quickly. A light summer wetsuit will really help to prolong your enjoyment of the activity. Summer wetsuits come in both full (with arms and legs) and shorty (short arms and legs). Summer wetsuits are usually marketed as 3/2mm, this means that they are 3mm in the body and 2mm in the arms and legs to enable a warmer core temperature whilst ensuring that movement in the limbs is not reduced. One of the main draw backs of wearing a wetsuit is that they are great when you are in the water, however once out of the water they can quickly become quite cold when wet, especially if there is any windchill. Check out this helpful guide from Quiksilver that will help you to think about the best wetsuits to suit you.
Another option is a long John / Jane style wetsuit that will keep the legs and body warm, whilst allowing full movement and flexibility of the arms which is particularly welcomed by paddlers. Our favourite is the Palm Blaze, the thermofibre lining really does make a difference in terms of keeping you warm in the event of you getting wet.
Most paddle boarders prefer to be barefoot as this feels most comfortable on the boards. However, on any rivers, canals and the sea, if you fall in you are at risk of putting your feet down on unknown objects such as rocks, branches and other debris. A light pair of water shoes will protect your feet and reduce the risk of injury. These will also come in handy for stopping off at the country pubs along the way. As well as the wetsuit bootie styles, designs such as the Jobe slip on water shoes are a lightweight alternative with hard wearing soles for in and out of the water.
On very warm days, there are the obvious considerations of a hat, suncream and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from the harmful reflections exacerbated by the sun on the water.
The changing autumnal colours of the trees along the rivers and canals, result in spectacular scenery to enjoy and the reduction in numbers of other water users means that Autumn is a great time to get out and explore. However, even more care is needed when thinking about what to wear as the temperatures drop. As outlined previously, wetsuits are great for submersion in water, however they are not always the warmest option when you are on top of the water on a SUP. More wetsuit manufacturers are considering the changing needs of water users, and as such the introduction of Thermofibre and fleece linings are welcomed by those who may be in and out of the water. At this time of the year, a long John/ Jane wetsuit such as the Palm Blaze 3mm, teamed with a long sleeved rash top and cag can be a good combination. We really rate the Blaze suits above some of the others that we have tried, partly because of the warm Thermofleece lining and also because of the male and female specific relief zips that can be a godsend on long paddles, when stripping off is not a welcome prospect. The freedom of arm movement is great for paddling, whilst ensuring that the body is warm, prepared for the water temperature and any wind chill.
Cags provide the ideal lightweight option for any rain showers and to protect against wind chill. We use Palms range of jackets such as the Vantage, this has the hood and fleeced lined hand-warmer, and also the Vector, which is a great basic spray jacket. You may want to consider a jacket with latex wrist, waist and neck seals for total protection in the event of falling in.
Again, carry a kit bag with a warm change of clothing if going out on any tours or expeditions. A beanie hat such as those by Palm or Hatha, will take up very little space but will be a much-welcomed piece of kit on cooler days. A light pair of gloves may also be a consideration. We use Palm open palm mitts as these allow unrestricted paddle grip and keep the fingers warmer and protected from the wind.
During the Autumn/ Winter, footwear is vital as standing in one position on a SUP can result in the feet becoming cold quickly. We really rate Palm Gradient boots for a robust boot that will keep your feet warm, whilst allowing you to walk confidently across any rocks and get off your board to explore new locations. For a more lightweight option a light wetsuit boot will offer protection and warmth.
Autumn can be a great time to get on the sea and enjoy the swell along the coasts that often results in great waves, that are a lot of fun for SUP surfing. During September and October, a full-length wetsuit (2-3mm) and rash top will do the job. Sea temperatures will not yet be too cold and as you will likely be in and out the water and moving frequently this is probably the best combination.
For the hardiest of paddlers, Winter is the time that we have to really think most about our kit.
If surfing through the winter, a full winter wetsuit is essential. A winter wetsuit will need to be between 4-6 mm in the body and 2-4 mm in the limbs. Thermal rash tops will add an additional layer of warmth and prevent against chafing. Consider investing in a hood, or cap to help prevent ice-cream headaches and also to protect the ears from the wind and cold. We really rate Billabong Furnace 7mm Split toe boots for toasty feet throughout the winter months. The split toe design, separates the big toe, allowing greater stability and more grip than regular round toe designs. Check out this article from Just Paddleboard for a helpful, detailed overview of different bootie styles. Many people prefer to wear gloves in the winter and in the sea. However, be prepared that the thicker mm of glove will restrict your ability to grip your paddle and can feel uncomfortable. Again, the mitt style gloves will allow protection from the wind, whilst allowing unobstructed access to the paddle. We also highly recommend a warm ChangeRobe for when you come out of the water. These are fantastic to keep you warm and protect against the wind chill, whilst allowing you to manoeuvre yourself out of a wet wetsuit. They aren’t cheap, however we would say they make a great Christmas or Birthday present idea for any budding winter paddlers.
For touring during the Winter months, planning what to wear paddle boarding is vital. Take the usual precautions of ensuring that people know your whereabouts and make sure that you have a well-stocked kit bag that allows you to prepare for all eventualities. Most people prefer to layer up for colder days, so that layers can be removed as you start to work and warm up. A combination of a thermal rash top, long john style wetsuit, mitts and a cag, combined with a warm hat is often a good alternative to full winter wetsuits for longer touring paddles where you may plan to spend less time in the water. During the Winter months, dressing for the water temperature is crucial, as should you take an unexpected dip during January or February, the risk of cold water shock is a very real consideration.
For those who are considering longer expeditions throughout the winter, a good drysuit is our preferred option. During the winter when we are less busy with lessons we spend more time getting out to explore new locations. Our preferred drysuits are without doubt the Palm Bora. Again, Palm are top of their game with male and female specific suits with strategically placed relief zips that make the world of difference on those longer winter paddles. These suits are warm, breathable and with a light base layer allows you to stay safe in the knowledge that should you take a dip that the super soft neoprene neck and wrist seals and AquaSeal zips will ensure that you stay completely dry. These are not the cheapest and there are other budget alternatives on the market, however we have not tried these to offer any guidance.
Above all, whatever the season, paddle boarding is a sport that can be enjoyed as long as a little thought is put into planning for worst-case scenarios. Always plan your routes, make sure that someone knows where you are going and regardless of the air-temperature, always make sure that you are dressed for the water temperature, with a warm change of clothing, PFD, a method of communication, a drink and something to eat.
Personal Floatation Devices
Whatever the season, the most important piece of clothing on any body of water is a PFD (Personal Floatation Device). We use the Palm Roam for our customers on any river trips and the Peyto for ourselves. The Peyto offers pockets for keeping essential items such as tow ropes, knives and radio’s and also has a handy fleece hand warmer which is perfect for colder Winter paddles. As buoyancy aids can feel restrictive and hot on summer days, there are a range of options including belts such as our favourite the Palm Glide. The less bulky, belt style PFD’s can be inflated by pulling a cord if required and securing around the neck. These belts fit snugly around the waist and do not restrict paddling.
As competent water sports people, when surfing we do not personally opt for a Buoyancy Aid. The bulkiness and restrictiveness is not conducive for allowing ease of getting in and out of the water. In surf conditions, a good alternative is an impact vest. Impact vests offer some additional buoyancy, whilst not being restrictive when getting on and off the board. For more information about PFD’s and other safety considerations when paddling, check out our separate information blog.
This blog is aimed at providing advice regarding what to wear paddle boarding, for those planning to paddle throughout the year and is based on our own experience of trying different kit to see what works best for us. Many people will have different ideas and suggestions of brands that we have not tried so cannot comment on. Please let us know if you have any other recommendations that others may find useful.
Happy paddling 🙂