Paddleboarding can be thrilling or relaxing but sometimes, it can get dangerous as well. Especially with seasons changing a paddleboarding site may not be as safe in winter than it is during summer. There are many elements to consider and usually these are uncontrollable environmental factors or weather conditions that can easily turn a fun trip into an accident waiting to happen. However, equipping yourself with the weather appropriate gear will allow you to paddleboard at your favorite locations all year round whenever it is safe to do so. Here is a guide to what you should wear for each season.
What will I need to wear, regardless of the season?
In any sport, the fundamental basics are the most important things to nail first. The same goes for gear when it comes to paddleboarding or any other water sport. Being in open water is already a risk in itself and although facilities are keeping watch to maintain safety standards, there are incidents that are caused by naturally occurring events in the environment. Thankfully, there are basic garments and equipment that can help you stay safe even through unfavorable circumstances. Here is a quick list of paddleboard gear basics:
- Lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD)
- SUP Leash
- Safety Whistle
- Rash Guard
- Water bottle
Remember that among all equipment and gear, safety devices should always be top priority. The basics mainly cover you as a user to protect you from possible injuries and flotation devices to keep your head above water. Also, note that the SUP leash can turn the board into an added flotation device by keeping you attached to the buoyant board. It might seem like a trivial accessory but it can save lives.
Especially if it’s your first time to paddleboard, you may want to go through this article to check what you need to bring and do before the trip!
What Kind of Wetsuit Should I Wear?
A Wetsuit is a basic piece of clothing that is used for many watersports including paddleboarding. Of course, there are many variations in terms of thickness according to different temperatures. It is best to take note of that and wear the appropriate wetsuit. To make things easier, here is a quick guide on how thick your wetsuit should be according to temperature as recommended by the Wetsuit Centre:
- 3MM – 16.5 Degrees Celsius
- 4MM – 14.5 Degrees Celsius
- 4.5MM – 12 Degrees Celsius
- 5MM – 11 Degrees Celsius
- 5.5MM – 9 Degrees Celsius
- 6MM – 6 Degrees Celsius
- 7MM – 5 Degrees Celsius
You can access the full detailed guide here. However, you can still definitely go a bit thicker or lighter depending on your tolerance. If there is a risk where the season has shifted to unpredictably cold temperatures, it would be best to pack extra garments to cover up, adding more layers of protection and warmth. It’s always best to stay safe by being ready for the extremes, so always pack for the unexpected.
Winter clothing for paddle boarding
Winter is a jolly season for most but for paddleboarders, it can be excruciating. You certainly shouldn’t paddleboard in the winter when weather conditions are unfavorable or are predicted to turn for the worse. If you do intend on paddleboarding in the winter for the less crowded locations and beautiful sites, timing is key. Make sure you are well-informed with the weather movements and with any updates from the local authorities regarding regulations if the activity is allowed.
With temperatures averaging at 2-7 degrees Celsius and sometimes even going even below 0, the cold can be your worst enemy in open water. So it is crucial to gear up with insulating garments:
- Thermal Wear (Tops and Bottoms) – In the winter time, it’s all about insulation. Some suits may provide a certain level of insulation but it is best to layer up so you don’t freeze in and out of the water.
- Wetsuit or Drysuit – You can go for a wetsuit or drysuit according to preference. A drysuit designed specifically for paddleboarding is recommended as you may prefer to not have water against your skin. Either way, try to avoid a full body suit. A full body suit may be restricting and in the cold, you wouldn’t want to limit your range in motion.
- Neoprene leggings – Whether you’re already wearing bottoms and a suit, the neoprene can act as an extra layer of warmth that can also protect you from splashes of water.
- Socks – Thermal or neoprene is highly recommended to keep you warm and dry.
- Boots – You definitely want to keep your feet dry so you don’t freeze them off. There are wetsuit boots that may be ideal for this activity but any pair of boots that have non-slip soles can work just as well.
- Gloves – Neoprene gloves or any other material that can keep your hands warm and dry will be best for paddleboarding. You can’t risk losing the strength in your grip with the numbing cold so make sure to keep your hands warm.
- Hat – Your head will be exposed to the cold so make sure to bring a wool hat or beanie to add a layer of protection as well.
On top of these garments, you’re welcome to wear additional layers such as hoodies or jackets that can provide some added warmth (but don’t forget the lifejacket). The basic rule you can follow is you need as much heat as possible without compromising movements and grip. You want to be able to move freely especially once you’re on the board. Preplan your gear and acquire waterproof garments if you can. You’ll enjoy your trip more if you’re equipped for the weather.
Spring and Autumn – What should I wear?
Spring is a beautiful season where everything is just starting to thaw from the icy winter. Likewise, Autumn is a beautiful and colorful season where it’s just starting to get chillier into winter. It gets tempting to go paddleboarding and appreciate the mesmerising views during these seasons. Despite having warmer temperatures compared to winter, the temperature could still be chilly, making the water considerably colder than during the summer. The key trick here is to stay dry.
Here is a quick list of what you can equip yourself for the trip:
- Appropriate wetsuit or drysuit as preferred
- Long sleeved shirt (thermal wear or neoprene according to preference)
- Waterproof jacket
- Non-slip water sport shoes or neoprene boots
- Hat – if it’s still chilly and for UV protection
- Gloves as preferred – it’s not really necessary but may help with your grip.
- Dry bag – if the intent is staying dry, a dry bag would be a good choice to keep your belongings dry including a spare shirt or jacket to wear if you feel like adding some layers or if you accidentally get wet.
In spring and autumn, there may be more leeway in comparison to winter but it is still best to go over prepared. Weather can turn in the most unexpected times and as sometimes, it can get very unfavorable very quickly.
What should I wear in summer?
Summer is the best season for watersports. Almost all bodies of water become friendlier during this season and they’re ideal for paddleboarding. Of course, there are still environmental factors that can cause mishaps and one of the most important elements to protect yourself from is the sun. It’s crucial to take care of your skin, stay hydrated, and put on ample protection so you don’t get burnt and in extreme cases, pass out from the heat.
Here is a list of what you should wear during the summer on your paddleboarding trip:
- Swimsuit – you have more freedom here since the weather is warm but make sure it fits well and doesn’t restrict movement.
- Wetsuit – the air may be warmer, but the water temperature (particularly here in the UK) will still be cold. If you’re a beginner paddle boarder or going far from shore, its probably a good idea to don a wetsuit or drysuit.
- Shorts or Swim tights – this can serve as protection in case of falls or slips.
- Hat for sun protection
- Rash guard
- Light jacket or overshirt – in case of a breeze or if it gets windy.
- Non-slip water sport shoes or go barefoot
- Sunscreen – protect yourself from those harmful UV rays.
What type of shoes should I wear?
When choosing shoes for your trip, you definitely need to consider the weather. In the summer, going barefoot is one of the best options since the grip on the boards are designed for that but when the temperature is too cold, you need to add layers to your feet too.
It is best to make sure you have a pair of handy non-slip water sport shoes that can protect your feet during colder weather or rockier environments. Likewise, have an ample supply of neoprene and thermal socks for icier weather when you don’t want to freeze your feet off.
Lifejackets and safety gear
Flotation devices are a no-questions-asked requirement in any water sport. LIfejackets are extremely important and can truly save lives during the most unexpected situations. As mentioned in the “Choose It, Wear It: RNLI guide to lifejackets and buoyancy aids”:
“Every year, up to 200 people die on or around the coast of the UK and Ireland. These tragedies happen to people taking part in a wide range of water-based and waterside activities. Research has proven that wearing a lifejacket can increase your chances of survival by up to four times if you’re immersed in cold water.”
You can download the full guide here.
So regardless of the season, it is always best to wear a lifejacket as well as other safety gear such as the SUP leash that keeps you attached to the board and the safety whistle to help you signal to other people in case of emergencies.
Paddle boarding is an incredibly fulfilling activity that can help you unwind, explore, and bond with other people but it can still be dangerous. So make sure you plan ahead with your trips and gear up appropriately. The best way to have fun is making sure you are safe along the ride.