What to wear paddle boarding depends on the weather and your preferences. But there are some key clothing and safety items that will make your experience more enjoyable. Typically, most paddleboarding happens in warmer weather – the summer months and shoulder seasons, in the Northern Hemisphere. Paddleboarding in winter just requires more preparation and bit more gear. So here’s everything you need to know about what to wear paddle boarding – SUP clothing, and paddle board outfit ideas for men & women in different seasons.
What to wear on a paddleboard is really up to you and your style. Paddle boarding clothes are just a mix of swim, surf, and summer gear. But you’re here for ideas, so here’s what to wear in summer and shoulder season.
- Hat – for summer I love a giant straw paddling hat. And the under-chin strap helps keep it secure in the wind. In shoulder season, or cooler days, I often wear a trucker hat instead. Women’s Hat (Roxy $18), Men’s Hat (Quiksilver $28)
- Sunglasses – I recommend polarized lenses for the extra sun glare off the water. Goodr Polarized (REI $25)
- Swimsuit and/or board shorts – this is your baselayer for summer paddle boarding. You never know when it’s going to be hot or you want to swim. Ladies, start with a swimsuit and then layer shorts (quick-dry running or thin shorts). Guys, wear swim shorts or board shorts. Women’s bikini (Roxy $35+), Women’s shorts (Roxy or Lululemon), Men’s board shorts (Quiksilver $24)
- Sun shirt or rash guard – this is your sun protection layer. While I often will paddle for a while in a swimsuit, if it’s a hot day, I almost always need to add a sunshirt on top. Also works great for wind in shoulder season. And the quick dry helps you not get overheated since you’ll be working up a sweat paddling. Women’s Mountain Hardwear (REI $60), Men’s Mountain Hardwear (REI $42+)
- Active Sandals – Adventure sandals are perfect for getting ready and getting your gear into the water. I don’t wear sandals on my SUP. I am much more stable and comfortable barefoot on my paddleboard. But I love my adventure sandals for en route. I wear them carrying my board into the water, and then I take them off and strap them onto my paddleboard. Then if I’m stopping anywhere rocky or in the water, I have them! Bedrock Adventure Sandals (REI $105)
- Optional: Yoga pants – In shoulder season or cold weather, yoga pants (don’t worry you don’t have to do SUP yoga unless you want to) can be warmer and feel more comfortable, but still be moisture wicking.
- Optional: Wet suit – In winter or cold water SUP surfing, a wetsuit will keep you warmer. Just look for surf wetsuits and booties.
SUP Safety Gear & On the Water Accessories
In all seasons, don’t forget your safety gear! Gone are the days when anything safety-related was considered uncool. What’s cool is being around for the next season of adventures! And safety gear is a lot more minimal and simple as well.
- Personal Flotation Device – Wear a life jacket / pfd – either a waist pack belt style or a typical life jacket (make sure it is a coast guard approved life jacket). Also to note, many longer SUPs require you to keep a life jacket on board (yes, it’s considered a boat!). And life jackets also have a great safety feature of having a whistle if you get into trouble. A pfd in cold water is especially important, as you may not have time to react to swim if your body is in shock.
- Leash – SUP leashes were invented for a reason – to keep you with your board. Paddle boards include a leash, at least when you buy them new. Honestly, if I’m on a flat shallow lake, with low winds, I don’t wear a leash. However, if you’re on a river, a lake on a windy day, or just a deep or cold lake – wear your paddleboard leash.
- Waterproof box – You’ll want a waterproof box for your phone and keys. Pelican Case makes perfect sizes for phones and electronics. Pelican 1050 Micro Case (Amazon $28)
- Dry bag – A dry bag will often be water resistant, not waterproof if it is submerged in water. So while I take a drybag for some snacks, a small towel etc. I don’t use it for my phone or keys. Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag 5L or 8L (Amazon $29)
- Quick-dry towel – Depending on where I’m paddling, sometimes I want a small towel along. Otherwise, I leave it at the car for after.
- Water bottle – Don’t forget to take water on your SUP. It’s important to stay hydrated as often you’ll end up being out on the water awhile. I also bring a few snacks along.
- Sun screen – Please choose reef-safe sunscreen to help our rivers and lakes stay chemical free! ThinkBaby is my favorite zinc based sun screen for on the water.
- SPF lip balm – My most overlooked item when it comes to sun protection and summer!
Paddle Board Outfit Idea – Summer:
Here’s my go-to paddle boarding outfit for summer paddle boarding – from head to toe! My favorite women’s paddle boarding clothing brands are surf and outdoor brands – Roxy, Lululemon, Mountain Hardwear etc.
Roxy Straw Sun Hat – this hat is an essential for summer SUP and kayaking. If it’s not as hot, I will wear a trucker hat.
The best paddle board swimsuit style to wear is something that feels sporty and easy to move in. I love brands like Roxy for their surf-inspired swimwear. Their suits are made to last and stay put while you’re being active. That’s what’s great about surf brand swimwear and not just fashion swimwear. Roxy $35+
Sun Shirt or rash guard
Thin sun shirts are great for super light coverage while SUP or kayaking. You can also go the rashguard route. I actually prefer a thin UPF hooded sun shirt now to a rashguard for paddle boarding. It’s lightweight, and the hood is great to use when you’ve gotten too much sun on your ears and neck. The material is similar enough that it feels like a rashguard in the water, if you do get wet, it is going to be baggy and weigh you down. Also great for hiking! Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hooded Sun Shirt – REI $60
Shorts – Running shorts or beach shorts
I love thin beach shorts or quick-dry running shorts for paddle boarding – both to wearr over a swimsuit or in place of. Sometimes you don’t feel like wearing bikini bottoms, and for those days, I choose shorts. My two favorites are the Lululemon Speed Shorts, and the Roxy Impossible Love Beach shorts. Roxy $40 (usually sales to get them for $20-30)
My go-to summer adventure sandals are the Bedrock Cairn. These are great for staying put on your feet while you carry your board to the water. I strap my sandals onto my SUP in case I need them later. The only thing I don’t like about these is the $105 price tag. But after owning them a couple years, I would say they’re worth the price. And a great item to snag at 20% off during the REI sales. Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals – REI $105
Chapstick with spf!
ChapStick SPF 15 Lip Balm – My most over-looked sun protection item when I’m out on the water. These also make great little gift or stocking stuffers for outdoorsy people! Target $3 for a 3 pack
Quick dry travel towel
These small towels are nice and light and pack down small to fit in a dry bag. Or to have waiting for you after your SUP adventure. These aren’t a big enough size that you could wrap itaround you, but it’s enough material to dry off and better than not having a towel at all! REI Co-op Print Multi Towel Lite, REI $11
Sporty cheap sunglasses
Polarized sunglasses are great for summer and being out on the water. At $25, they’re in the cheap sunglasses range, but are actually pretty great quality. I also have had great luck with the Surfer Shades from Target. REI OG Surfer glasses $25, Circle round lens sunglasses REI $25, or Target Surfer Shades $20
SUP Clothes for Guys
Paddle board clothing for men is more simple than the layers for ladies in the above list. Generally board shorts = swim shorts, so a bit simpler for that layer. But everything else is the same!
- Board shorts – quick dry and double duty as swim shorts. Quiksilver $24+
- Sun shirt or rash guard – while short sleeve is an option, many people just go for long sleeve as an all in one solution. REI $42+
What to Wear Paddle Boarding in Winter
If you’re paddleboarding in winter, please be aware of the water temperature and make sure you’re geared up correctly. In winter, you will want a wetsuit and booties. For some shoulder season SUPing (like spring or fall) you can just wear yoga pants and a long sleeve quick-dry top.
My Paddling Gear:
Here’s the SUP and paddling gear I have and can recommend:
- ISLE SUP Explorer 11’6″ Touring SUP – I love how easy this is to store, transport, and use. Which means I actually can use it way more often! ISLE SUP – from $495
- PFD/Life Jacket (ONYX MoveVent $54), (Airhead GNAR kids vest $34)
SUP & Kayak Safety:
I am including this safety info that I wrote for my post about the Best Places to Paddle Board in Portland.
- Wear a life jacket. Seriously folks, especially on rivers. But even on lakes, and even if you know how to swim. The water in most lakes and rivers in Oregon is very cold. And this is how people drown.
- Don’t go alone, but if you do, tell somewhere where you’re going and when to expect you back.
- Check the wind and weather. Wind is usually calmest in the mornings, which makes it popular time for paddlers. But on a SUP, anything about 10mph is going to just blow you around. And kayaking 15mph is a no-go for most kayakers.
- SUP – use your leash on rivers or windy lakes. A great quote: “even Michael Phelps couldn’t out swim a SUP that gets caught with the wind down a river.” True!
- Paddle upstream or toward the wind first, then you know you can actually get back in the opposite conditions.
- After large storms, there can be logs in the many local rivers. The danger with logs is not just that they’re floating projectiles, but also that they can be partially hidden under the water. And can also create a “strainer” situation that traps you under. So please use caution.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at what to wear paddle boarding, and that it’s given you some outfit ideas to get out on the water.
*As with any outdoor activity, there is risk involved. Kayakers and SUPers agree to PADDLE AT THEIR OWN RISK. You are responsible for your own water safety, to float, navigate and conduct safely and appropriate to conditions as they exist.