“What should I wear”? I’ve heard this question so often from new students at my paddle boarding school that it occurred to me that I should write about it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that many people just don’t know how to dress for stand up paddleboarding. I’ve had people show up for lessons in wetsuits, jeans, wool sweaters and bathing suits of all types.
So, what should you wear when paddle boarding? There is no single outfit for paddle boarding. Rather, you should decide what to wear based on the following tips.
Dress for the Environment
The physical environment really dictates what you should be wearing. If you live in Canada, the northern U.S. or Europe, board shorts, swimsuits and rash guards will be all you need in the summer months. In the spring or fall, shorts and a kayak jacket will work.
When it’s warm and sunny, a rash guard is a must. It keeps the sun off your back, and if you get hot, just jump in the water and your wet rash guard will keep you cool for the next 30 minutes of hard paddling.
Dress for Your Experience Level
Novice paddlers tend to fall into the water more often than experienced riders. Just because you are going for a paddle with an experienced friend, it doesn’t mean you should be dressing like her. She may anticipate having an easy paddle and may dress accordingly because she is confident she won’t be falling. You on the other hand, should plan on falling, and getting wet. Dress appropriately.
Dress to Get Wet
Can you paddle in jeans and a sweatshirt? Sure can, but if you have ever tried swimming in wet heavy clothing, you know it’s not fun. Wear synthetic fabrics that drain the water quickly and are thin. These fabric types are light, dry quickly and keep you from getting cold. Bathing suits, board shorts, athletic apparel all work well in the water.
Wear Non Constrictive Tops
Paddling requires your upper body to twist, bend and extend, don’t wear clothes that are constricting or bind in the armpits. I have had several female students over the years complain that they wore the wrong top and were uncomfortable.
Don’t Wear Anything You’re Not Prepared to Lose
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way several times over the years, so I encourage you to learn from my mistakes. It doesn’t matter how good of a paddler you are, at some point you will have an unexpected fall. If you are not prepared to have your sunglasses, hat or phone sink to the bottom of the lake, DON’T WEAR THEM PADDLE BOARDING. You might not lose them today or tomorrow, but you will lose them eventually.
Be Comfortable with Your Body
The most important thing is to be comfortable when your paddle boarding. If you would never wear a bathing suit, but are comfortable going into the water wearing a T Shirt and shorts. Do it! The simple fact is that you have enough to concentrate about just staying up and paddling. You don’t need to worry about being self conscious by the way you look.
I’ve developed these tips during my years of teaching. I’ve had students who were young and old, skinny and fat. I’ve learned that as long as people follow the tips I’ve listed above, they have had a good paddle boarding experience. If you keep what I wrote in mind, I’m sure you will have a great time too.
Enjoy your paddle!
The Wappa Blog
Written by Wappa's founder Layne Pennell, the blog's aim is to educate and share his love of stand up paddle boarding with anyone interested in SUP.
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