What season are you paddleboarding in? Wait, you must be thinking, can’t you only paddle board in the summer and possibly during the spring and fall during the warmer days? Nah, you can perform the activity year-round, and that’s where this question starts to get complicated.

What to wear paddleboarding is going to drastically change depending on the season and, indeed, you can do so in the winter (with precautions). Keeping warm in the summer is not too tricky but doing so in the winter… now that’s a different story. It’s hard enough to keep your tent warm in the winter!

As a quick overview, for cold-weather paddleboarding, you’re going to want a really thick wetsuit, drysuit, or enough layers (taking into consideration the factor of being on the water) to keep you warm and protected.

This is not a question that can be fully answered with a single sentence, however, and we really need to break this sucker down piece by piece. Let’s break down what to wear paddleboarding in all of the four different seasons!

What to wear paddleboarding during the winter

Photo by Holly Mandarich / Unsplash

We wanted to start with the winter season as that will clearly be the time when you’ll be most vulnerable to getting cold while paddleboarding. Here’s the good news, you do have a few different options at your disposal. One of the most popular, though, is to buy a wetsuit.

The thing about wetsuits is they’re designed to heat the water that gets trapped between your body and the suits themselves. They can be tremendous if you spend some time in colder waters, depending on the thickness of the suit that you have on.

However, there are also a few other things you can do to stay warm:

  1. Pay attention to wetsuit thickness & fit
  2. Opt for a drysuit instead
  3. Stacking up on clothes (cheap alternative)

Let’s jump straight into the first thing to consider which is the thickness of the wetsuit.

1. Pay attention to wetsuit thickness & fit

A wetsuit is designed to fit tight, and the goal is for the suit to fit tight on every part of your body. Additionally, regarding length, you want the wetsuit to extend all the way to the end of your arms and legs, stopping before your feet and hands.

However, as important is the thickness of the suit. Simply put, the thicker the wetsuit, the warmer you’ll be. Makes sense, right? If you plan on going out paddleboarding in freezing temperatures (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit), you’re probably going to want a wetsuit with a thickness of at least 5-6 mm (and one with a hood).

If the winter weather outside creeps up into the 40s and possibly even 50s (weather can be crazy sometimes), 3-4 mm thickness might be ideal depending on how cold you think you’ll get. We say that because if you tend to get colder than the average person, you can always go for thicker.

2. Opt for a drysuit instead

If you’d rather not go out and buy a wetsuit for whatever reason, there are a few alternatives that you can consider to make cold-weather paddleboarding feasible. A drysuit being one of the alternatives.

As the name suggests, a drysuit is almost the exact opposite of a wetsuit. A wetsuit is designed to heat the water that’s trapped between the suit and your body. However, a drysuit is designed to create a warm layer of air against your body and offers more protection and is typically fully waterproof.

In general, most will probably think a wetsuit will be more comfortable. Still, a drysuit will keep you warm during frigid environments, but be sure to wear a rash guard underneath and to ensure that the drysuit you buy fits tight enough to keep you dry.

The only real downside of wearing a drysuit is that it’s very expensive compared to a wetsuit so if you’re opting for a budget solution, take a look below.

3. Stacking up on clothes (cheap alternative)

Let’s be frank, thick wetsuits and drysuits can be a hefty price to pay, literally. They can get downright expensive, so we don’t blame anyone for rather choosing to wear their own personal winter paddleboarding clothing. It can be done but be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Dress in layers: It’s best to only choose your own outfit if you know the falling in potential is very low. Still, wear a moisture-wicking base layer, and possibly a pair of quick-dry pants. Add layers of wind protection and warmth as you see fit.
  • Wear gloves, hats, and shoes: Neoprene shoes, a thin pair of gloves that offer you some grip, and a lightweight hat to cover your ears are all key clothing items to remember to wear.
  • What to avoid: In general, it’s best to avoid any clothing items primarily made of cotton, and also any items that don’t easily layer.

What to wear paddleboarding during the fall & spring

Paddling on a Paddle North board in Iceland
Photo by Paddle North / Unsplash

Yeah, let’s just say that it gets easier from here regarding what to wear paddleboarding to keep yourself from getting cold. Now, let’s take a look at what you can wear during the fall and spring. It goes without saying that fall and spring temperatures can fluctuate a lot.

For the purposes of this section, we’re assuming typical weather during these seasons (think anywhere from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Even 50 degrees might not seem too cold, but you also have to factor in being on the water and especially the wind.

As a base, you can actually wear what you would on a summer paddleboarding experience, but you can then layer up with a long-sleeve shirt, quick-drying pants, and even a waterproof jacket. If you want, you can even add a base between a shirt and a jacket if you think you’ll get too cold.

All in all, it’s very important to choose clothing that dries quickly. On top of being hit with a cold breeze, there’s always the chance that you accidentally fall in the water. As for footwear, it’s a good idea to wear water sports shoes.

What to wear paddleboarding during the summer

Riding a Tower Paddle Board in the bay.
Photo by Tower Paddle Boards / Unsplash

Depending on where you’re paddleboarding and if it’s actually a rather cool summer afternoon, it’s still possible to get cold while doing the activity during the summer. However, let’s just say that it’s not going to be too much of an issue. The larger issue is figuring out what to wear, in general, in the summer for such an activity.

Larger bodies of water can still feel ice-cold even during a hot summer day but wearing a swimsuit can still be an excellent way to go. If you do fear getting cold, you can always wear a light overshirt and some shorts.

As far as footwear goes, paddle boards do have grippy surfaces. So, it might be best to just go barefoot, and the freeing feeling you get from it is quite nice!

Are there any tips for paddleboarding during the winter?

It’s time to bring this all full circle and to return to what we initially were discussing in this post. Cold-weather paddleboarding is possible and in addition to wearing the correct clothing, we also want to point out some safety tips that are very important to remember:

Use your leash

Using the leash on your paddle board is pretty much always recommended anyway, but it’s even more so in the winter. The worst thing that can happen is for you to fall into frigidly cold water and have your paddle board float away. Keeping your paddle board attached to you via the leash will provide you with a very large floatation device in the instance of a potential disaster.

Stay very close to shore

“Very close” means just that. Staying within 15 to 20 feet of shore while winter paddleboarding is a good call. While that might sound boring, one thing you shouldn’t mess around with is hypothermia. If you stay close to shore, the potential of evading a disaster is greatened. Remember, swimming in extremely cold water is a little different than swimming in cool water.

Stay away from ice

This might be the most obvious statement that we’ve ever said here on the site. Stay away from ice when your paddleboarding. Just… stay away. Do we really need to explain why?

Final thoughts

What to wear paddleboarding to keep you from getting cold is going to vary tremendously based on the season. Clearly, winter is the one you need to fear the most. Casual paddle boarders will probably never have to worry about that, but hardcore extremists who could care less of the exterior temperature need to be wary and respect the winter elements.

The second you underestimate Mother Nature, she can put you on life support in the blink of an eye. That’s about all we have to say. Oh, and before we go, one thing you should always wear during the activity (not necessarily to keep you warm) is a life vest. Yeah, we know, the unpopular opinion. It will be popular when it’s saving your life.