What To Wear Paddle Boarding in 2023

Sometimes, the weather is like that friend who keeps canceling on you at the last minute—except you don’t get a text when it changes its mind. One moment it’s sunny, and bam! It suddenly starts drizzling, dashing your plans of enjoying a sunny day outdoors. 

Luckily, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is an outdoor activity that can be enjoyed whether it’s warm, cold, or raining. That is, provided you dress properly for it.

Here, we cover the basics of what to wear paddle boarding so that you don’t have to wait for sunny days to go out into the water.

Essential Paddle Board Safety Gear

Much like every other outdoor activity, stand-up paddle boarding comes with its own set of risks. When you’re out on the water, there’s no telling what could happen, which is why it’s best to be prepared with the following safety equipment: 

Life Jacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Even if you’re an excellent swimmer, wearing a life jacket or a personal flotation device is an absolute essential, as they can save your life if you unexpectedly fall into the water or get caught in strong currents. Although both devices provide buoyancy to keep you afloat, a life jacket is designed to turn even an unconscious person face up, so it’s a better choice for weak/ non-swimmers or people paddling in rough waters.

In countries such as the U.S. and Canada, a life jacket or a PFD is actually mandatory when you go paddle boarding. Look for a US Coast Guard or USCG-approved life jacket that fits you snugly or a PFD that’s specifically made for paddle boarding.

Make your paddle boarding experience easy with Maddle’s paddle board accessories.

SUP Leash

A SUP leash is an attachment that keeps your ankle tethered to the paddle board. This prevents your board from getting washed away from you, leaving you stranded. 

Here’s a guide on what type of leash is needed for different SUP activities:

Activity Type Best SUP Leash Type Reason
Flatwater paddling Coiled leash Doesn’t drag in the water and sits comfortably on top of the paddle board
Surfing Straight leash Keeps the board away from you in case you get caught in the surf
Paddle boarding in moving water where there’s a risk of entanglement Upper body mounted quick release leash Easy to detach the leash if it gets stuck and you’re unable to break free

Safety Whistle

If things go awry and you need to signal for help from a distance, a whistle will come in handy. Sound travels across water for long distances, much further than you could visually flag for help. 

Waterproof Flashlight

If you’re paddle boarding after the sun goes down, a waterproof flashlight will help you navigate safely and also alert other paddle boarders that you’re nearby. Even if you’re not planning an after-dark excursion, keeping a flashlight on hand is wise. Brisk winds, tides, and appealing shorelines can make for unexpected changes in your adventure plans, which can easily cause them to stretch into dusk. 


When paddle boarding in rivers where there’s a greater chance of you hitting your head on rocks, a helmet will keep your head safe and prevent injuries in case you fall off.

Curious about what else you need to bring when paddle boarding? Check out our essential checklist.

What To Wear for Different Weather and Water Conditions

The type of clothing you need to wear on your SUP adventure largely depends on the time of the year and the current water temperatures. However, no matter the weather, it’s always best to stay away from cotton, as it’s highly absorbent, which means it’ll get wet and heavy very fast. It also takes a long time to dry, which means you may be left feeling uncomfortable. 

With that tip out of the way, let’s explore the best SUP clothing options for different weather conditions:

Hot Weather

When stand-up paddle boarding in the summer heat, you’ll want lightweight clothes that keep you cool and comfortable. Moisture-wicking fabric like polyester, nylon, or lycra are great choices.

You’ll also probably want to take full advantage of the weather and go for a swim, so wear board shorts or a swimsuit as a base layer. Since the weather can get chilly after sunset, carry an extra layer of clothes such as a basic long sleeve shirt and shorts with you in a dry bag.

To protect yourself from sun exposure, chafing, or skin irritation from the salt water, slip on a rash guard underneath your life jacket. You can also opt for a sun hat to protect your face and neck from the sun’s UV rays.

Hot weather paddle board outfit:

  • Bathing suit
  • Rash guard
  • A lightweight t-shirt and shorts

Cold Weather

Paddle boarding in the winter or autumn can be super fun if you insulate yourself from the cold weather properly by layering up. 

Layer up in threes: a moisture-wicking base layer to keep you dry, an insulating mid-layer to keep you warm, and a waterproof third layer to protect you from the extremities of the weather.

If the weather is below 12°C/54°F:

Base layer: quick-dry leggings + a long sleeve shirt or rash guard to protect your skin from irritation.

  • Mid-layer: a neoprene wetsuit to retain body heat and protect yourself from hypothermia even if you fall in. The colder the weather, the thicker your wetsuit should be.
  • Outer layer: waterproof jacket
  • Neoprene gloves, a winter hat, and a beanie

When paddling in freezing cold water (below 4°C/39°F), you can opt for a drysuit instead of a wetsuit. However, drysuits don’t provide inherent insulation, so wear thermal clothing layers underneath.

Rainy Weather

While paddle boarding in the rain is completely possible, avoid going out into the water during thunderstorms. Since the rain brings with it a combination of wet + cold, layer yourself up in waterproof clothing that will keep you dry and warm. You can also opt for thermal layers during the winter months. 

Rainy weather paddle board outfit:

  • Waterproof leggings and a waterproof shirt
  • Rash guard
  • Neoprene wetsuit/ drysuit (depending on the temperature)
  • A bright-colored rain coat so that you’re visible to other paddle boarders. However, ensure that the hood doesn’t obscure your peripheral vision.
  • Waterproof gloves

Windy Weather

When it’s too windy outside, layer yourself up as you normally would depending on the air temperature and wear a windbreaker on top. 

Stick close to the shoreline on days like these to avoid being swept away in big gusts. Because paddling against strong winds can quickly exhaust you, take extra safety gear and precautions.

What To Wear When Paddle Boarding in Calm vs. Choppy Waters

Calm waters mean smooth sailing, while choppy waters mean you might fall in more often, so you need to dress accordingly. A wetsuit or a drysuit, coupled with an insulating base layer will keep you warm and dry in choppy waters. Make sure your clothes are lightweight and fit you snugly, as loose-fitting clothes can easily get caught on underwater obstacles. 

When paddling in calm waters, you may wear a bathing suit along with a t-shirt or shorts if the water temperature is warm, or opt for leggings and a long-sleeved shirt if it’s slightly chilly.

Clothing Options for Different Types of Paddle Boarding Activities

Whether you’re looking to get a SUP workout in, or simply looking to mix up your regular SUP activities, dressing up properly for the type of stand-up paddle boarding you’re doing is the key to a fun experience. 

SUP Yoga

For SUP yoga, you want comfortable and flexible clothing that fits you snugly and doesn’t restrict your movement. In summer, a bathing suit or regular yoga/workout clothes, along with a rash guard, would be fine. Pick light colors to stay cool, since dark colors tend to absorb more heat. 

In winter, layer up a bit more to stay warm. Wear clothes like thermal leggings that insulate you. If it’s just slightly chilly, as opposed to being too cold, you can opt for just a top and leggings.

Finally, wear moisture-wicking paddle board clothing, as falling in the water during SUP yoga may be inevitable.

SUP Fishing

For SUP fishing, you don’t need a special paddle boarding outfit. Wear what you’d normally wear while fishing from a boat. However, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the water while trying to catch fish, which means you’ll be exposed to the sun’s UV rays for a long time. So, don’t forget to wear a fishing hat to protect your head from the sun and wear long-sleeved rash guards under your fishing vest. Or,  skip the rash guard and simply opt for clothes with UV protection. 

SUP fishing also means encountering bugs, so take bug repellant spray with you.

SUP Racing

When SUP racing, you’ll heat up pretty fast, so the clothes you wear should make you feel slightly cold on the land. In the summer, you can wear your normal running clothes. In the winter, choose a good short-sleeved neoprene base layer. 

Wear a visor to shade your eyes from the rain or the sun’s light. It also has the added benefit of wicking the sweat away from your eyes.

Can I wear normal clothes for paddle boarding?

You can wear normal clothes over a rash guard while paddle boarding in the summer. When the temperature drops, you need clothing that can keep you warm and dry. 

Can I wear leggings for paddle boarding?

Yes, you can wear leggings for paddle boarding. During summer, opt for leggings made from moisture-wicking materials like lycra, nylon, or spandex. In colder weather, choose thick or thermal leggings to keep you warm. 

Best Shoes To Wear While Paddle Boarding

Depending on the weather, you can either go barefoot or wear water shoes when stand-up paddle boarding. In warmer weather, you can go barefoot and feel the sun on your toes. However, in cold conditions and while paddle boarding in areas with rocks and corals, you need water shoes such as neoprene booties to protect your feet. 

Here’s a guide for your paddle boarding footwear choices:

  Pros Cons
Bare Feet
  1. Help you balance well on the board.
  2. Offer a good grip.
  3. Is a better option for SUP yoga.
  4. Feel good in warm weather.
  5. Free.
  1. No protection for feet in cold weather.
  2. No protection against rocks or corals that can cause cuts and scratches on your bare feet.
Neoprene shoes
  1. Protect your feet from rocks.
  2. Insulate you from the cold.
  3. Still allow use of toes for balancing.
  4. Provide a good grip.
  5. Can swim comfortably while wearing them.
  6. Fast drying.
  7. Breathable.
  1. Expensive.
  2. Can wear out faster with frequent usage.
  3. Water-resistant but entirely waterproof.

Another great option is waterproof socks–or aqua socks–as they can be worn on their own without any shoes.

Pro Tip: Never wear regular shoes on stand-up paddle boards, as they get heavy when wet and can often be slippery. This can cause you to lose balance and be weighed down in the water, making them unsafe. Rocks and other debris can also get stuck in their grooves, which can damage your paddle board.

Sun Protection for Paddle Boarding

Water is a highly reflective surface, which means your exposure to the sun when paddle boarding during summer is very high. To avoid getting sunburned, sun protection is a must!

Wear water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher before you hit the water. Since no sunscreen is entirely waterproof, reapply every two hours and immediately after coming out of the water.

To get protection against both UVA and UVB rays, a broad-spectrum sunscreen is the ideal choice. Don't forget to apply the sunscreen in particularly vulnerable spots such as the back and tips of your ears, around your eyes, and the tops of your feet and hands. And yes, you need to wear sunscreen even during winter, as the sun emits UV rays all year round.

Apart from sunscreen, wear sun-protection clothing like rash guards, a sun hat, and sunglasses.

Paddle Board in Style and Safety with Maddle

Paddle boarding is a great activity that can be enjoyed throughout the year as long as you dress for the weather and carry all the essential safety gear. 

Not only do Maddle’s paddle boards come in a variety of designs, they also come with matching accessories such as a leash and a bag. Get a Maddle board and stay safe as well as stylish on the water.

Camille Brodeur

Driven by the intersection of lifestyle and fitness, Camille's mission is to inspire others to integrate elements of beauty and aesthetic into their outdoor activities. Her depth of experience in the paddle boarding world allows her to inform and motivate others to get out on the water in the safest and most fun ways possible. Whether it be through her work at Maddle or elsewhere, Camille continuously strives to expand the public consciousness surrounding SUPs.


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