Ever wanted to try stand up paddle boarding? This gentle yet adventurous sport is a full-body workout that allows you to take in your surroundings and nature while you’re at it. It’s no surprise that it’s so popular.
However, before you can just head out onto a glassy lake or into the ocean, you’ll need to get kitted out first.
In this post, we’ll look at the essentials you need for your stand up paddle boarding adventures. Whether you’re paddling at your local beach, under the warm sun of Hawaii, or among between the icebergs of Glacier Bay in Alaska, you’ll know exactly what to wear while you SUP.
Before we get into what you need to wear, there are some absolute essentials that you need for SUP. You’ve probably thought of a couple already… but others may not be so obvious.
Stand up paddle board
This one IS obvious. You can’t do SUP without a paddle board! It’s not as simple as picking the first one that you come across though. Beginners have the choice to make between a hard board and an iSUP. Both have their benefits. iSUPs are particularly good as they’re easy to transport, while hard boards are great for all-around paddling.
SUP is extremely versatile, and there are different types of boards for each variation of paddling. It’s possible to get purpose built yoga, touring, and surf SUPs.
The second obvious SUP essential is your paddle. These should be longer than your height by about 25cm (around 6 to 8 inches). If you’re planning on sharing your board and paddle with friends and family, search for a height adjustable paddle. This is particularly useful even if you’re a solo paddler – as surfing requires a shorter paddle length than all around SUP.
Personal Floatation Device
PFDs are something that is good to have but hopefully, you will need less and less as you get more SUP practice in. They will keep you afloat should you fall into the water when paddling. You can get compact PFDs which will fit around your waist and you’ll barely notice them!
Note: if you’re bringing your pup on your SUP, make sure he’s wearing a PFD around the water and on your board.
The leash is another safety device but it’s not quite the same as a PFD. Though it does only come into its own if and when you fall into the water! A leash keeps you tethered to your board by your ankle so that you don’t lose it or have something to cling on to in rough waters. SUP leashes are thicker and longer than surf leashes, so don’t attempt to use the same leash for both sports.
No matter what the temperature is, you can still get burned when paddling. Even if there’s a lot of cloud cover! If you’re a regular paddler, over-exposure to the sun is more than just an annoyance – it’s a danger. Avoid it by carrying sunscreen with you and re-applying regularly.
Warm Weather Stand up Paddle Boarding
There’s less prep if you’re paddle boarding in summer. However, there are a couple of things you should definitely pack for your own comfort.
You don’t need a wetsuit for regular paddle boarding (though you can wear one if you’d feel more comfortable). But do have something to cover up! Swimsuits should have plenty of flexibility so that you can easily paddle and move your body when required too. If you’re wearing just a pair of swim shorts or a bikini, reapply sunscreen regularly throughout the day.
Lightweight Swim Shirt
If you don’t want to constantly reapply sunscreen or are shy about your body being on display, a lightweight swim shirt might be just what you need. They’re light and comfortable, and after a few minutes you won’t even know if it’s on. You can wear a rashguard underneath your t-shirt, which as the name suggests, protects you from an abrasion rash.
It’s better to wear a purpose-built swim shirt than any old t-shirt. If cotton gets wet, it’ll be heavy and uncomfortable on you.
We’ve suggested a lot of ways to protect you from the sun, and a snapback is just another one. The brim will protect your face if you wear it the traditional way, though you can always swivel it to protect the back of your neck. An area many people forget to rub sunscreen on! Not only does it offer sun protection, but most snapbacks also look really cool. Especially when paired with sunglasses!
Cold weather stand up Paddle Boarding
While the extra kit around summer SUP is more about your comfort, winter paddling requires more planning for your safety. Here are some things you can’t be without!
A full length wetsuit may slightly limit your mobility, but with up to 6 milimetres of protection against water which is often even colder than the air temperature, it’s a price worth paying. Wetsuits are made of neoprene, which allows water to soak the material and combine with your body head to create insulation. In the coldest waters, even these aren’t enough though!
What you’ll need when the water temperature is lower than 7 degrees Celsius is a drysuit. Though it keeps a layer of air between you and the suit, it offers no insulation. So it’s important to use thermal base layers underneath to keep your body warm.
Neoprene booties and mittens
Even full length wetsuits and drysuits can sometimes leave your hands and feet exposed. Neoprene booties and mittens complete the look… and obviously keep you safe. They should be at least 2 milimetres thick, and gloves should have grips so you can hold your paddle.
Don’t mix up water shoes with neoprene booties – water shoes won’t keep you warm.