If you find yourself anywhere near the water this summer, you’re guaranteed to see a paddleboarder or six around. It’s become extremely popular in recent years, which is hardly surprising considering what an accessible and versatile sport it is. With the option of racing, touring or surfing, SUPs are suitable for those who want to push themselves as well as for the more laid-back among you who are content paddling from A to B (and for the even more laid-back among you, an inflatable SUP also doubles up as a lilo, you can thank me later). Once you’ve got your balance sorted, the basics are quite straightforward to pick up, meaning pretty much anyone can have a go if they can get their hands on a board!
Anyone can see that a board and a paddle are pretty essential to this sport, but what else do you need? Having the right clothing on the water is really important, as it will help to keep you safe, comfortable and protected from the sun, as well as making sure you look the part. Read on for our recommendations for this season. Or, if you’re looking for our winter SUP clothing checklist click here.
(And if you don’t already have a board, take a look at our guide to buying a stand-up paddleboard to find out which one is right for you.)
This one depends largely on you and your own skill level and intentions. There are plenty of people out there who can confidently paddle out fully clothed on a calm day and make it back to shore bone dry. If this is you, and you back yourself to stay on your board, then you can skip this section. However, for any beginners, those with a little less confidence, and those who plan to take their SUP into the waves and surf, a wetsuit may be a good idea. Even just a shorty wetsuit will help to maintain your core temperature should you fall in, meaning you can stay out for longer without getting cold.
A wetsuit top may be a great alternative if you don’t want to commit to a full wetsuit but you’re still not relying on not falling in the water. A wetsuit top will keep your core warm if you do end up in the water as well as protecting you from UV rays.
When you go paddleboarding, you are likely to get your feet and the bottom of your legs wet when first stepping in the water to get onto your board. Therefore whatever clothing you’re wearing from your knees to ankles are likely to get wet. Wetsuit leggings can be a great piece of kit for paddleboarders as they keep your legs warm when they are wet and protect you from UV rays.
If you’ve decided to skimp on the wetsuit, or you’re lucky enough to be somewhere exotic enough not to need one, you should still consider investing in a rash vest. Rash vests are often worn to prevent surfers from developing a rash from the wax on their surfboards, or under a wetsuit to prevent wetsuit rash and chafing, however, they can also provide great protection from the sun if you’re choosing not to wear a wetsuit. The water is great for cooling you down on a hot day, but it can also wash off any sunscreen you have on and put you at risk of burning. Wearing a rash vest will keep your arms, shoulders and back protected from any harmful rays, which is an absolute must.
The best thing to wear with a rash vest is a pair of boardshorts. Lightweight and quick drying, they’re the perfect option for anyone who’s likely to get wet and doesn’t fancy spending the rest of the day in soggy denim.
Some people choose to paddle barefoot, but a pair of shoes is actually a really good idea. Beaches can be rocky places to launch and land, so protecting your feet from any sharp rocks or other hazards is super important. Also, particularly if you’re new to paddle boarding, a bit of extra grip will be very welcome when you’re out and about on your board. A pair of neoprene boots or water shoes will be a key addition to your SUP wardrobe, especially if you’re keen on exploring the places you paddle to on foot.
Now let me tell you a nightmare story of when I went out paddleboarding with my phone in my pocket. Unfortunately, my pocket didn’t have a zip and so when I knocked my jacket with my paddle by accident, my phone plopped in the water and I never got it back. The moral of the story is that if you feel confident enough to bring your phone out with you, please make sure it is in a waterproof case. These cases are worn around your neck and are super handy to keep your valuables dry and safe.
Perhaps more of an accessory than actual clothing, a dry bag is nonetheless a solid investment for anyone keen to get into paddle boarding. With a range of sizes available, dry bags can be used for keeping all sorts of things away from the water, from phones to picnics, and towels to tinnies.
Wearing a hat on the water is essential for keeping your face protected from the sun, whether you choose a baseball style, or 360 degree protection from a brimmed hat. If you’re worried about falling in and losing your hat, there are handy clips available to keep it close to you.
A changing robe or towel poncho is perhaps not essential if you’re confident in your ability to stay dry, but it’s still a brilliant addition to your SUP wardrobe. The great thing about them is that not only do they make it a hundred times easier to get changed on the beach in a dignified manner, they are super cosy and great for warming up small children (or fully grown adults) who are feeling a bit chilly after a day on the water.
When you’re out paddleboarding, there can be much more glare than there is on land because of the extra glare reflecting off the water, especially in the sunnier months. Wearing sunglasses will not only make it easier to see but will also protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. If you’re worried about losing your sunglasses whilst out on the water, use a retainer that will keep your sunglasses attached to you. Or, check out Gill’s range of floatable sunglasses.
A leash is a line in which one end is attached to the end of your board and the other end to your ankle. Wearing your leash is really important because when you fall in the water the waves may push your board away from you but if you have your leash on you can just pull your board towards you by grabbing the end of the leash that is attached to you.
Now, these can be a handy safety accessory for stand up paddle boarding without having the bulk of a buoyancy aid. A PFD belt is designed to be worn around your waist like a belt and is automatically activated or self-activated when submerged in water. Therefore, if you think you may end up in the water, a buoyancy aid may be more suitable for you so you don’t have to keep reloading your PFD belt every time you fall in.
Whilst it isn’t essential to wear a buoyancy aid paddleboarding, it is recommended. Not only will it keep you afloat, but it will also help give you time to recover if you fall in. You may want to opt for a less bulky buoyancy aid so your arm movement isn’t restricted when paddling.