What To Wear Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand up paddle boarding is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing water sports one can pursue. Whether at a beach, lake or some other popular waterway, stand up paddle boarding is a great way to commune with the water, get a little exercise and sun, and just melt the cares of the day away.

Of course, it’s is not an activity for every season (unless you wanna wear a wetsuit!). Depending upon where you live, stand up paddle boarding is usually a late spring and summer pursuit, when the air is warm and the water is not too cold or icy.

Passing the time SUPing on a bright, lazy summer afternoon will definitely be the best part of your day, but in order to enjoy this activity to the fullest it’s important that you know what to wear when doing it, as well as some of the things you should avoid wearing.

To assist you with your stand-up paddle boarding wardrobe—both clothing, safety and convenience items—below we have compiled a list of some of the best pieces of stand-up paddle boarding attire, and provided a brief explanation of why each item is beneficial.

We have also included a small section in which we will outline just a few of the wardrobe no-nos when it comes to proper stand up paddle boarding attire.

SUP Clothing

When it comes to the clothing you should wear when stand-up paddle boarding, there are a few key features and characteristics you should always look for. Some of these include:

  • Lightweight. You want to be as comfortable as possible when stand-up paddle boarding. Because of this, you should look for clothes made from lightweight materials. Some of the best lightweight materials are the newer synthetic fabrics that help to wick moisture away from your skin to keep you dry. Lighter weight fabrics also tend to dry much faster than heavier cotton materials.
  • Loose. When stand-up paddle boarding, you definitely want loose clothing. In this sport, you will be constantly paddling, and you do not want shirts or shorts that will bind you unnecessarily. Instead, choose a loose-fitting, lightweight fabric that is easy to move in.
  • Cool/Warm. Depending on the season and the weather conditions, you should elect to go with clothing designed to keep you cool or warm depending on the weather. For example, in the summertime, things like swimwear and loose-fitting T-shirts are a great choice. However, in colder weather, items like long yoga pants or even a wetsuit might be preferred.

With all these features and attributes in mind, let us now talk about some of the specific articles of clothing that tend to pair well with the sport of stand-up paddle boarding.

These are just suggestions, and in the end what you wear is totally and completely up to you, but based on talks we have had with fellow stand-up paddle boarders, all of these selections tend to work well when you are out on the water.

Board Shorts

What better to wear when stand-up paddle boarding than a piece of attire that actually has the word “board” in the title. Board shorts are typically made from lightweight materials and they tend to dry very fast when you accidentally get them wet.

Be sure to get a pair of board shorts that also has a rash guard built in, as this will prevent any chafing you may incur when paddling your stand-up board.

Swim Suit or Swim Trunks

If board shorts aren’t your thing, and you plan to go stand-up paddle boarding on a nice warm summer day, you can always opt for a swimsuit (women) or swim trunks (men). A swim suit is the perfect attire, as it will support you when you paddle.

And, if you happen to fall into the ocean or lake, you will already be wearing the perfect type of clothes. Although we do not recommend bikinis for women when stand-up paddle boarding, a comfortable, one-piece bathing suit is ideal, as it provides a lot of freedom of movement and will dry super-fast.

The same thing goes for swim trunks if you are a man. Just remember to use lots of sun protection if you opt for this clothing choice.

Lightweight Shorts

If you do not own board shorts, and you would rather not break out your swim suit for this activity, a lightweight, fast-drying pair of shorts will also suffice.

Today there are many loose-fitting short styles on the market today, made from synthetic materials that will wick moisture away from your skin and keep you nice and dry and comfortable as you paddle.

Lightweight Tees

To complete your outfit, we recommend you go with a very lightweight T-shirt. There are tons of T-shirts on the market today that are made from lightweight, fast-drying synthetic fabrics.

How loose or tight-fitting you like your T-shirts is an individual decision, just be sure to shy away from slow-drying materials such as cotton, and clothes that bind you around the joints.

Tip: Opt for a shirt with UV protection to keep the sun’s rays at bay.

Hat/Cap

With the hot sun beating down on you and reflecting off the water, sunburns when stand-up paddle boarding are a very real concern. However, you can protect your neck and face from the heat and UV rays of the sun by wearing a hat of some kind.

A ball cap is a relatively good choice here. Not only do they look good on both men and women, the bill or visor of the cap will help protect your face and eyes from the sun.

An even better choice is a wide-brimmed hat. Wide-brimmed hats offer both face and neck protection, and they let in far fewer rays than a ball cap.

Of course, this is a matter of personal preference, but for the ultimate in protection we recommend the wide-brimmed hat.

Water Shoes

There are scores of people on the water today that elect to go barefooted when stand-up paddle boarding. If this describes you, and you find it works well for you, there is really no great reason to change.

However, if you are looking for some slip-proof insurance when paddle boarding, we highly recommend you pick up a pair of high-quality water shoes. Water shoes are a type of footwear that contour wonderfully to your feet, just like an outer skin.

They are fast-drying should they become wet, and they offer a lot of traction when standing on the board, mostly due to the rubber-like neoprene material from which they are usually made.

Tip: Surf booties are a great choice here – they even help keep your feet warm in the cold water so you can stay on your board for longer periods.

SUP Non-Clothing Items

Now that we have covered in detail some of the clothing items you should definitely think about wearing when stand-up paddle boarding, let us now discuss some of the non-clothing items you should wear—items you should wear for safety purposes and convenience.

Life Jacket/Life Vest (PFD)

Depending on where you live, you may be required by law to wear a life vest or some other type of personal flotation device when stand-up paddle boarding. And even if such items are not required in your particular state, city or municipality, we think it’s a good idea if you purchase and wear one anyway.

Why do we say this?

When paddle boarding, especially in rougher, colder waters, there is always a good chance that you are going to fall into the water. There is also a good chance that your paddle board may not be easily accessible to you after you fall in.

With a personal flotation device (PFD) you can stay above the water until you can make it back to your board, or until someone executes a rescue.

It will protect you from drowning or becoming too tired when in the water, and is especially important in fast-moving water that can be very cold in some areas.

Sunglasses

Anytime you are on or near the water you should be wearing sunglasses. With the constant glare of the sun off the water, your eyes can gradually become damaged without the proper eye protection.

When purchasing sunglasses, you may want to get the polarized variety, which are best for water sports and offer the most protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

Fanny Pack/Backpack

A fanny pack or small backpack is another essential item to wear when stand-up paddle boarding. With these types of storage items, you will always have a place to hold things like keys, phones, money, snacks and more.

We recommend that the backpack you select is waterproof—or at least water resistant—which will protect your precious items should you and your pack fall into the water.

Tip: A dry bag is a great choice here!

Sunscreen

Last, but certainly not least on the “what to wear list when stand-up paddle boarding” is sunscreen.

As we have mentioned before, your risk of burning when out on the water is very high.

For that reason, and to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays, we recommend you always wear sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher—even 45 or higher if you are very fair-skinned.

What NOT to Wear When Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Although we have already covered a few things you should avoid wearing when stand-up paddle boarding, let’s just do a quick review:

Cotton Clothing

Although cotton clothing may seem like a good idea due to its comfort, experts say to steer away from it.

Cotton clothing, when wet, takes forever to dry, and will leave you feeling miserable as you try to paddle.

Sneakers

Avoid wearing sneakers or tennis shoes when out on your paddle board.

First, it is not a very fashionable choice for a water sport.

And second, if you happen to fall into the water, which is highly likely, the last thing you want to do is try to paddle with soaking wet shoes that are slipping all over your paddle board.

Anything That Is Too Binding Or Constricting

Lastly, stand up paddle boarding requires freedom of movement, for that reason, try to avoid any clothing that binds at the shoulders, elbows or knees.

Instead, opt for loose fitting or specialized clothing that allows you to move freely.

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