What to Wear Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Your 3 Seasons Guide

  • Last Updated On: May 28, 2019
  • / SUP Guides
  • / By Ashley

So you have finally decided to give stand up paddle boarding a try. You found a great place to go out on the water but there is still something missing...

You know you need a board, a paddle and a life preserver but you are left wondering – Do I need a specific paddle boarding outfit?

We are going to help sort it out for you so you can dress appropriately and enjoy your time paddling away!

Quick Answer: What to Wear Paddle Boarding?

It's a logical question most beginners have. Without complicating matters you can go out wearing whatever comfortable bathing suit you currently own.

For the guys, your favorite pair of board shorts or swim trunks (maybe leave the Speedo at home though).

For the ladies, your most stylish one piece swimsuit or bikini.

Of course the location where you will be stand up paddle boarding in any given time of year will have a factor so let’s take a look at some different variables so you can determine what to wear paddle boarding and even what NOT to wear!

Summer Time SUP Attire

Since most of the US does experience warmer weather during the summer months, even though in some areas those months last longer than other places, what you will wear will be similar.

Swim Trunk and Swimsuits

You don’t need anything fancy here but make sure it is comfortable. Since stand up paddle boarding is a physical activity you will be moving your body so ensuring what you wear is suitable through a full range of motion will be key.

Whatever you choose just make sure it is NOT made of cotton. Cotton retains water and when wet will be heavy. You don’t want to be carrying around an extra 10 pounds of water for no reason so make smart choices with your swimsuit materials.

Eye Protection

Whether you prefer a hat, sunglasses or both, protecting your eyes is VERY important. I realize tan lines aren’t cool and being a golfer as well, I know all about the dreaded white forehead tan lower face syndrome that you want to avoid.

But your eyesight and eye health is important so make sure you are protecting them in some way.

Life Preserver

A personal flotation device (pfd) is priority number one. You can opt for a regular old boat life vest if that is all you have but you will be better suited getting a paddling specific pfd or even a waist belt pfd.

The US Coast Guard does recognize stand up paddle boards as vessels so you do need to carry a life preserver with you.  Another safety item that some pfd’s come with but if yours doesn’t it would be a good idea to have a whistle. Depending on where you are paddle boarding someone may not be able to see in case of an emergency but could hear your whistle instead.

It is always beneficial to err on the side safety whenever water is involved.

Ok, so the common theme in regards to what to wear stand up paddle boarding seems to center around the topic of protection and this next item is also along those lines...


Just like I want you to protect your eyes you should also make sure you are protecting your skin. Putting on some appropriate spf prior to your adventure and even during depending on how long you will be in the sun should be a priority.

Don’t worry, you can still get a tan even with sunscreen on but remember, even a tan is technically skin damage from the sun!

If you are going to be paddling in Hawaii or really anywhere there are coral reefs do what is good for the environment and seek out a reef safe sunscreen to use.


The last item I am going to put on the ‘required’ list is a leash.

If you are renting a SUP then any good rental place will have leashes already on their boards. If you bought your own SUP or inflatable stand up paddle board then most likely it came with one.

Make sure it is securely attached to your board and of course to your ankle prior to your departure. I know you don’t want to have to go swimming after a runaway board if you happen to fall off!

The next couple of ideas are optional but if they will make your journey more comfortable then by all means wear them.

Rash Guard (short or long sleeve)

Rash guards serve a couple of purposes. If you were to do more traditional style paddle boarding (not the stand up variety) then laying on your board could lead to a rash on your chest depending on the material your board is made of and if you have sensitive skin or not.

They will also help prevent chaffing while paddling or even from your personal flotation device contacting your skin. Plus most good rash guard attire is made of uv protective fabric to help keep the sun’s harmful rays away.

They are typically more form fitting so you will want to find a size that isn’t too restrictive in your movements.

Water Shoes

A question I get asked often is do you need water shoes for paddle boarding? The easy answer is no.

Again, this boils down to personal preference and where you will be paddling.

Is there a chance you could accidentally step on or scrape your foot on sharp objects, trees or lava rock? If so, then you might want to opt for a pair of water shoes.

Don’t substitute your running shoes for water shoes though. Athletic shoes were not made to be soaked so they will retain water and be heavy and very uncomfortable.

A good pair of water shoes were designed to keep your feet protected but also be lightweight while allowing water to drain from them.

Spring and Fall Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Except for most of the Southeast US you will come across some different air and water temperatures in the spring and fall that might require some different paddle boarding attire.

The key is to know that your body heat leaves your extremities first so seeking out products that protect your head, hands and feet should be a priority.

If you opt for a pair of water shoes then look for ones made of thick neoprene that will help to keep your feet warm and dry.

There are neoprene gloves as well but make sure you still retain the dexterity in your hands since you will be holding a paddle after all.

Another neoprene item is a hood to cover your head. These definitely are not ‘sexy’ but they are effective!

You can also layer with a waterproof jacket. These are great options because they are typically lightweight, allow you to have good range of motion and will block wind while keeping you dry.

Wrapping it SUP...

Stand up paddle boarding in the winter is a whole different animal so I will tackle that topic in its own article. There are some absolutely amazing areas where you can take in snow capped mountains before the alpine lakes freeze over but you will want to be extra careful with where you go and what you wear.

Or you could just plan a trip to any of the numerous tropical locations around the world or even South Florida to get away from the freezing temperature where you live.

The possibilities are endless for year round paddling and now that you know what to wear while stand up paddle boarding you have no excuses for not getting out on the water any time.

What to Wear SUP - HelloTrail Paddle Heaven

The key takeaways are to dress in what makes you comfortable and always remember to protect your eyes, skin and most importantly YOU!

What is your go-to paddle boarding outfit? Leave me a comment below or tag us in your next Instagram pic and use #paddleheaven!

About the Author Ashley

Ashley's a Florida girl that didn't see snow until her twenty's. Andrew initiated her with a January trip to Breckenridge and the rest is history! A flatlander most of her life, Ashley now craves challenging trails but isn't a fan of log crossings over rapidily flowing mountain streams. Click here to learn more about Ashley's outdoorsy background...