A man is pictured paddling in the sunshine on a stand-up paddleboard.

What to Wear When Paddleboarding

Dress for success on the water with the right SUP clothing
Stand-up paddleboarding—or SUP—is a fantastic way to explore lakes, riverways, and gentle ocean surf at your own pace. And spending all that time in nature can be just as great for your mental health as it is for your physical health.

It’s a relatively easy sport to get started with—all you really need is the board, the paddle, and a body of water. There are plenty of places to rent stand-up paddleboards if you don’t want to buy one right away. Or better yet, borrow from a friend. The availability of inflatable boards means that you don't even need a car rack to get your board to the water.

Apart from the board, the only other question is what to wear paddleboarding. Your SUP clothing will be largely dictated by the time of year and current weather conditions. What you’d wear paddleboarding on a hot summer day, for example, will be totally different than what you’d wear on a chilly spring morning paddle.

But there is one adage that holds true any time you’re paddleboarding: never wear cotton. Cotton is not your friend outside, especially when it comes to water sports. It absorbs water easily, making it wet and heavy, not to mention that it takes forever to dry. Instead, opt for quick-drying clothes made from nylon or polyester. Options with technologies like Omni-Wick™ will lift moisture and help keep you dry and comfortable.

Clothing designed for fishing is also often great for paddleboarding. PFG gear offers sun protection as well as moisture management and cooling properties, making it a good choice whether you’re holding a fishing pole or SUP paddle.

With some basics out of the way, let’s answer a few more SUP-specific clothing questions before you get out on the water.
A man looks toward the shore in a beautiful canyon as he wnjoy sthe afternoon on a stand-up paddleboard.

What do I wear for SUP in the spring or summer?

Make sure your summertime paddleboarding outfit includes these basic pieces:
  • Quick-dry top
  • Quick-dry shorts or bottoms
  • Swimsuit (optional)
  • UPF-rated hat
  • Water shoes
Each item should have several important features, the first one being sun protection. Just like fishing or any other summer water activity, you need UPF-rated clothing when you’re paddleboarding. Not only are UV rays shining down from above, but they’re reflecting off the water too. And given that UPF fabric has been found to work better than sunscreen, it’s a good choice to protect you from harmful sun damage. Look for technologies like Omni-Shade or Omni-Shade Sun Deflector.

When stand-up paddleboarding in warm summer temperatures, you’re likely to also spend some time in the water cooling off, so you may want to wear a swimsuit or swim trunks too. If you’ll be paddling all day in the heat, clothing that features cooling technologies like Omni-Freeze Zero or Omni-Freeze Zero Ice will help you stay cool.

Do I need shoes for SUP? 

While you can certainly paddleboard barefoot, a good pair of water shoes will keep your feet better protected when getting in and out of the water, especially along rocky shores. When deciding what to wear on your feet for paddleboarding, you ideally want quick-drying, lightweight footwear that offers excellent grip on wet surfaces like docks, rocks, and your board. The best fishing shoes often make the best SUP shoes. Flip-flops are also a SUP footwear option, but they can easily fall off your feet and float away, so strap them in if you take them off, or save them for back on shore.
A woman wearing a hoodie and warm beanie paddles a stand-up paddleboard during a fall or winter adventure.

What do I wear for SUP in the winter or fall?

Your cool-weather paddleboarding outfit should include these items:
  • Quick-dry baselayer
  • Insulating midlayer
  • Windbreaker or rain jacket
  • UPF-rated hat
  • Water shoes or booties
When deciding what to wear paddleboarding in cold weather, it’s important that your clothing be able to adapt to the conditions and your activity level. The key to that is dressing in layers, with items that can be taken on and off to keep you warm and comfortable without overheating.

Start with a moisture-wicking, quick-drying baselayer, then add an outer layer of either a windbreaker or rain jacket, depending on the conditions. And if you’re really braving the extreme cold, you’ll also want to have an insulating midlayer of some type, whether that’s a warm fleece, knit, or puffy jacket. Lastly, make sure you have a good waterproof backpack to store the layers you aren’t currently wearing.

Should I wear a wetsuit when stand-up paddleboarding?

Whether or not you need a wetsuit is largely up to you. In the warmer summer months, you probably don’t need one. But if the water is 60°F or cooler and you expect to be in the water quite a bit, you might consider wearing one. Just remember, they’re designed to keep you warm in the water, so when you’re standing on your board in windy conditions, they can actually be a bit chilly.

What other SUP clothing or equipment should I bring?

Your cool-weather paddleboarding outfit should include these items:
  • Change of clothes: When you end the day wet and chilled, nothing feels better than putting on dry clothes—preferably something comfortable with soft fleece or other warm, cozy materials.
  • Sunglasses: When the sun is reflecting off the water’s surface, protecting your eyes is a must.
  • Sun hat: Help shield your face and neck from the sun with a UPF-rated hat.
  • Small cooler: After a good paddle, take a seat on your board, dangle your feet in the water and enjoy a cold beverage or tasty snack.
  • Water bottle: Hydration is important when stand-up paddleboarding so bring plenty of drinking water.
  • Waterproof backpack: Anything that can fall into the water probably will, so make sure you keep things like your wallet, keys, phone, etc. safe and dry.
  • Sunscreen: For those areas that UPF clothing can’t protect, a good UPF sunscreen is always a requirement—especially on the water.
Ready to suit up for your SUP adventure? Check out Columbia’s PFG collection.