What To Wear Paddle Boarding In The Summer. A Guide To A Great Day On The Water In 2020

what to wear paddle boarding in the summer

It’s a wonderful summer day and you’re headed out to SUP paddle board for the first time. What should you wear?  You want to stay comfortable and be not too hot, not too cold, and not feeling like a soggy sponge all day.  You don’t want to get sunburn so sun protection is important too. Your clothing choice can make or break your day paddle boarding. You want to know what to wear paddle boarding in the summer.

What to wear paddle boarding in the summer.

If you are going out on SUP paddle board you should plan to get wet. Even on the nicest of summer weather days you will get wet while paddle boarding. If it’s your first time, you are definitely going to fall off the board more than once. You will inevitably splash yourself or get splashed by one of your friends. All your clothes should be items that are comfortable when wet and also quick drying. See the below video for a quick guide on what to wear paddle boarding in the summer.

Now we’ll get to the specifics of what items you should wear and bring with you when you head out paddle boarding the first time.

Bathing suit

Bathing suits are great to wear paddle boarding. They are perfect for getting wet. If it’s a nice warm day and the water temperature isn’t too cold that’s all you really need. Maybe a quick drying shirt and shorts to go with it.

Technical Shirt, Quick Drying Shirt or Rashguard

Rashguards are made of lycra/spandex and are quick drying, comfortable when wet and most are also protect you from UV. They make great shirts to wear while paddle boarding. They will protect you from the bright summer sun and stay dry and comfortable. Any other synthetic quick drying shirt will work great too. Cotton isn’t great because once it gets wet it doesn’t dry that quick. It loses all insulating value once it’s wet also. Cotton is a great material to wear if you want to feel soggy cold and wet.

Board Shorts, Quick Drying shorts

Whatever you wear on your bottom is going to get wet. Something that is quick drying and not soggy is good. For guys bathing suits are excellent. For woman you may want to wear board shorts, running shorts or something else synthetic and quick drying on top of your bathing suit. Tights are popular these days as well.

Water shoes or sandals

When you walk out into the water to get on your SUP board, your feet are going to get wet. More than likely you are going to fall in the water a few times too. You never know what is on the ground under the water. Glass bottles and other sharp objects find their way to the bottom. Any water shoe or sandal will work well for paddle boarding. Pick a shoe that works well for what you’ll be doing before and after paddle boarding too.

Life jacket (no inflatables)

The next most important thing is a comfortable PFD or life jacket. When paddle boarding chances are good that sooner or later you’ll end up in the water. Everyone falls in the water due to waves, boat wake, or just not paying attention.

Inflatable life jackets should only be worn if your paddle boarding on a really calm hot summer day with smooth water and when there is really no chance you’ll need a PFD. In that instance Suspender or Belt inflatable PFD’s make sense since they are low profile and comfortable to wear. You’ll be covered for having a PFD with you. You should never wear an auto-inflating PFD paddle boarding. There are too many easy ways to forget and inflate it making it useless for the rest of the day until you re-arm with a new CO2 cartridge. To learn more see my guide for SUP PFD’s.

Sun hat

It’s nice to have a little protection from the sun out on a SUP paddle board. Any hat that will provide a bit of shade will be great.

The water is pretty good at stealing hats off of peoples heads. I’ve lost more then a few to the lake over the years. You should get a hat leash or strap to attach your hat to the rest of your clothes.

Spray top

If it’s a cooler summer day with a bit of wind and waves you might want to consider wearing a spray top. Spray tops are non-insulated shell jackets with a tight seal around your neck, wrists and waist. They are great for blocking the wind and spray. A generic rain jacket will work okay as long as it isn’t so sloppy fitting that water can easily go up your back.

Spray pants

If it’s a cooler day and shorts won’t be warm enough then spray pants are a good option. Waterproof pants that will block the wind and spray from your legs. Waterproof is essential. Breathable material is really good so that you don’t get spongy underneath from moisture build up.


If it’s cooler out and the water temperature isn’t warm you may want to consider a wetsuit. A wetsuit is made of neoprene and insulate you while you are in the water.

When is it too cold to SUP paddle board without a wetsuit?  A good rule of thumb is the 120 degree rule.  If the water temperature plus the air temperature is below 120 degrees F you need to wear a wetsuit. 

For example.  If the air temperature is 75F degrees and the water temperature is 65 degrees, the combined temperature is 140F and you do not need to wear a wetsuit. 

If the air temperature is 65F degrees and the water temperature is 50F degrees, the combined temperature is 115F degrees.  115F is less than 120F so you need to wear a wetsuit.

stand up paddle boarder on lake

What to bring with you paddle boarding

There are several essentials to bring with you on your day paddle boarding such as sunscreen and a dry bag for you things. The below video has some good tips on what to wear and what to bring paddle boarding the first time in the summer.

A small gear bag (drybag)

A small bag to put your other what to bring with you items. Space is at a premium on a SUP paddle board. Depending on how long you are going to be on the water you may leave this in your car or somewhere else on the shore. A waterproof dry bag is good for carrying anything that can’t get wet.


Even if it’s cloudy you can still get sunburnt out on a SUP paddle board. The water reflects the sunlight back at you giving you another opportunity to get burnt. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistance

For more information on sunscreen click here.

Sunglasses (with a strap if you want to keep them)

A good set of polarized sunglasses will help protect your eyes from being damaged by the sun. If you really like your sunglasses a strap is a good idea to keep them attached to you. Like everything else that goes out on a SUP paddle board, they can easily find their way to the bottom of the lake or bay. The more expensive the sunglasses, the easier it seems for them to fall off into the water.


You’ll get thirsty paddling on a hot summer day. A water bottle with fresh water is a good idea. If your going out for several hours make sure you bring enough water.

How much water do you need paddle boarding on a hot summer day.

Some guidelines published by the University of Michigan state that you should drink the following amounts when exercising. You can see the report here.

  • Before paddle boarding: 17-20 oz. of water at least 2 hours prior to exercise
  • While paddle boarding: 7-10 oz. of water for every 10-20 minutes of exercise
  • After paddle boarding: 16-24 oz. of water for each pound lost due to sweating.

If were going on a 2 hour paddle which is pretty common we need 7-10oz every 10-20 minutes. That is a range of 21 oz to 60 oz of water per hour. For a 2 hour paddle you could need anywhere from 42 oz to 120 oz of water during the paddle. If you go for a longer 4 hour paddle the amount increase to 84 oz to 240 oz.


A granola bar or trail mix or other small snack is good if you’re going to be out a while. Keep in mind how messy the food you are bringing is. No one wants to scrape food gunk out of the bottom of their SUP paddle board. The people you rent them from don’t want to either. Some food items are more or less prohibited from ever being out on any form of boat. Cheetos or yellow cheesy puffs are the biggest offense you can possibly bring on a boat. They melt and turn into a super slippery slimy mess and they also stain the plastic or fiberglass.

A pocket knife or multitool

It’s a good idea to have a knife or multitool attached to your PFD or life jacket. You just never really know when you’ll have to cut something loose or need to tighten a fitting on your SUP paddle board. Having the right tool can mean the difference between a day cut short and a full day on the water.


The Coast Guard requires every boat, including stand up paddle boards, operating in US waters to have a sound producing device onboard. Yelling loudly isn’t considered an acceptable method. Having a whistle attached to your PFD is a good idea for being able to signal someone if you fall in the water. It can be difficult to hear on a windy day with the wind and water noise overpowering everything. A whistle might save your day sometime. For more information on Coast Guard required equipment click here.


Your probably going to get wet while your out paddle boarding so drying off can be nice when you get back to shore.

Change of clothes

When your day of paddle boarding is over, it’s nice to change into something dry. Bring an extra set of clothes so you can change and don’t need to drive home wet.


You just never know what will come up. Maybe you’ll paddle by some cute little ice waterside diner and you’ll want to stop for a quick bite. Having a little cash on hand is never a bad idea.

Go Have Fun paddle boarding This Summer

I hope you have a great day paddle boarding. I find it a lot of fun and I hope you will too.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water.  I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions.  I decided to start this Gear Craver as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.

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