The marketing literature for paddle boards might show beautiful calm water and brilliantly blue skies, but that’s not always the reality of SUP boarding. The thing is SUP boarding is a water sport which means that you’re always at risk of getting wet.
Therefore, it doesn’t particularly matter if it rains because it’s odds on you’re wet already. Of course, paddling along in the blistering sunshine is idyllic. You stay warm, dry, and comfortable all day long. However, if you really want to progress and hone your skills, you’ll need to practice in all weather.
Rain isn’t really a problem on its own. The only issue with rain is that it can make your board a bit slippery. The real difficulty is the cold or windy conditions that tend to come along with the rain.
Temperature is definitely something to be aware of when you’re thinking of heading out. A summer rain shower, for instance, will cool you down a little, but won’t put you at risk of hypothermia.
Getting caught in the rain at lower temperatures can make you very cold, very quickly. If there’s wind as well, your body temperature can plummet. So, before you head out on the water, check the temperature and the wind-chill. If conditions look cold and wind as well as rainy, you’ll need to make sure you dress warm.
The other issue you face in wet and windy conditions is choppy waters. If you paddle on the ocean, then you may be used to slightly rocky conditions. If, however, you paddle on lakes or reservoirs then you’re probably used to glassy calm water.
When the wind picks up and the rain lashes down onto the water, the surface can get incredibly choppy. Choppy conditions are tricky for a few reasons.
First and foremost, choppy water makes it much harder for you to balance on your paddle board. The water rocks your board making it feel like you’re trying to balance on jelly!
The other thing about choppy water is that it can make it difficult to swim or float if you fall off the board. If you’re planning on heading out in stormy weather, make sure your swimming ability is up to the conditions.
You should be wearing a flotation device no matter the weather, but it is particularly important in choppy water. Make sure it’s high visibility, so you stick out from the gray water.
Do You Need a Wetsuit for Paddle Boarding?
The answer to this question will change depending on the weather conditions you’re paddling in. We’re going to talk you through what you should wear paddle boarding for each season.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where it’s warm all year round, you can just focus on our summer advice. If you’re living in cooler climes, focus on the winter guidance.
Let’s start with summer. You don’t need to wear a wetsuit in summer weather. If you’d happily swim in the water in a bathing suit, then you can paddle in a bathing suit. If you take a spill and end up in the drink, you should be fine.
You may find that you get a little chilly paddling in wet clothes. That’s why you might want to wear quick drying board shorts and a light shirt. These clothes can offer you a bit of protection from the sun as well as the cold.
The other thing to remember in the summer is a hat. You’ll want a cap or sun hat that can keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes.
In the spring or autumn, you can get away without a wetsuit if you’d prefer. You might want to spring for some neoprene shoes or boots. This will keep your feet warmer and still give you enough grip to stay up right.
To stay warm, you’ll need to add layers like jackets, long sleeve tops, or trousers. Any layers you do put on should be easy to put on or off on the paddle board. Wrestling with a hoodie might send you into the drink if you’re not careful.
In the winter, you’ll want to don a wetsuit or thermal layers at the very least. If you’re paddling in rougher water, a wetsuit is the best choice because it will keep you warm in and out of the water.
If you are going to put a wetsuit on, then you need to make sure it's winter rated for the temperatures you’re paddling in. It also needs to be full length rather than short or cropped.
You’ll also want to consider neoprene shoes and gloves to keep your extremities nice and toasty. A warm hat or neoprene hat is also highly recommended.
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I’m an Colorado native, who learned to surf in the Pacific Northwest, and SW Canada. I live inland near the mountains now, and love to get out on my SUP. It’s weird, but I love windy, choppy days as no-one is out and I like the challenge.