What Attire to Wear When Paddleboarding?

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Expert: Cameron – I have been active in all water-based adventures since 2014. In my youth I would stay with my uncle in Florida who introduced me to paddleboarding and have enjoyed SUP ever since. While traveling I frequently rent paddleboards to explore coastlines of tropical areas such as Hawaii and Guam to include my shoreline at home on the Emerald Coast.

Paddleboarding is a captivating water sport that offers a harmonious blend of adventure and tranquility.

As you embark on your SUP (stand up paddleboarding) journey, it’s crucial to prioritize your comfort, performance, and safety by selecting the right attire.

The attire you choose plays a pivotal role in ensuring a seamless and enjoyable experience on the water.

What do you need to wear when paddleboarding?

For paddleboarding, wear rash guards, swimwear, or wetsuits for sun protection and comfort. Use water shoes or go barefoot. Protect your eyes with polarized sunglasses, shield your face with a sun hat, and apply waterproof sunscreen. Bring a change of clothes and a light layer. Lastly, prioritize safety with a PFD and leash attached to your SUP.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the essential aspects of SUP clothing, from protective gear to sun accessories, enabling you to make informed choices for your paddle boarding wardrobe.

Related: What to Bring When Paddleboarding?

Choosing the Right SUP Attire

When it comes to paddleboarding attire, striking the right balance between functionality and style is paramount.

Paddle boarding clothing serves a dual purpose: it protects you from the elements while allowing you to move freely.

Several factors should influence your clothing choices, including the prevailing weather conditions, water environment, and the duration of your paddle boarding session.

By aligning your attire with these considerations, you can optimize your overall experience.

Related: What is Paddleboarding?

Essential Clothing for Paddle Boarding

There are many clothing options for you to choose from, but you want to be sure what your wearing matches your needs.

Rash Guards and Wetsuits

Lifeguard Looking at the Ocean

Protecting your skin from sun, chafing, and cold water will ensure progressive fun.

No one wants to spend their vacation or days off recovering from the previous adventure.

Rash guards and wetsuits are indispensable components of your paddle boarding wardrobe, offering protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays and minimizing the risk of skin irritation.

Rash Guards

According to the CDC a sunburn is not immediately apparent.

Symptoms usually start about 4 hours after sun exposure, worsen in 24-36 hours, and resolve in 3-5 days.

A well-fitted rash guard acts as a barrier against chafing.

I have had many rashes from the salt water friction after spending long days in the ocean; do not skip out on a rash guard.

Not as much with your inner thigh since you are not kicking in the water, but you are using a paddle that potentially will cause chafing.


Wetsuits provide thermal insulation in colder waters as well as protection from some harmful marine life like jellyfish.

Selecting the appropriate thickness and material for your wetsuit is crucial to ensure optimal comfort and mobility during your paddleboarding adventures.

It is a general recommendation to wear a wetsuit in any water that is below 70°F.

According to a study from the National Library of Medicine, ‘a 2–3 mm wet suit provided adequate thermal protection…engaged in active diving in shallow water with a temperature of 16°C (60.8°F) and above.

You might not think you will need a wet suit, however there are times when you take a fall into the water so be warry if you decide to go without.

Swimwear and Board Shorts

Opting for swimwear that strikes the right balance between comfort and mobility will augment your SUP fun as well.

Board shorts are a popular choice, known for their quick-drying properties and resistance to abrasion.

These shorts allow for unrestricted movement while providing a layer of protection against the board’s surface.

Choosing swimwear with moisture-wicking capabilities ensures you stay comfortable throughout your paddleboarding session.

Personally, I bring some nice board shorts that has a form fitting mesh inside to prevent chafing.

It is kind of like wearing double pair of shorts that still dry quickly.

Moisture-Wicking Performance Apparel

Moisture-wicking performance apparel is designed to keep you dry by effectively managing sweat and moisture.

These garments feature advanced fabrics that pull moisture away from your skin, allowing it to evaporate quickly.

Additionally, many performance apparel pieces offer UV protection, shielding your skin from the sun’s intense rays.

By incorporating moisture-wicking clothing into your attire, you can enjoy prolonged comfort on the water.

You can easily find these in fishing apparel in stores; I wear a long sleeve fishing shirt most days.

Footwear for Paddle Boarding

Snorkel Gear Outside

Water Shoes

Water shoes are a big component of your paddle boarding ensemble, offering both traction and protection.

Designed to grip wet surfaces, water shoes prevent slipping and enhance your stability on the board.

These lightweight and quick-drying shoes provide a comfortable fit and ensure you maintain your footing, even in challenging conditions.

To save some money, I just use my diving boots if I am in dire need of some thing for a board I rent

This is because some boards do not have a grip pad, and even if they do they still get slick when wet for prolonged periods.

My dive boots absolutely do not dry easily unfortunately, so be mindful if you go this route (they stink if not rinsed quickly after exiting the water).

Barefoot Paddle Boarding

Barefoot paddleboarding is a minimalist approach that allows direct contact between your feet and the board.

This technique offers enhanced control and sensory feedback, contributing to a more intimate connection with the water.

However, it’s important to consider the water conditions and potential hazards when opting for barefoot paddle boarding.

Calm and shallow waters are often ideal for this approach, while protective footwear may be necessary in rougher environments.

The temperature of the water is not what I personally consider, I focus on what the terrain out of the water will be and if I will have a grip on the board.

Walking around getting out of the water with a heavy board and on broken shells or old coral beaches is awful, luckily I have some dive boots.

Sun Protection and Accessories

Do not underestimate the sun!

Sun Hats and Visors

Sun protection is paramount during your paddleboarding excursions.

Donning a wide-brimmed sun hat or a visor shields your face and eyes from the sun’s intense rays.

The added protection reduces the risk of sunburn and minimizes glare, enhancing your visibility on the water.

Look for hats with secure fastening mechanisms to ensure they stay in place even in windy conditions.

Even if you don’t want to wear a hat, there are fishing shirts that cover your head like a hoodie would.

I have been around many people that wear these and essentially cuts down on sunscreen usage and still allows for a breeze to blow through.


Investing in a pair of polarized sunglasses is a wonderful decision when you head out paddleboarding.

Polarized lenses reduce glare, allowing you to see clearly on the water’s surface.

Additionally, sunglasses provide vital protection against harmful UV rays that can damage your eyes over time.

According to the National Eye Institute, prolonged exposure to UV rays modifies lens proteins which leads to cataract formation.

Cataract formation is associated with blurry, hazy, or less colorful vision.

Opt for sunglasses with a snug fit and consider using a floating strap to prevent loss in case they accidentally fall into the water.

Waterproof Sunscreen

Sea Turtle Philippines

Applying waterproof sunscreen is a non-negotiable step before embarking on your SUP adventure.

Sunscreen acts as a barrier against UV radiation, safeguarding your skin from sunburn and potential long-term damage.

Look for water-resistant formulas that maintain their effectiveness even when you come into contact with water.

Reapply sunscreen regularly to ensure continuous protection throughout your session.

Be mindful that some sunscreens are banned in areas like Hawaii and Maui.

Because chemicals in some sunscreens can wash off our bodies and harm coral and other marine life, the County of Maui passed Ordinance No. 5306.

This bans the sale, distribution and use of non-mineral sunscreens without a prescription. 

Related: Simple Ways to Promote Environment Awareness While Snorkeling

Layering and Adjustments

A small consideration when bringing along extra clothing.

Lightweight Outerwear

Weather can be unpredictable, and it’s prudent to be prepared for sudden changes.

Packing a lightweight outer layer, such as a windbreaker or a rain jacket, ensures you remain comfortable and dry when unexpected weather patterns emerge.

These versatile garments provide protection against wind and light rain, allowing you to adapt to changing conditions seamlessly.

That being said, when thunderstorms role through it is time for you and your SUP to get out of the water immediately.

Bringing Extra Clothing

Carrying a dry change of clothes in a waterproof bag is a strategic move that accounts for unforeseen circumstances.

Accidental falls, splashes, or unexpected weather changes can leave you damp or wet.

Having a set of dry clothes readily available allows you to change into something comfortable after your SUP session, ensuring you stay warm and cozy.

Personal Safety and Gear

This section is not to be neglected, accidents can happen and when you are on your paddleboard you need a backup plan if currents knock you down.

PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices)

Personal Flotation Devices, commonly known as PFDs or life jackets, are essential components of paddle boarding safety.

Ensuring compliance with local regulations and wearing a well-fitted PFD significantly enhances your safety on the water.

PFDs provide buoyancy and peace of mind, especially when navigating unfamiliar waters or challenging conditions.

There are many options to choose from if you do not want to wear a life jacket all day on your SUP.

The image below shows an emergency PFD float belt that stays out of the way until you need it.

Paddleboarding with gear and equipment

Leashes and Tethers

Leashes and tethers are vital accessories that prevent accidental board separation and drifting.

By attaching the leash to your ankle and the board, you ensure that the board remains within reach, even if you fall into the water.

Proper attachment techniques are crucial to prevent entanglement and ensure a secure connection between you and the board.

You don’t really want to attach it to your risk because it’s easily tangled with your paddle.


Selecting the appropriate attire for paddleboarding is a thoughtful process that directly impacts your overall experience.

By considering the elements discussed in this guide – from protective clothing to safety gear – you can assemble an ideal paddle boarding outfit that maximizes comfort, performance, and safety.

The right attire allows you to immerse yourself fully in the beauty of paddleboarding, ensuring you enjoy a comfortable and safe experience on the water.

Embrace the adventure, and may your SUP journey be filled with unforgettable moments of serenity and excitement.

[Sources and References]

“Sun Exposure – Sunburn.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 May 2018, www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/sunexposure/sunburn.html.

Ofir, Dror, et al. “Evaluating the Thermal Protection Provided by a 2‒3 Mm Wet Suit during Fin Diving in Shallow Water with a Temperature of 16‒20°C.” Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 20 Dec. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7039775/.

“Protecting Your Eyes from the Sun’s UV Light.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and-events/news/protecting-your-eyes-suns-uv-light#:~:text=Prolonged%20exposure%20to%20UV%20rays,are%20linked%20to%20UV%20exposure. Accessed 23 Aug. 2023.

“Mineral Only Sunscreen Maui County: Maui County, Hi – Official Website.” SiteID, www.mauicounty.gov/2483/Mineral-Only-Sunscreen-Maui-County. Accessed 23 Aug. 2023.

Bill No. 135 (2021) a Bill for an Ordinance … – Maui County, Hawaii, www.mauicounty.gov/DocumentCenter/View/130826/Ord-5306. Accessed 23 Aug. 2023.

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