December 7, 2022

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What to Wear Paddleboarding in Winter: SUP Safely!

9 min read

what to wear paddleboarding in winter

Wondering what to wear paddleboarding in the winter?

Did you know that September is actually one of the best months for paddleboarding (and kayaking)? The water has had all summer to warm up, and is usually still quite comfortable.

By October, though, the UK’s water temperatures start to fall. It’s important to think about what you’ll wear if you want to keep paddling through the winter. It can be hard to know what to buy – and especially if you’re looking for plus size SUP kit for winter.

The priority for safe, comfortable SUP adventuring in cold weather is to find clothes that will keep you warm, dry and safe. It’s also important to consider whether you have the right safety kit on your board, and for when you get back to dry land. Below you’ll find my recommendations of kit and clothing that is useful for winter paddling expeditions, with details of where items are available in larger sizes.

Sidenote: I’m an Amazon affiliate, so I may receive a small commission if you buy something I recommend here. 

Can you go paddleboarding in winter?

There’s an old saying that there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. That’s true for SUP as much as anything else. Here in the UK, most water will remain unfrozen through most the winter, making it possible to paddle for most of the year. That means if you love to kayak or SUP, you can enjoy cool, crisp winter scenery with far fewer crowds.

arisaig beaches

Arisaig in October

It’s just a case of being prepared. This means being sure that:

  • You have the right clothing to keep you as warm and dry as possible
  • You make the right preparations and have all appropriate safety kit
  • You have warm-up gear ready when you come off the water to warm you up

So what should you wear paddleboarding in winter? And what do you need to take on a Winter SUP adventure?

Let’s start with the clothing:

What to Wear Paddleboarding in Winter

The right clothing will protect you from frostbite and hypothermia when air and water temperatures are at their lowest. You want to look for clothes that insulate you and keep you warmer on the water, without weighing you down or restricting your movement if you fall in.  Jeans and jumpers might seem cosy, but if you fall into the water they could sink you.

Whatever you wear should not absorb water, should keep you warm, and should limit your exposure to cold.

A Thicker Wetsuit

In the UK, you should be able to manage with a thicker wetsuit for the warmer part of the winter.  This is probably the simplest and cheapest thing to wear for winter paddling. By thicker, you’ll be looking for a wetsuit of 5mm thickness (compared to a 2/3mm suit in summer). You can get a slightly thinner suit, and remember you can wear a layer under and over a wetsuit to help you stay warmer.

For cold weather paddles, I tend to wear a long-john style wetsuit that allows for more arm movement, with a sports tee shirt and cagoule over the top for warmth. Mine is very similar to this Osprey sleeveless wetsuit, which goes up to XXXL and is only £38. With a decent hat and gloves, that keeps me warm and comfortable almost year round.

My other recommendation for full winter wetsuits is Mountain Warehouse. They’re great quality, comfortable and available in a broad range of sizes up to a women’s 26/28. You can find them online here. This is the men’s winter wetsuit, which costs £99 and is 5mm thick. The women’s full suits are currently available up to size 26 in a 2.5mm thickness. If you want a warmer suit, these unisex suits from Osprey are designed for UK winter water temperatures and are available up to a size 3XL.

Drysuit

In summer, you may well wear a wetsuit for paddlesports. A drysuit is a great idea to wear during winter SUP trips, because it keeps water out, keeping you dry. They’re designed for divers and kayakers, so offer excellent movement in the water, and you can wear a second, warm layer underneath. Some drysuits include an under-layer fleece garment for warmth.

But drysuits can be expensive. One of the most affordable options I’ve found is this women’s drysuit from Gul, at around £300. There is also a Typhoon drysuit at Escape Watersports at £350. These suits should be an investment and last for years, but you could also look on eBay for second-hand if you’re on a budget.

Or a dry top

Personally, I think a drysuit is too expensive for what’s an occasional hobby for me and my teen. So I’m happy to manage with a wetsuit most of the year.

When it’s really cold or if we’re in Scotland, I do upgrade my gear slightly by using a specialist cagoule for paddleboarding and kayaking. These tops combine (usually) a warm top with a windproof outer layer and tight seals at the neck, sleeves and waist to keep you dry, even if you fall into the water. By protecting my core and keeping my body dry, I minimise the risk of cold water shock if I take a tumble, and am protected from the wind and showers.

palm velocity uk

The best jacket of this kind (and the one I use) is a Palm Velocity. This jacket costs £130, and has really snug seals at the neck and hands and a double seal at the waist to stop water flowing up into your jacket in the event of a fall. It promises to keep you ‘mostly dry’ when submerged in water. The men’s XXL is equivalent to a UK size 24.

If you don’t like having a tight seal around the neck you might prefer the Palm PS Tourlite, which has an open neck style.

Some cheaper alternatives if you’re on a budget. This Helly Hansen drysuit top comes in at around £75, and it’s available up to XL.

cheap drysuit top uk

Meanwhile, this similar version from Osprey is just £32, and is available up to XXL (women’s 20-22). It is thinner, so will need a top underneath, and doesn’t have the double waist seal.

Base layers

If you’re wearing a cagoule style top when paddleboarding in winter, it’s important to have an under layer that won’t weigh you down, but which will keep you warm.

what to wear winter SUP

Wearing skin-tight thermal tops as a base layer will keep you warm without adding weight (or a wetsuit). You need thermals that are easy to move in, and not too thick – this thermal set from Mountain Warehouse is great quality and available up to an 4XL. Available in a bunch of colours, they’re currently available for just £9.99.

If you get cold easily, upgrade to this merino version, which is especially cosy on a frosty morning!

Gloves

gloves winter sup paddleboard

When paddleboarding in the winter, your hands are constantly exposed, so a good pair of gloves is an essential. These waterproof gloves are thin enough to give you good movement, while keeping your hands warm. I also like these kayaking gloves with extra grip on the palms, which only cost £5.

Boots and Socks

If you want to paddleboard in colder weather, one of the critical areas you need to keep warm is your feet! This can be a challenge because most of us want shoes that let us ‘feel’ the board underneath us, but will protect our feet from splashes.

winter sup socks

If the weather isn’t too cold, you might be able to get away with these Pawhit neoprene socks but if it’s really cold then I recommend wearing more substantial with a pair of waterproof or merino socks underneath for warmth (you might want to buy a size up to allow for socks). These Otter socks are the absolute best!

what to wear paddleboarding in winter uk

For boots, if you’re paddleboarding where it’s rocky, I’d recommend these Palm waterproof boots which have quite a substantial sole. For sandy or lake SUP rides, how about these Gul boots at £39?

 

Essential Kit for Winter SUP Riders

 

So you’re all dressed up and ready to go? There is some additional kit that I’d recommend for winter paddleboarding outings.

A Suitable PFD

what you need to paddleboard

A personal flotation device is recommended for SUP riders in the summer, but it’s especially important in the winter, when you are more at risk of cold water shock. Getting the right flotation means you are supported in the water, but aren’t impeded from getting out of the water as quickly as possible.

Look for a PFD of at least 50N, which will give you the ability to float until help arrives. But if you’re paddleboarding in the winter, it’s crucial to have a PFD that doesn’t make it hard for you to get back on the board if you fall off. Look for minimal clips, zips and buckles on the front of your jacket. The Helly Hansen jacket above is ideal for beginners and available from around £30.

PFD for paddleboarding

Something like this PFD zip up jacket from Typhoon is a little neater on the front. This makes it easier to pull yourself back on board if you fall into the water. It’s ideal for paddleboarding, and is available up to size XXL.

 

Fast Release Leash for Moving Water

quick release waist leash

If you’re paddling in a river or other moving water, it’s recommended to use your ankle leash attached to a quick release waist belt. The idea is that this is easier to remove if you get tangled up in under-water obstacles. In these situations, it can be tough to reach your ankle. You can get a simple model designed for SUP riders on the Red website here.

SUP phone case

Mobile phone case

It’s always a good idea to take a phone with you when paddleboarding, and especially in winter when time is of the essence. These cheap and cheerful cases from Amazon cost just £6 will protect your phone from the water and can easily be attached to the bungee cords on a SUP or to a D-ring, if you have them.

 

What to Take Winter Paddleboarding

Lastly, you need to think about kit you can use after you’ve been paddleboarding.

At this point, you want to warm yourself up quickly, and get dry. You should have a warm drink on land for when you finish paddleboarding, and something to get you dry while you change into fresh clothes. Alongside your change of cloths, here’s what you need:

red changing robe for SUP

A dry robe or changing robe

There are lots of different changing robes on the market these days. Personally, I use a Dry Robe and find it fantastic, but you could also look at the Evo Changing Robe from paddleboarding brand Red, or the Bluefin waterproof changing coat, which is currently 20% at £119.

If you don’t want to spend the £100+ for these brands, there are some more wallet-friendly options available. This changing robe is a little lighter in weight than the Dry Robe but it has a lot of 5* reviews and costs just £50.

A hot flask

One of the best parts of coming off the water is having a hot flask in the car. Personally, I’m a hot Ribena girl but I am occasionally also fond of coffee or hot chocolate. This flask is a classic thermos and tough as old boots. It will keep your hot drink warm for up to 24 hours, and holds enough to share between two. It’s also available in multiple colours, meaning we can have one each and I don’t get accused of stealing my daughter’s drink.

best flask for winter paddleboarding

We also use one of these food flasks on the coldest days and take a pot of chilli with us, which we eat with a bag of Doritos. They’re ideal for chilli, bolognese and other hot lunches. Available in two sizes for single or larger portions.

Hot Water Bottle

One of the things we have in the car if the weather is REALLY cold is a hot water bottle. It’s great if we’re going to sit on the beach for a while to have a hot drink, and does an amazing job of warming up cold hands and bodies! It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or expensive – this three pack from Amazon is just £16.99.

 

So there you have it – our complete guide to everything you need while on a winter SUP outing. Remember to think about what you need to wear before you get on the water; the kit you need while on the water; and warming yourself up after paddleboarding.

We hope you enjoy paddleboarding in the winter with the help of these tips! 

 

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