What To Wear Paddleboarding In The UK

What to wear paddleboarding

A sport like paddleboarding requires you to think about what you wear every time you go on the water.

This isn’t like going to the gym when you know the exact temperature and conditions are consistent. There are so many variables with paddleboarding, it can be really difficult to decide what to wear. It’s not uncommon for even advanced paddle boarders to ask this question, because everybody wants the optimal balance of being warm and safe but also comfortable. 

What to wear paddleboarding depends on the air and sea temperature and your likelihood of falling in. To put it simply, wear something warm enough where if you fall in you will not get cold.

If the sea is warm and it’s a nice hot summer’s day, you can get away with wearing very little, maybe just swimming shorts and a rash vest for sun protection. However, on cold winter days when there is a brisk wind you will probably want to wear a thick winter wetsuit, wetsuit boots, gloves and even a neoprene balaclava (hood) if you’re likely to fall in.

The good news is paddleboarding is a sport that can be enjoyed all year round, as long as you have the right equipment and clothing. With some understanding of what to wear, you can be sure you’ll have the best time in all conditions.

Description of what to wear paddleboarding in the UK

Swim wear – When you start paddle boarding, this is the scene you imagine. A scorching day, blue skies and your body sun kissed as you paddleboard in just swimming shorts, swim suit or a bikini. This is all possible if the weather and sea is warm enough. If you plan on just wearing your swimwear, make sure you have good sun protection.

Sunglasses – If you are going for a paddleboard cruise on a sunny day, don’t forget your sunglasses. The sun reflecting off the sea can be very bright and be rather uncomfortable if you do not have sunglasses on.  

I have seen many sunglasses sink to the bottom of the ocean, so it’s a great idea to buy a strap.

Waterproof sunscreen – You are going on the ocean for a few hours where there is no shade from the sun. Be sure you slap on some suncream before you head out on the water to protect your skin. A good bucket hat or cap is also recommended to keep that UV off your face.

For more about waterproof sunscreen, read our blog about the best sunscreen for surfers.

Wetsuit – A wetsuit is made from a synthetic rubber called neoprene, which is designed to keep your body warm when the water feels too cold to be in with just swim wear. The wetsuit traps a thin layer of water between the neoprene and your body, which is why it is called a WETsuit. 

Wetsuits come in all shapes and sizes, from short summer ones to full length winter suits that almost cover up your whole body. The colder the water and air temperature, the thicker you want your wetsuit to be for paddleboarding.

Drysuit – If the weather and water is extremely cold, the next option going from a wetsuit is a drysuit. Drysuits, as the name suggests, keeps your entire body. The downsides of a drysuit are they are fragile and can rip easily, there is restricted mobility and they are rather expensive. 

Rash vest – A rash vest is a thin piece of clothing that can be worn underneath a wetsuit to stop it rubbing harshly against your skin, made from Lyrca (spandex and nylon or polyester). Rash vests will not offer any warmth underneath the wetsuit, unless they are described as a ‘Thermal Rash Vest’, which will be thicker and possibly made from neoprene. 

Along with helping alleviate any rashing under a wetsuit, rash vests can be worn as a top layer to help with sun protection. Some rash vests are UPF 50+, so will block out the sun and not wash off as sun cream tends to when paddleboarding.

Wetsuit boots – Boots, booties, shoes are all variations of footwear that are perfect for paddleboarding. When the water is cold you will need thick neoprene wetsuit boots to keep your feet warm. In the summer months lighter, thin reef shoes can be worn to help your feet grip the paddleboard if you find it slippy.

You might like to read our blog about the best shoes for paddle boarding.

Wetsuit gloves – Only for when it is very cold, wetsuit gloves offer your hands a much needed extra layer of protection. It will take one cold session of your hands going numb before you purchase a good pair of gloves. 

Wetsuit gloves can feel quite uncomfortable whilst holding the paddle, so we recommend buying relatively thin ones and make sure they offer good grip.

Wetsuit hood – If you are wearing wetsuit gloves, it is cold enough that you probably want to wear a wetsuit hood, especially if you are paddleboard surfing and plan to fall in.

Buoyancy aid – It is recommended beginners and anyone who is not a confident swimmer to wear a buoyancy aid whilst paddle boarding. Though it is not a necessary requirement and you do not have to wear one.

The reason why buoyancy aids are not so common with paddleboarding is because you are attached to a huge float (the board) via a leash that is attached to one of your legs. 

Leash – The leash is one of the most important items to wear paddleboarding. As suggested above, if you wear a leash you will always be attached to your board, which is the safest place to be. Leashes are either coiled, for flat water, or straight for surf paddleboarding. 

Waterproof bag – If you plan to go for a long paddleboard cruise or tour, or are exploring a new spot, you should always bring a waterproof bag to put your phone in. Along with the phone, bringing a little bottle of water, some energy snacks and a backup thermal layer is always a good idea.

These items listed above are the core elements of what you should wear paddleboarding and clearly you will not be wearing everything at once. What you actually wear every time you paddleboard changes all year round, so we have gone through the most likely items you will wear depending on the season.

What to wear paddle boarding in Winter

Sea temperature – 8 degrees
Air temperature – 5 – 8 degrees 

Winter can provide such a variety of conditions, it is by far the most extreme time of year to paddle board. With huge winter swells to glassy flat and very cold blue sky days it can also be the hardest time of year to paddle board. These hardcore conditions take some thought and preparation to make sure you are safe and warm at all times.

The sea temperature is around 8 degrees in the UK and trust me, that feels very cold. This is a dangerously low sea temperature so safety paddleboarding at this time of year must be taken seriously. 


  • 5mm or 6mm wetsuit
  • 5mm wetsuit boots
  • Wetsuit hood
  • Wetsuit gloves or mittens
  • Thermal rash vest for more warmth

If you are planning to get out in the winter swells for some surf paddle boarding then a thick winter wetsuit is a must. Actually, you’ll be looking at pretty much covering your head to toe in thick neoprene. Going surf paddle boarding means you are almost certain to fall in and get wet, so you must be prepared!

The thickness of wetsuits are measured in millimetres and for a winter wetsuit you are looking at 5mm or 6mm thick. 

We recommend going to your nearest surf, windsurf or paddle board shop and have the experts measure you out for the perfect wetsuit size. Depending on the quality of the suit and how much you want to spend and have a direct impact on comfort and warmth. 

However, I can almost guarantee if you try to buy the winter wetsuit yourself you will probably end up buying one that is too big or baggy in the wrong places. This means the water will just end up flushing through every time you fall in and the wetsuit will not serve its purpose.

If you find yours isn’t quite warm enough or a few years old and has the odd little hole in then it’s always a great idea to thermal rash vest. 

Along with the winter wetsuit you also want to keep your extremities warm and protected from any wind chill. 

Wetsuit boots that are at least 5mm thick will be needed to keep your feet nice and warm. There are a few different styles of wetsuit boots to be aware of but you really want to By standard surfing booties. Surf style booties have a relatively thin sole compared to sailing booties which means you get more of a feel of the board. Personal preference will also make you sway to buy split toe or non split toe boots, Is there a bit like Marmite some people love them some hate them. Split toe normally wears your big toe has free movement from the boot And some say that helps with balance.

Wetsuit gloves or mittens will also be on your body and again these are a personal preference of whether you want your fingers to be free moving in a glove or lock together in a mitten. Wetsuit gloves will have an impact on your grip on the paddle, And buying really thick winter gloves can be very uncomfortable, make your forearms cramp and fatigue quicker than normal. 3mm gloves for paddle boarding will probably be enough.

Flat water / touring

  • Long john wetsuit
  • Thermal rash vest
  • Windproof jacket
  • Drysuit
  • 5mm wetsuit boots
  • Wetsuit gloves or mittens

On the other hand if you are planning a flat water paddle and confident you are not likely to fall in, then a wet suit is not the most comfortable bit of kit. 

Wearing a thick winter wetsuit is not comfortable at the best of times, you end up staying dry and just chafing and sweating. 

Think of the clothing you wear for flat water paddle boarding as a combination of layers that you can take off or put on as you warm up or cool down. I wear a long john wetsuit which will keep my body warm and offer full flexibility in my shoulders. Having a thin wetsuit underlayer gives me a bit of security that if I was to fall in I would survive. 

Over the top of the wetsuit it’s a good idea to wear a fleece lined windproof jacket. This layer will stop the brisk winter winds going through your body.

If it’s very cold I might wear a thermal rash vest in between these layers that I can take off if I need to.

Even if I am pretty certain I won’t get my body wet I am pretty sure my feet will. No risks here so get those thick winter booties on as we described above.

If it’s a cold day with some wind it’s best to wear wetsuit gloves. On my head I wear a woolly or neoprene beanie.

Only in extremely cold conditions or when you’re planning a very long paddleboard should you consider wearing a dry suit. Dry suits are quite expensive and only necessary for advanced paddlers going to expeditions. Unless you live in Scotland or anywhere else that gets really cold, then you probably always want to wear a drysuit.

If you are planning to paddle board during the winter months you must take safety very seriously. Not only is the water and air very cold but the weather can change very quickly, So keep an eye on the forecast and the weather around you. It’s just in case you get cold. 

What to wear paddleboardingin spring

What to wear paddle boarding in Spring

Sea temperature – 10 degrees
Air temperature – 12 – 17 degrees 

Spring may be the hardest time of year to decide what to wear paddleboarding. In the winter you know it’s extremely cold and you wear whatever is needed to stay warm, summer is more often trying to keep the sun off and staying cool. Spring, on the other hand, can have really warm days but the sea is still very cold. 

Warm air temperature and low sea temperatures is when the effects of cold water shock can take hold.

Coldwater shock is an involuntary reaction to when your body is submerged in water temperature below 15’c. Blood vessels close and your heart rate goes which will increase  blood pressure which can cause a heart attack. At the same time, your body will start gasping for air that increases panic and the likelihood of water inhalation. 

The more you expose yourself to cold water, the more likely your body won’t react and experience coldwater shock. This is why people can go into ice baths and swim in almost freezing water, they train their body to get used to it. 


  • 5mm wetsuit
  • 5mm wetsuit boots
  • Wetsuit hood

Paddleboard surfing in Spring can be glorious. After a winter of miserable, dark and cold days, a Spring day will fresh you up and offer some wonderful vitamin D from the sunshine.

Remember that even though the air might be warm, the water will still be very cold so you will still need that thick wetsuit you used all winter. A 5mm wetsuit will be needed at the start and middle of spring, it’s only when it’s coming near summer can you think about changing to a 3mm suit. 

If there is a chill in the air it might be worth wearing the thermal rash vest, just to offer a little more warmth. 

As the sea will still be cold, keep wearing those winter booties. Your feet will likely be submerged or at least splashed a lot when paddleboard surfing, so chances are they will get colder quicker than your hands or head. Paddleboard surfing is not much fun when you can’t feel your feet!

Finally, wearing a wetsuit hood will give your head extra protection when the wave inevitably knocks you off and you end up swimming in the white water. Brain freeze is very real in Spring and quite a shock if you’ve kept your head dry for a while. Having a hood (or balaclava) that you can easily take on and off whilst paddleboarding will help regulate your temperature. 

Flat water / touring

  • Long john wetsuit or neoprene leggings
  • Windproof jacket
  • T-shirt
  • 3mm wetsuit boots

What you wear for flat water paddle boarding in Spring will vary a little depending on your ability level. Beginners who are likely to fall in should still wear a wetsuit and prepare for the cold water, however, confident paddlers who will not fall in can get away with wearing a lot less. 

It’s important to bear in mind the air temperature will be warm, so going for a paddleboard cruise when you are sweating and chafing in a thick winter wetsuit will not be enjoyable at all. 

For Spring flat water paddle boarding, it’s best to find a combination that will keep you cool enough when paddling hard, but warm and quick drying enough that if you fall in you will warm up again. A good option can be either a long john wetsuit, or neoprene leggings with a quick dry top. 

Spring can still deliver cold Northerly and Easterly winds. If the forecast suggests a 10 – 15 knot Northerly wind, it will be a good idea to pack or wear a windproof jacket, just in case the wind drops the air temperature. 

Your feet can still feel like ice blocks when paddleboarding in spring, so it’s best to keep them protected. Wearing summer booties, also known as reef boots, will help your feet stay warm enough even if the water is chilly.

What to wear paddleboarding in summer

What to wear paddle boarding in Summer

Sea temperature – 16 degrees
Air temperature – 20 degrees 

Here we go! These are the days when you don’t have to worry about getting freezing cold and trying to wriggle into a winter wetsuit with numb fingers. 

Paddleboarding in the summer is why most of us started the sport in the place, to enjoy the water, get heap loads of fresh air, it’s good exercise and we’ll get a tan at the same time.

Whilst winter paddleboarding is more about survival, summer paddleboarding is about going for a cruise late into the evening, introducing friends to the sport, and finishing with a beer on the beach. You’ll want to jump into the water to cool down, rather than avoid getting wet at all costs. 

What you wear paddleboarding when it’s hot is very easy, it will mostly involve not trying to overheat and also protecting yourself from the sun.


  • 3mm summer, shorty wetsuit or swimwear
  • Waterproof suncream

Occasionally there will be good surf in the summer, and you absolutely want to make the most of it when the swell arrives.

Funnily enough, many people make the mistake of thinking they can get away with not wearing a wetsuit at all for surf paddleboarding. These are the people who will get cold too quickly and are always the first ones out the water. 

Wearing a 3mm summer wetsuit or shorty will offer loads of flexibility and stretch to be comfortable, and enough warmth that when you are submerged, or the wind picks up, you stay warm. 

There is nothing better than feeling the water between your toes as you fly down the face of the wave. Nonetheless, booties are an option if you struggle with grip or launch on a beach with horrible pointy shingle and stones. 

Finally, wearing a waterproof suncream on your face and any uncovered body part will stop your skin from burning up.  

Flat water / touring

  • Swimwear
  • T-shirt, rash vest or breathable sports top
  • Waterproof sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Bag with water

Deciding what to wear paddleboarding in flat water during the summer months should be about trying to stay cool and protected from the sun. 

Men can wear board shorts and ladies either a swimsuit or bikini, whatever you feel comfortable in. On your top half either a rash vest or breathable t-shirt will help keep the sun off. 

Along with the usual summer attire, wearing a hat and sunglasses will help further protect your face from the sun.

If you are planning a long distance paddleboard, you should pack some warmer clothes like a windproof jacket. It’s not uncommon for the weather to be very still and hot in the morning, but by late afternoon a moderate breeze could easily pick up and the temperatures drop. Be prepared for a change in weather.

What to wear paddle boarding in Autumn

Sea temperature – 14 degrees
Air temperature – 10 – 14 degrees

Autumn can bring a mixed bag of weather for paddleboarding, so deciding what to wear will all depend on the weather for that day. 

One thing is for sure at this time of year, the sea will still be relatively warm and it quite often stays that way until winter properly sets in.

There will be a point sometime in Autumn where the sea will actually feel and could be warmer than the air, which is quite an odd sensation to fall in and warm up!


  • 3mm – 5mm wetsuit
  • 3mm wetsuit shoes

The autumn storms bring with them the potential of big swell and waves. For a surf paddleboarder, this is the time of year to look forward to. Waves and warm water combine for a guaranteed fun session. 

At the start of Autumn it will be warm enough to wear just a long 3mm summer suit. Once the days start drawing in and the temperature drops, getting back into your winter suit will make you more comfortable for surf paddleboard. 

As the sea will still be warm, wetsuit boots will not be necessary and only worn for personal preference. 

There is no need for a thermal rash vest or gloves yet. Try to save these for when it gets really cold, it will help your body transition and get comfortable to the lower temperatures.

Flat water / touring

  • Long john wetsuit or neoprene leggings
  • Windproof jacket
  • T-shirt
  • 3mm wetsuit boots

What you wear paddle boarding on flat water in Autumn will be mostly dependent on the air temperature. 

The water will be warm enough to not worry about coldwater shock, so keep the thick wetsuit hanging dry until you really need it. 

Autumn can bring about very changeable weather, so it’s best to pack the car or van with a few different clothing options. On a warm autumn day you can get away with wearing thermal leggings and a t-shirt, whereas in cold weather or stronger winds you may want to grab the windproof jacket. 

With so much technical clothing available for paddleboarders, there really is no excuse not to get out on the water. If it’s your first time paddleboarding, it’s best you wait until summer, so you don’t have to commit to buying all the gear.

About the author

Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.

Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.

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