How to Dress for Fall and Cold Water Paddle Boarding | Perfect Paddles

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Wondering What You Should Be Wearing for Cold Water Paddle Boarding?

In this article, we discuss the best gear to wear for cold water paddle boarding! 

cold water paddle boarding

As we enter the middle of October...

You might notice a few things beginning to change...

The sun rises later, there might be a bit of a colder breeze at night, and the leaves are starting to change colors...

Fall is on its way.

But even with the changes, this is often the best time to get on the water...

Whether it's spring in your area in the Southern Hemisphere, or fall in the Northern Hemisphere...

  • The tourists have all gone home.
  • The weather is a pleasant temperature.
  • And outfitters are still open and willing to get paddlers on the water, enjoying time under the sun.

And it's a great time to take advantage of our resources...

And with the new season, comes the necessity to change a few things about our paddling gear so we can continue doing what we love into winter and beyond!

Join us as we do a quick rundown of what to wear (and what not to wear!) so that you can remain comfortable (and more importantly – safe) on the water all year long.

*Side note: There are a few affiliate links to fantastic gear that will help you achieve year-round paddling. Using these links helps keep the Perfect Paddles lights on!

Let's first start with...

What not to wear...

1. Don't Wear Cotton

This might seem like an odd request at first glance.

Don't wear the most popular fabric in the world?



Because cotton absorbs - sweat, rain, the water (if you happen to fall in). Everything.

The absorption quality of cotton will keep the cool water close to your skin and will decrease your body temperature in a rapid fashion.

And that can be a dangerous combination if you are cold water paddle boarding.

Your next logical question should be, "Then what should I wear?"

Well, let's take away the suspense and get right into it!

cold water paddle boarding

2. First, Find Out Important Information

What you should be wearing for cold water paddle boarding will differ depending on where you are located...

And how cold the temperature gets in your area.

It can also depend on whether you plan on flat water paddling or ocean/river paddling.

And it can depend on your skill level and the type of board you use.

Also, it can depend on...

Just kidding. That should cover it.

Let's start with the easiest question - what's your location?

Are you in southern California or northern Canada?

But even more important - what are the water and air temperatures where you are located?

With those two important pieces of information in mind, you can now begin to decide what to wear.

cold water paddle boarding

3. Dress For Immersion

One way to dress appropriately for colder weather is to make sure you can dress for immersion.

This means wearing gear that will keep you warm if you happen to fall in...

Or gear that you can safely immerse yourself underwater in case you get too warm paddling and want a safe way to cool off.

By keeping this in mind, you can dress appropriately for both occasions and stay safe in the process.

But what exactly does that look like? Let's answer that right now...

4. The Right Suit

wet suit is the perfect place to start and will be your best defense against the cold.

Protection with a wet suit can range based on the thickness of the suit itself.

Here is a quick guide to help you out:


Any of the above options will give you coverage for the appropriate temperature.

There is just one thing...

When it comes to paddling in wet suits, it can quickly become uncomfortable.

If you plan on SUP surfing, then that is your only option.

The neoprene fabric will keep you warm and satisfied when splashing through the waves.

But on flatwater paddling days, the constricting nature of a wetsuit can become bothersome, and if you aren't being submerged into the water with any consistency, it can actually hinder the performance of the suit...

Causing you to become cold regardless.

Don't worry - there are other options!

cold water paddle boarding

4. Layering Up Instead of Suiting Up

If you're a flatwater paddler by nature and enjoy your time on lakes and bays without the danger of taking a plunge there are a few things you can wear to stay warm and comfortable...

As we've already stated, ditch the cotton. Instead, use a base layer made out of polypropylene - a great example is Under Armour's Cold Gear.

But really, you should aim for any type of material that releases your sweat to keep you dry in cold temperatures.

A great example is something like this:

Okay, now that we have our base layer let's move on...

Next, you're going to want something to keep you warm like a fleece jacket or wool sweater.

Both of these materials are non-absorbing and will keep you warm and dry even with moderate to heavy paddling/sweating.

And in case you have a lingering doubt that you might fall in while paddling, you can always choose a dry-top jacket.

These are great for winter paddling. They work well as a top layer and usually come with a seal around your neck, waist, and wrists.

While we cannot guarantee they will be 100% waterproof if you happen to completely submerge yourself - you'll have a better chance of keeping your vital organs warm and dry as opposed to wearing just a fleece or wool sweater.


For pants, you can dress as you would going to the gym – thermals, sweats, or leggings will do.

But we don't recommend this setup unless you're a professional with ultimate confidence you won't fall in.

If you want to make sure you stay warm and safe, wear a pair of neoprene leggings.

Made of the same material as a wetsuit, these only extend to your waist which will give you the flexibility to paddle without feeling tight on your shoulders/upper back and provide you the protection you need in case you fall in.


5. The Best (And Safest) Option Available

If you don't want to wear a stifling wet suit while cold water paddle boarding in flatwater...

But don't yet feel confident enough to just dress in layers...

There is a third option...

A drysuit.

Often considered the top of the line when it comes to cold water paddling gear, a dry suit allows you to comfortably layer up underneath while protecting yourself from the water on top.

They’re fully sealed around the neck and arms with built-in booties at the bottom to keep you completely dry even when submerged - though we do not recommend prolonged submersion even with a dry suit!

There is one catch...

A good one will cost you around $1,000.

But if you're stuck in a cold-water climate, it is the best investment you can make to keep yourself warm and safe!

There are plenty on the market but from our experience, you cannot beat the quality of an Ocean Rodeo.

Check it out below:

6. The Rest of You

Now that we have the main components covered, let's go over the rest of your cold gear options...

Head: Any winter hat will do but wool is a great choice. Just make sure it covers those ears!

Hands: One suggestion is neoprene gloves. These work great for surfing when you are in the water. But for flatwater we suggest a good pair of winter gloves with grips on the palms. These will keep your hands much warmer over time.

Feet: There are a few options to explore here. Neoprene boots are the usual go-to. The thicker options will keep your feet protected, and if you feel the wind/cold creeping in, you can always take a break, dunk your feet overboard, and allow the neoprene fabric and your body heat to warm the water and keep your feet from freezing.

However, if you are not located in a strictly cold-weather climate (Ex: Southern California or Florida), and instead just need moderate protection there is a solution for you discovered by one of our subscribers!

User Submitted Review from Gary F:

"I’ve tried at least 10 different brands of 'waterproof' socks - here’s the best combo I have found. Take a pair of wool liners and put those on first. Then a great pair of waterproof socks for ultimate protection over the top. Your toes will stay warm and dry and not cramp because the socks are too thick. I have found they don’t slip at all on your board."

Wool Liners:

Waterproof Socks:

PFD: Always wear a PFD (vest or belt) when paddling especially in cold water!

That's it!

Don't let the change in weather stop you from doing what you love. Instead - adapt!

With a little effort collecting these pieces of gear, you'll be able to paddle all year round with ease.

And while you're having fun out there...

Remember to...

Stay stoked!

About the Author


Daniel is a travelling author with a passion for exploring new waterways and sharing his experiences with the world.

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