Updated: Jan 24
With so many disciplines and influencing sports feeding SUP with different views and knowledge, knowing and understanding the best kit choices for you can be a minefield. One of our goals here at Haywood Sports is to make SUP a simple sport for you, so you can go and enjoy your time on the water and not get lost in all the unnecessary noise.
What makes us confident in our recommendations? We have been paddling SUP since 2009 across all areas of the sport, This gives us a rounded opinion of what does and does not work, to give you the best options for you to try.
From this experience, this blog will cover two key points:
What we consider the essential kit to take when going for a paddle
What options you have so you can be as comfortable as possible.
This blog focuses on kit to take with you, and by that, we mean clothing and useful tools relating to yourself. Equipment such as leashes and spares will be covered in another blog post.
Cover the basics for every paddle
Our paddling sessions should start before we get on the water through kit preparation. We have all done it where we really cant wait to get out on the water and end up forgetting something important or essential. To avoid this, get yourself set up with a dedicated SUP kit bag or box with your essential items always in it. That way, you are less likely to forget or misplace something essential.
Another must-do for every session is telling someone you are going for a paddle. You should tell them where you are going and how long you expect to be as the bare minimum. It's also worth estimating where you think you will get to on your paddle, especially if you are on a river or coast where access and currents could take you out of sight of passers-by if things do go wrong.
So what's in our kitbag? This list is what we consider the bare minimum we take with us when we go for a paddle. Not all of this kit will go on the water with us, and ultimately you should find a selection that works for you depending on the conditions and where you are paddling.
Waterproof phone case
Small dry waist pack or dry bag
Alternate clothing options
Hydration bottle or pack
It's worth adding that we always have a dry change of clothes with us as well.
One thing to remember when it comes to clothing is there is no right or wrong with what you must or should wear when paddling. Ultimately its what you feel most comfortable in that is the best option for you. That could be just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, or a full dry-suit and buoyancy aid.
However, what is important is dressing to the conditions and what you are doing on the water. For example, if you are going for a white water paddle, wearing just shorts and a t-shirt is likely not the best choice. Likewise, if you plan to push yourself on a 10km time trial, a full dry suit, buoyancy aid, boots, and gloves will probably be too much, and you are likely to overheat.
Here is a great way to categorise your clothing to give you many options, no matter what type of paddle you are doing.
As you become more confident in your paddling skills, becoming less likely to fall off, lightweight clothing is likely what you will be paddling in most. Especially in the warmer months. These items offer the most freedom when you are paddling and help keep you cool on warm days.
Lightweight clothing can be shorts, t-shirts, leggings, compression layers or lightweight neoprene such as 0.5mm tops and bottoms. Whilst you don't need specialist paddle clothing, there are plenty of good brands out there offering lifestyle and performance clothing choices from SUP Brands.
This clothing style is typically very similar to running and fitness gear which many of us have already, but it's worth considering the following when picking lightweight options.
Rash Vests - Whilst great for summer days in the waves, rash vests are not the best choice for paddling in for several reasons. Firstly they are not designed for 'dry' paddling, so they are not focused on being breathable and allowing your body to dissipate heat and sweat naturally. They are also very susceptible to wind chill, especially when wet, and as paddlers, the wind is our biggest challenge from the conditions. A better alternative is an SPF 'technical' t-shirt or vest, which will not only be more comfortable but also protect you from the sun and dry quickly when wet.
Layers are better than a single thick item - For those days when it's still a little cold or for early morning or late evening session, being able to add and remove layers will allow you to adjust to the conditions as you warm up or experience any changes to the conditions. If you just went for a single thick layer, you can find yourself either too hot or cold without the ability to adjust as needed. A base layer and then a technical t-shirt is a great combination for slightly chilly days.
Windproof jackets and tops - Bar far, the best piece of lightweight clothing you can have at your disposal is a windproof jacket or top. Being able to stop the wind chill will help you stay warm without overheating and protect you from getting an unexpected chill when out on the water if the wind picks up. Lightweight running or cycling tops are a great choice as many can be packed up and clipped around your waist when you don't need them.
Avoid some 'natural' fibres - Whilst natural fibres are great for sustainability, some items such as cotton t-shirts can cause other issues such as staying cold when wet and offering no sunscreen protection. Other fibres, however, such as Marino Wool, can be a great base layer for those chilly days.
Clothing in this category can be used on its own or with other clothing to give you an almost unlimited range of options depending on the conditions. Either as slightly thicker layers for spring and autumn or as an open water selection for those paddling further afield without the need for a dry or full wetsuit.
This category includes thicker neoprene items up to 2mm, kayaking style trousers and cags and thermal layers and heavier jackets. Another item here is the SUP suits which have gained popularity in recent years as well as SUP specialist clothing from a variety of brands like Palm Equipment.
Neoprene is designed to be in the water - whilst a highly versatile material, neoprene is designed to be wet and then warm up the layer of water trapped next to your skin using your body heat. Therefore, it's worth pairing neoprene items with lightweight jackets and tops in particular or kayak style cags to give protection against the wind when your paddling.
Long John's the underrated choice - a neoprene Long John or Jane as they are sometimes called is a great way to give yourself some added protection without the restrictions from a full wetsuit. They are ideal if you might fall in and the water is still cold, and they also work wonders for keeping your legs and core warm whilst your arms are free from any restriction. A great piece of kit highly recommended by ourselves.
SUP Suits are worth the money - the price may seem on the high side, but the SUP Suits soon pay back their investment. They are quite simply one of the most versatile options you can give yourself. Think of it this way, with a SUP Suit and a few simple base options; you can paddle in all conditions pretty much year-round. If you wanted the same versatility in other items, you would need a whole range of items, so it's easy to spend more than the value of a SUP Suit. The reason for this is these suits are not only waterproof, but they also offer protection from the wind and are breathable as well, so they cover all bases for an item of full clothing covering.
A little clip paddling in a SUP Suit made by Starboard
Offering the ultimate protection, heavy-weight items are pretty much a must for winter paddling. especially in ocean conditions through the winter months. There are also specialist items in this category to give the best protection against the elements, such as heavy-duty white water drysuits, for example.
This category includes neoprene full suits +3mm in thickness and thick neoprene boots and gloves. If you invest in a wetsuit for the winter, we encourage you to look at a 4/3mm option as they offer a good compromise between warmth and comfort for paddling. If you need extra warm add a windproof top layer or a lightweight base layer underneath.