When I am hosting a clinic I often get the question "what should I wear"?
My answer is always….it depends. It depends on the temperature, the water temperature, wind, and where you are paddling. A good rule of thumb is NO COTTON. You want to be comfortable paddling but assume you will get wet (either intentionally or unintentionally, lol).
If you are paddling in colder weather conditions and the water temperature is on the cool side you should be prepared to invest in some cold weather paddling gear such as neoprene wetsuit, neoprene pants and shirt or vest, or a dry suit – those funny looking astronaut paddling looking suits – that keep you dry (not necessarily warm – add layers). Neoprene comes in different thicknesses and a good guide for what thickness you need based on temperature can be found here: https://www.mec.ca/en/explore/how-to-choose-a-wetsuit
I really like neoprene socks and shoes. I wear them both in cooler weather and water temperature paddling (May and most of June – cause I am a wimp) and then in September and October. For $15 for socks and $50 for shoes - they are a good investment. I wear my neoprene shoes pretty much all season. Paddling gloves, and a touque or hat with a thin touque underneath is also a great addition to keeping warm on the water.
For those of you who are only going to paddling in warmer weather – a swim suit with board shorts and a rash guard or sunshirt is a great mix, or some athletic – quick dry shorts and tank top will also do the trick. The key is to layer so that if you warm up, you can either jump in the water to cool off or remove a layer. The trick is to find the balance of proper sun coverage if you plan on being out on the water for a while. Having had basil cell skin cancer, I don’t take any chances.
I always paddle with a hat. Keeps my hair and the sun out of my eyes. Find a good fitting baseball cap that has the nylon material and you are set. Plus they float better than a trucker style hat (albeit may not look as cool).
As mentioned above, I wear neoprene shoes or water shoes. They are great for entries and exists because you don't have to worry about cutting up your feet. When you are paddling on rivers you never know what is underneath you so it is better to protect your feet. I’ve had some people say on clinics that they wish they hadn’t worn water shoes as their feet hurt. When paddling, our feet will take a lot of stress (especially when it is your first time). One suggestion is to tap your feet when on the board or wiggle your toes. Also, it could be a sign that your watershoes are half a size too small.
Last but not least – always wear sunscreen and a PFD. Any other questions, send us an email and I'll be happy to get back to you. If you have any tips….I’d love to hear them.