4 Paddling Booties for River, Surf, and Flat Water

With temperatures in the teens setting in this past week in Seattle and snow on the ground, I realized my usually bombproof 7mm Xcel DryLocks aren't so bomber after all. Surfing style booties are designed to have a thin sole with no or little grip so you can feel the board. That's great once you're on the board, but walking or standing on frozen slippery ground is a fail. I live a few minutes from the water so in winter I put on my wetsuit in the house. Walking with the booties on to the car carrying gear is like being on an ice rink.

A few weeks ago, I was on Maui living it up in 80 degrees and stoked to paddle and surf in the few clothes I was wearing. I choose to surf knee high waves south of Lahiana but realized I had a long walk out at low tide over spiny sharp coral. I was barefoot and thinking - bummer, if I had remembered to bring my 5 finger shoes from home I'd be good to go. Not today, the 25 kt cross winds weren't helping.

Other options?

The kayaking and rafting industry has for years had booties with thick soles for insulation and grip for portages, walking to the put-in, and for climbing over rocks. Sea kayaking in the NW requires walking on gravel beaches with barnacled rocks. The Hood Canal west of Seattle has full on razor sharp oysters covering most beaches. River kayakers routinely are surrounded by moss covered rocks and wet boulders.

Tips on Booties for Paddling -

River - Most river paddlers want a shoe with with ankle support for climbing over boulders, mossy rocks, etc. There's several wet bootie/shoe products that offer support and drain water as well. Dan Gavere prefers his Teva Gnarkosi shoes. NRS has the NRS Attach Shoe, as well some hard core boots such as the NRS Workboot Wetshoe.

Reef and Warm Weather Options -
Popular destinations such as Hawaii have tons of SUP, surfing, and dive shop rentals. Pick up a rental pair of 'Reef Walkers.' Vibram's 5 Finger Shoes are cool too. They offer just enough protection under you feet with minimum thickness on top, yet less clunky on your board like a sandal.

General Cold Water Paddling & Surfing -
If you need warmth and tread for rocky beaches, check out NRS's Paddle Wetshoe which is also fleece lined inside, or their Sasquatch Water Shoe. Kokatat's Scout is another option. If you don't need tread or a thick sole for warmth, then any neoprenee surf bootie will work. I prefer 5mm or greater for 45F water.

Shin High Booties -
These have been popular options in kayaking for years. The booties reach up just below your knees allowing you to launch in shallow water without getting wet. They also provide extra warmth on frigid days. A few options, the Nomad by Kokatat, and Chota's Mukluk.

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