How to Dress for Winter Paddling

Below are tips for what to wear when paddling in cold region areas in winter. I'm in the Pacific NW, its currently 29F out. Send in tips for what you wear for this or colder temps!

- Wetsuit - Modern wetsuits not bought from your local general sports store are actually quite dry and have less issues than more expensive drysuits. I prefer a RipCurl 5.5/4mm suit which has a fleecy interior. It looks thick but is quite flexible and comfortable. Mine is top loading which isn't fun to get into, so I wear a rash guard under for additional warmth and to help get out. Most 5/4's come with hoods. Slightly less thick would be a non fleece lined 5/4mm or an upper end 4/3. These should be seam sealed either with a hood or not, and back zip or top loading. If you have shoulder issues get a back zip. I find them as warm and dry as the top loaders. If yours doesn't have a hood buy one separately (or scull cap) or get a hooded vest to wear over or under. Try before you buy. You'll lose your no tax benefit online ordering from Oregon or elsewhere if your neck is too tight or your arms are too short.

What does 4/3 mean? 4mm thickness in legs and chest, 3mm in arms. 

- Drysuits - Drysuits are good option for cold temps as well. Personally, I prefer wetsuits as they're easier to swim in, aren't toast if you get a hole and have less maintenance (no latex gaskets). Some drysuits have neoprene gaskets making it less work to keep in shape. Kayakers tend to prefer drysuits. I did have two Kokatat Meridians in my kayaking days here in the PNW and I find I stay warmer in a good wetsuit. But I know others prefer drysuit, it's a personal thing. Drysuits do come with pee zippers (often women now wear men's versions to assist with this).  Good brands are Ocean Rodeo, Stohquist, Kokatat, NRS.  

-Making your Wetsuit Warmer - Have a 3/2 or cooler 4/3? Wear a thin polypro or SmartWool top under your suit, add a hooded vest under your suit as well (either or both). Over your suit, wear a nylon or Gortex shell or paddling jacket to cut the wind chill. Add a hood/scull cap (below). On cold days I may put a scull cap over my hooded vest hood. :)  NRS has a few nice zip up and pull-over neoprene jackets. Got a Farmer John? Get a full suit for winter. If you run hot, that's great but if you fall in you'll take longer to warm up, if at all and I don't like worrying about whether I'll fall or not.

-Booties - 7mm surfing booties are popular, but I found mine only lasted one season after the pull tab ripped out. I now use the NRS Desperado Wet Shoe (and Freestyle shoe). Both are fleece lined, waterproof and quite warm but not as thick and hard to get on as the 7mm versions. Zipper booties tend to leak but are fine in warmer seasons. I haven't found a sock-bootie combo yet that keeps me warm. On a few super cold days, I've been wearing a SmartWool sock under my bootie. Make sure to place your wetsuit legs over your bootie to reduce water seepage. The Desperado bootie has a nice thick sole with a good tread. Many surf style booties have a thin sole to 'feel the board' and every rock on the path.

-Gloves - I use Glacier Gloves which are fleece lined. The Maverick glove by NRS is good but not as warm.

-PFD/Lifejacket - Vest style will keep you warmer and overall is more safe than a c02 version which will inflated slower in cold temps. Get one with good visibility, a pocket or two and again, try it on first. Great brands are MTI, Kokatat, NRS, Stolquist, and Astral.

-Scull Caps / Hoods - I carry an extra in my PFD even with my hooded suit. I prefer one with a chin strap so it stays on when I surf or fall off the board.  Kokatat has a toasty fleece lined cap. ProMotion (wetsuit.com) has a few nice options. Some sell a full neck/head thing but we've found those make turning your head difficult.

Read my 30 Tips for Staying Warm in Winter on SUP Magazine / Contact me for any questions or to demo rentals.

How to Choose a Wetsuit - (Stoke Mag post) - Click Here

PSUPA members get a discount at ProMotion, MTI, Astral) 


Spokane River surf wave day with the Cindric family, winter 2015. 





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