How to Prepare for Paddleboarding in Cold Weather

Paddleboarders don't have to hang up their SUPs when the cold season sets in. In fact, winter is actually a fantastic time to glide on the crystalline waters.

With fewer crowds on the beach and the snow and cold providing a new perspective on familiar waterways, you’re set to have a thrilling experience as you soak in the serene and tranquil wonderland.

But before you take the plunge and try cold weather SUPing, you need to learn how to stay safe, warm, and comfortable in the water. Cold water poses many risks and should be approached with caution.

In this post, we’ve put together all the information you need to prepare to go on a SUP adventure in winter.

How’s Winter Paddleboarding Different?

With proper planning, winter paddleboarding is a rewarding pursuit. You’ll have all the beach to yourself, plus the peaceful, snowy wonderland will take your breath away.

However, winter paddling is a whole other ball game from summer paddling. It presents a whole new set of challenges and needs a bit more preparation than in the summer. Indeed, the biggest challenge is the cold. 

Falling in water that’s colder than 70F can be extremely dangerous. It can cause cold shock, where you lose the ability to control breathing, leading to water entering the lungs and potential drowning within a few minutes. 

If you survive the shock, cold water can also take away the ability to coordinate your muscles within the next 3 to 30 minutes, making swimming impossible. Hypothermia could also set in after 30 minutes.

To avoid risks, you need to mind what you wear when paddleboarding in winter and put a great emphasis on safety.

What to Wear Paddleboarding in Winter

Cold weather paddleboarding requires special gear. Wearing proper SUP winter clothing will protect you from the brutal chilly water and air. Here are the clothing items you need:


A full-length wetsuit will keep you toasty for your winter paddling. Wetsuits are available in different thicknesses. Those designed for winter weather have a 4mm thickness. Make sure the option you choose gives you freedom of movement in the arms and shoulders.


If you don't like the idea of having water near your skin at all, a drysuit might be your best option. It can fit over your base layers and completely keep your body dry even when you’re immersed. Although a little pricier and heavier, they offer more protection. Choosing whether to use a wetsuit or drysuit is a matter of personal choice.

Base Layer

Underneath your wetsuit or drysuit, you'll need a lightweight base layer. You can pick a warm material depending on the air temperatures and how warm you get when paddling. Ideally, a full-length moisture-wicking material for your top and bottom base layers will do.

Outer Layers

Outer layers are worn on top of your wet suit, keeping you warm and blocking the wind. The number of layers or their thickness will depend on how cold the air temperature is. Some good outer layers are a fleece top and a waterproof jacket. Just make sure they’re breathable and aren’t restricting upper body movement.

Warm Headgear 

To make sure your head feels the love next time you head out, wear a warm hat. Anything from a beanie to a bobble hat will do. But if you don’t fully trust yourself to stay dry, a neoprene beanie or hood will keep you nice and warm, even when wet.


Without the right hand wear, chances are you won’t feel your fingers when paddling in chilly conditions. Get warm neoprene or wool gloves that have some grip on the palm to prevent the paddle from slipping. Select the thickness depending on your sensitivity to temperatures.


Neoprene boots are a good option for winter paddleboarding. They provide an extra layer of insulation and are fast drying. Pick a durable non-slip sole to make it easier for yourself when launching and landing. It should also have a thickness that allows you to feel the motion of the water.


Wear a pair of water socks under your boots. They should be waterproof and insulated.

Other Essentials You Need When Paddleboarding During the Winter

There are other necessities and accessories you need when paddling in winter. 

SUP Leash

A stand-up paddleboarding leash is a must if you’re paddling out in frigid weather, water or wind. Your board is a floatation device, and a leash will ensure you’re never separated from it when you get into trouble. 

A Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

Dont just rely on your board as a floatation device. Rough weather can make even the calmest water unpredictable. That makes a personal floatation device an absolute necessity when it comes to winter SUP. Get a life vest that doesn’t hamper your paddle strokes.

Paddling Helmet

A helmet is something you may not have considered part of your essential winter SUP gear. But it might be worth asking yourself if it would be wise to invest. A helmet will come in handy when paddling near rocks, on rivers, or in the surf. Even in calm water, it can help your head retain heat and block windchill.

Dry Bag

You’ll need a quality dry back to protect all your supplies. Use it to store your food, thermos of warm water, extra dry clothes, flashlight, and devices.

7 Safety Tips for Your Winter SUP Adventures

Use these tips to stay safe when you go paddleboarding in cold water:

1. Study the Weather Forecast 

To minimise risks and extend the periods of bliss, always monitor the weather before going on a paddleboarding session. Don't paddleboard in rainy, snowy, or windy conditions. 

2. Inspect Your Gear 

Always check the pressure of your board, especially if you’ve stored it inflated for some time, and make sure every other piece of gear is in good shape.

3. Don't Go Alone 

Although this general SUP safety rule is often overlooked during the summer, you can’t afford to ignore it during the winter season. Pairing up ensures someone knows where you are at all times, plus it’s also much more fun.

4. Stay Closer to the Shore

When you fall into frigid waters, a series of involuntary reactions make it very difficult to swim even short distances. So, stay as close to the shore as possible.

5. Avoid Ice

Steer away from ice chunks and frozen sections of water. Ice is usually heavy, sharp, and unpredictable, increasing the risks of injury. 

6. Don’t Paddle After Dark

The temperatures will drop even further at night, and visibility will be hampered, all increasing the risks. So plan to complete your excursions before the sun goes down.

7. Bring a Warm-Up Kit

Bring a towel to dry yourself and extra warm layers to change into after hitting the waters. Include some snacks and a thermos of hot beverage to refuel and recover from the cold quickly.

Prepare for Winter SUP Like a Pro

Whether on warm or cold waters, paddleboarding can be a glorious pursuit. You just need to prepare adequately. Wear the appropriate clothing, pack the right essentials, study the weather conditions, bring a buddy, don’t wander too far from the shore, avoid ice, and get out of the water before dark.

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"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water"

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