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9 Winter SUP Tips From The Pros

80 degrees and sunny 365 days a year would be ideal – but for most, this is very far from reality. However, your paddle boarding season doesn’t have to end when the warm temperatures of summer are long behind us. Paddle boarding in winter is an awesome way to get the thrills every paddle boarder is looking for – and it saves you from those terrible, long months of waiting for the next time you can get out on the water.

Our staff has years of experience on the water in less than ideal weather – and we’ve got the cold weather paddle boarding tips that will help you maximize your water time (and safety)!

stand up paddle board covered in frost


Everything You Need To Know About Cold Weather Paddle Boarding

1. Stay Close To Shore

Stay close to shore. Really close.  Cooler air means cooler water, and hypothermia is not something to be played around with. I have paddle boarded for miles in December, in the NE, and never been more than 15 feet from shore.  You should never be going further from shore than you can paddle – and remember, the distance you can swim in cold water is much shorter than it is in warmer water due to the amount of time you can (or can’t) spend in the colder water. If you’re paddle boarding in the winter, change up your warmer weather paddling routes to keep closer to shore.

a stand up paddle boarder padding close to shore in winter


2. Use a SUP Leash

An all too common thought is that in flat water you don’t need a leash. Even the most experienced paddle boarder should be using a SUP leash anytime you are on your board. In the cooler months – I can’t stress this enough  –  you should be wearing a paddle board leash. Your board is the world’s largest floatation device, and a leash will keep it attached to you, and within 10’ of you in case you get into any trouble. Don’t have a leash?  Check out our great selection here.

a stand up paddle boarder paddling in winter wearing a SUP leash


3. Wear proper SUP Winter Clothing

If you’re going to hit the water during the colder months, you’re going to need the proper winter paddle boarding gear. Personally, in the cooler months I only go out in conditions that are calm with flat water, so the falling in potential is very low. For this, you can dress like you would when you go jogging in cooler weather. Dress in layers, with a moisture wicking base layer, and then added layers for warmth and wind protection.   

For your legs, running tights are a great pick. If the air is cool the exposed skin on your feet and hands will get cold, so cover up with water shoes/boots and a thin pair of gloves that have a little grip in the palm. A lot of heat is lost through your head,  so a lightweight hat is a good idea. Avoid materials and clothing made of cotton, and anything that doesn’t easily layer.

stand up paddle boarder ready to go SUP boarding in winter


4. Do I need a Wetsuit or Drysuit?

For surf riding, white water, or times you may spend time in and out of the water, then you should be wearing some kind of protection - especially in cold temperatures. A wetsuit is designed to heat the water trapped between your body and the suit, while a drysuit typically gives you more protection and is completely waterproof.

For cold weather paddle boarding, wetsuits are a good idea if you’re going to be spending time in the water. If you are paddling in flat or calm waters, most likely you are going to be staying dry, in which case you might decide you don’t need a wetsuit. If you’re going to be out in calm waters, you have experience, and likely not going to fall in, it’s really up to your personal preference whether you wear a wetsuit, drysuit, or neither.

stand up paddleboarder wearing a wetsuit in cold weather


5. Check the Weather Forecast

For an ideal paddle boarding session, look for calm winds and precipitation-free skies in the forecast. If you have a bit of wind or current, do the “into the wind/current” section of your paddle first when you have the most energy. The weather in the fall and winter can change quickly so do not be tempted to try to “beat the storm” when it is cooler out. Rain or snow can make it difficult to see when you’re on the water, making it easy to drift off course and others on the water to see you. A good rule of thumb is “when in doubt – don’t go out” and that is critical in the colder months.

 a paddle boarder dressed for winter paddling


6. Paddle Only In Water

What does that mean?  Basically – avoid ice. Ice is heavy, sharp, and unpredictable. It won’t do any favours for you or your paddle board. If you’re going to go out on the water during colder months, make sure you steer clear of frozen sections of water. Don’t walk over ice to get to water, and don’t stand up paddle board when there are large ice chunks floating around.

a stand up paddle boarder near ice


7. Be Back On Shore Before Dark

In the cooler months, don’t forget the sun goes down a lot earlier in the day and the temperature cools off quickly even before the sun has set. Plan to be in from the water well before the sun is below the horizon. Your local weather forecast should give you the time that the sunsets, so you can play it safe and aim to be in 30 minutes before that (earlier if you can!) 

Stand up paddle boarder at sunset


8. Don’t paddle alone

This applies all the time but it is often overlooked during the summer. In the colder months it’s even more important to make sure you are paired up with a paddle boarding partner. If you are going to be paddling alone, be sure to tell a friend where you are going boarding and when you will be back. Don’t forget to call them as soon as you are back to let them know – you’ll save them from any unnecessary worry about how your ride went!

arge group of stand up paddle boarders at sunset


9. Pack A Warm Up Kit

Bring along extra warm clothes you can change into after your paddle board session. It’s a good idea to keep a towel, warm sweater, pants, and a jacket in your car so you’ve got something warm and dry when you get in from the water. Packing a thermos of something warm to eat or drink after your paddle board session is also a good trick to help keep you warm and refuelled after spending time on the water.

and up paddle boarding in cold weather

Enjoy Paddle Boarding All Year Round

Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean you can’t be out on your paddle board, enjoying time on the water. With these tips, and some good judgement, you can hit the water year round on your SUP.

See something we have missed, or a cold weather tip we should know about?  Comment below or email is at info@cruisersup.com

1 comment

  • TMan

    Great tips. Just SUP’d Lake Tahoe.

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