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How to Choose a Wetsuit for Paddle Boarding

wetsuit for SUP

Paddle boarding may be a fair-weather activity that you probably associate with a sunny day on a calm river. But like any other water sport, being in the water for an extended period of time can have a big impact on your body temperature.

Even on bright days and in fairly warm water, it can be useful to wear a wetsuit for SUP. The reason is not only comfort, but also safety. Then even if you don’t find yourself in the water at any given time, your clothes can still get soaked by splashes and spray. Therefore, a wetsuit can protect your clothes and skin from getting damp and cooling down too much.

However, choosing a wetsuit for paddleboarding can be tricky, as not every wetsuit will do. Read on to find out what to look for and which particular type you should pick.

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How to Choose a Wetsuit for Paddle Boarding?

As a general rule, wetsuits for paddle boarding need to be thinner and more flexible than diving or surfing wetsuits. They are still made of neoprene, but the specifics of paddle boarding call for higher sensitivity, a higher range of motion, and better body heat management.

sleeveless wetsuit for paddle boarding
Source: Decathlon

As refreshing as it may feel at first, water can cool you down very quickly. Normal body temperature is 98.6°F (36.4°C), while water only reaches a maximum of 68°F (20°C), and usually much less than that. Because of this enormous difference, prolonged or repeated contact with it would draw your body heat in a matter of hours.

Here are the most important aspects of choosing the best wetsuit for paddle boarding:

  • It should be on the thinner side but warm enough
  • You shouldn’t overheat in the SUP wetsuit
  • You need to be able to move freely in it
  • Ideally, it increases buoyancy
  • It should protect you from impacts

Thin But Warm Enough

Wetsuits are designed for different conditions and water temperatures. They are between 1 mm and 6 mm thick and thus offer different protection in warmer or colder temperatures.

The principle of functioning of a neoprene wetsuit is quite simple. The name gives it away – in a wetsuit you are actually wet all the time. A wetsuit traps a thin layer of water between itself and your skin, insulating your body from further contact with water and temperature loss. Physics, baby!

You can use this website to find out what the temperature of your closest ocean is.

Here’s a useful table to help you navigate the appropriate thicknesses:

Wetsuit Type
Seal Type
0.5mm – 2/1mmSleevelessFlatlock
2mm – 3/2mmShortyFlatlock
3/2mm – 4/3mmFullsuitSealed

Anything beyond that is suitable only for cold conditions and extended immersion in the water. Therefore, you won’t normally need that type of wetsuit on a paddle board.

Still, if you are paddling in low temperatures, be sure to check out the full article on the best wetsuits for cold water. 

Prevent Overheating

Indeed, paddle boarders spend the majority of the time on the board, not underwater. At first, you may not see any benefit in wearing a wetsuit on your SUP. On the contrary, you might worry that you will start sweating in the suit and risk overheating on very sunny days.

That’s why a thinner wetsuit or a suit with short sleeves and legs can be a good choice for paddle boarding. It prevents only your body’s core and vital organs from cooling down.

paddle boarding in a shorty
Source: Unsplash

If you wear a short wetsuit (a shorty) or even a full-body swimsuit while paddling, remember to apply sunscreen lotion to the skin on your arms and legs.

Moving Freely in the Wetsuit for Paddle Boarding

The movements typical of paddle boarding can also affect the choice of wetsuit. Maintaining range of motion is important if you want to stay comfortable even after hours of paddling.

On the other hand, the repetitive paddling motions can cause chafing and pinching of the skin over time.

 movements when paddle boarding
Source: Unsplash

Increased Buoyancy

First of all, wetsuits for paddle boarding are very light. But 3mm neoprene can even give you extra buoyancy when you’re in the water. So if you’re trying to swim back to your board or to shore, it will take much less energy to do so. That may not seem like much, but it can definitely make a difference in dicey situations.

Protection from Impacts

Having a second skin made of a durable material like neoprene can also protect your skin from injury. Many dangers can lurk beneath the surface of the water, such as reefs, branches, rocks, and even jellyfish. The wetsuit acts as a barrier between them and your body.

ideal wetsuit for paddle boarding?
Source: Unsplash

Best Wetsuits for Paddle Boarding

1. Synergy Triathlon Endorphin Full Sleeve

Main features

  • High-tech full-body wetsuit originally designed for triathlons
  • Made from hydrodynamic neoprene with silicone
  • Most flexible wetsuit on the market!
  • Varying thickness for different body zones (5mm buoyancy panel, 3mm legs and back, 2mm arms and shoulders)
  • Smooth-skin material and chemically bonded seams to prevent chafing
  • Low-cut neckline for a feeling of freedom

2. Hevto Wetsuit for Paddle Boarding & Snorkeling

Main features

  • Only 3 mm thick for optimal fit and flexibility
  • Lined with nylon stretch fabric for softness
  • Sufficient warmth for water temps between 57-72°F
  • Windproof for comfort on colder days
  • Lengthened nylon belt for the back zipper – you can zip up and unzip anytime without a problem!
  • Helps you float more easily in the water
  • Super light – less than 2.2 lbs (1 kg)
Source: Hevto

3. Rip Curl Women’s G-Bomb 1 mm Sleeveless Shorty

Main features

  • Bikini-cut one-piece shaped just like a swimsuit
  • Only 1 mm thick!
  • Arms and legs exposed – great for warm & sunny days
  • Protects the body core from cooling down
  • Super stretchy material for great flexibility
  • Made for summer surfing, SUPing, kayaking, jet ski
  • Front zip

4. Aqua Polo RAD II 

Main features

  • Colorful and vibrant
  • 3 mm thick long sleeve
  • Zippers on the back and at the ends of the legs
  • Suitable for water temperatures of 60°F (15°C and above)
  • Provides excellent flexibility
  • Prevents chafing and abrasion when paddling thanks to flatlock stitching
  • Great for canoeing, paddle boarding, windsurfing
  • Affordable

5. AXESEA Long Sleeve Sun Protection Swimsuit

Main features

  • For those who don’t want to wear a neoprene suit
  • Created in Surfers Point, Australia
  • Ultrasoft 4-way super stretch fabric for paddling without chafing
  • Quick-dry fabric that blocks 98% of harmful UV sunlight
  • Flattering design in 27 different patterns
  • Front or back zip options
When is it too windy to SUP? Read more about paddle boarding wind speeds.

Drysuit or Wetsuit for Paddle Boarding?

If you want to paddle in really cold conditions (water temperatures below 60°F, or 15°C), a thin wetsuit won’t do the job. Besides, even with a thick wetsuit, you can still get very cold. Therefore, we recommend a drysuit for such conditions.

To provide optimal insulation in cold water and windy environments, a wetsuit needs to be much thicker. At this point, though, it becomes too uncomfortable to paddle in.

Swimming and surfing can be very intense full-body activities, while paddleboarding is more slow and relaxed. This lack of exertion will not warm you up enough and you will start losing body heat pretty soon.

On the other hand, in a drysuit you won’t get wet at all. In fact, it keeps you so warm that you shouldn’t wear it on hot days because of the risk of overheating.

Read also: The Buyers Guide to Drysuits for Paddle Boarding

Final Thoughts

So, now you know all the basics you need to choose a good wetsuit for your next paddle boarding trip. If we missed something and you have a burning question on your mind, drop us a line in the comments! We’re here to help!

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