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Before the SUP craze, if you wanted a full surfing wetsuit, you went to a surf shop. If you wanted a Kokatat drysuit, you went to a kayak shop. One of the cool things about the SUP thing is that kayak shops now sell and rent SUPs, and some surf shops now have paddles and other cross over gear. Nonethless, I still sometimes have to search for specific gear or brands I like. Over the years, I’ve learned that not all paddling specific gear works for me, thus i need to look outside of the box for solutions. All your gear preferences should be personal – what works for you – not what is trendy, or what your peers say you must have. Here’s some gear I like, and how I came to find it…

Gloves:
When I need to replace a pair of paddling gloves, I go to Swain’s Hardware in Port Angeles, WA for the fleece lined ‘Pro Hunter Gloves‘ made by Glacier Gloves. In surf shops, similar gloves are $40, at Swain’s – $19. And they’re (for me) warmer than many of the winter paddling gloves on the market. For SUP my gloves last over a year, but I seem to destroy my gloves while kayaking much sooner.

Kayak / SUP Rack Pads:
I use pipe insulation foam, that grey stuff. Pops right on most round bars. I secure it with a matching or similar electrical tape. It lasts over a year easy. Find it in hardware stores.

Something to stand on when getting dressed:
I’ve seen all sorts of ideas for something to stand on when getting dressed in parking lots. Some use their plastic bucket lids, some use the plastic bucket itself, and I use a foam camping pad cut to size. A used outdoor store had the pads on sale for $9. Got 3 squares out of it.

Paddling Light:
I do a lot of night paddles or during winter, I may get off the water just after dark. For years, I’ve used the Guardian LED waterproof light which is tiny, can clip or be tied onto almost any garmet, and is super bright. I attach mine to the upper rear shoulder of my PFD so I can access it easily. Some bicycle lights are super bright. Make sure they’re 100% waterproof, ‘water resistent’ doesn’t work if you’re getting wet. Pelican and Princetec waterproof lights have some good options as well.

Are you a SUP’er looking for gear but can’t find it?
Kayak stores have great cross-over gear. Kokatat has great full and half hoods which are very wind resistent, fleece lined, yet lighter than most surfing hoods. You’ll find full type 3 lifejackets (PFDs) there as well, usually in several brands. Kayak booties are usually sturdier and with better foot support than surfing booties. They’re designed for whitewater boaters who climb over boulders to get to rivers – thick soles, ankle support, etc.

Wetsuit:
Many who come from kayaking usually wear only drysuits for paddling. I did the same for some time but later found full surfing wetsuits to be more affordable, less mainenance, and just as warm. Before my SUP period, I began to test some kayaking style wetsuits. Reed ChillCheeter makes some bomber hoods and full suit options, but for me, didn’t quite cut it for a full suit. Then I tried the good ol’ farmer john which many whitewater boaters still use. But that didn’t quite cut it as well – too wet. Finally I went to a local surf shop (the former Cheka Looka in Seattle) and Jeff Abondonato set me up with a Xcel Infinity 4/3 full surfing wetsuit. After some paddles, rolling practice, etc – the search ended. I found this type of wetsuit has superb flexiblity, is plenty warm for full immersion, and require no maintainence aside from the normal cleansing of saltwater. Price $350-$450 vs $600-$1k for a good drysuit. The Merino wool-lined Patagonia’s are around $550. I now use my wetsuit for kayaking and SUP. You can layer them as well. In windchill below 30F, I may put a Gortex paddling jacket over the suit and/or wear a capeline or polypro shirt under.

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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