Tis the season for thick neoprene for those of us in the cold water regions. Many give it up until summer, but if you really love paddling you’ll find a way to keep warm on the water.  To me skiing is colder, infact frozen, expensive, a long drive and standing in line isn’t much fun in the front country.

Here’s what I wear on water in winter.  Note that I tend to get cold easily, so my choices may sound hot to others. A kayaking friend never uses gloves or a hood.  If i don’t, my fingers go white and numb, not a good thing.

Type of Paddling – Mostly rough water, surf, tidal rapids, downwind, boat wakes, etc.  Also basic SUP lessons require a lot of low activity which can get chilly.

Wetsuit – ProMotion Storm 5/4/3mm.  ProMotion is a Hood River, OR based company which makes their own gear, has quick repairs and a ton of options for clothing.  I’m not a drysuit fan and had two in my earlier kayaking days.  I prefer less gear maintenance, no ripped gaskets, and the more streamline feel of a wetsuit when swimming. Warmth? I stay warmer in a wetsuit.

Under wetsuit to boost warmth –
Top: Capeline or polypro thin or medium weight top. The goal here is to add warmth without adding bulk or restricting my shoulder movement. I’m not a fan of top loading wetsuits as the shoulder areas can be too stiff.  If the windchill is in the teens or I’m doing a lot in-water swimming for rescue classes, then I may add the Season5 Barrier top over the suit to reduce windchill and boost heat a touch without adding stiffness.

Bottom: Neoprene shorts or Season5 barrier short or Reed Chill Cheater shorts.

Gloves – 
Currently using NRS Maverick.  In summer or early fall I use a $19 Glacier Glove bought at Swain’s in Port Angeles, WA.

Booties – 
NRS Paddle Wetshoe. This is a fleece lined bootie with a thick sole and grippy bottom for rocks.  Unlike surfing booties this flushes with water. It was great til it got in the 30’s.  I now line it with a SmartWool sock and waterproof sock to keep dry.  $40+ plus waterproof sock.


7mm Xcel DryLock, RipCurl FlashBombs or similar.  These have little grip on the sole for rocks but are waterproof and quite warm. $80+.  **I’ll be switching to these in a week or so as the latter option becomes too much of a hassle adding socks, liners, etc.

Been a big fan of neoprene hooded vests for years.  Both sleeveless and with sleeves.  Currently using and loving the ProMotion 1.5mm hooded vest. This one has a wind block layer, helpful in windchill.  These are worn under or over the wetsuit. Great for layering over a sprayskirt for kayaking.

Helmet – 
Love the Gath helmets for their innovative full head shapes, ear protection, lightweight feel, and options. Helmets also help keep me warm on frigid days in tidal rapids, surf, etc.

Other Options for Rough Cold Water Paddling?  Patagonia’s R5 Merino wool lined wetsuit with hood; 7mm booties (Xcel, RipCurl or Patagonia), Ocean Rodeo’s Soul drysuit.  Or move to Hawaii.

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips