Do I need a wetsuit for Stand Up Paddleboarding?

Wetsuit at beach

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A common question I see a lot out in the SUPosphere is “Do I need a Wetsuit for Stand Up Paddleboarding. Today we are going to explore this question to help you determine if a wetsuit is a good investment and addiction to your paddleboarding gear. For more information on What to Wear Stand Up Paddleboarding check out this post.

Stand up Paddleboarding in Scotland

Who doesn’t need a wetsuit

For those of us who live in idyllic tropical environments where the water temperature is a perfect for swimming all year round, wetsuits are the last thing on your mind.  

Do I need a wetsuit for Stand Up Paddleboarding?

For the rest of us however, given the majority of the worlds population lives in a temperate zone, the water can get pretty chilly leading up to and including the winter months. We have 2 options.  We can either call it quits for the winter or explore the options available to us.


Wetsuits can help extend our paddling season well into the autumn and get us back out there on our boards at the first signs of spring.  For some of us wetsuits may make it possible to paddle all year around.

Roxy Prologue wetsuit stand up paddleboarding

Pros

  • Keeps you warmer in the water if you fall off
  • Gives you confidence if you fall into cold water
  • Can add an extra layer of warmth while on your board
  • You can layer thermal or fleecy layers as needed

Cons

  • Some people find wetsuits too warm if the water is cold but the ambient temperature is moderate
  • Wetsuits be quite restrictive when paddling

Types of Wetsuits

One of the first things to look at when considering the purchase of a wetsuit for Stand Up Paddleboarding is the conditions you will be paddling in. The water temperature is the best place to determine when looking at cooler environments. Once you know this information you can look at wetsuit types. There are many different types of wetsuits available. They are largely divided into Styles and Thickness.

Styles of Wetsuits for SUP

The Style of the Wetsuit refers to the coverage. For example there is everything from Shortie – which means short sleeves and legs to full length.

Wetsuit Thickness

The wetsuit thickness refers to the gauge of material the wetsuit is made from. This is measured in millimetres. As you will see below there are 2-3 numbers to indicate thickness. This simply means that different sections of the wetsuit are different thicknesses. For example a 5/4/3 means that sections such as the chest and back are 5mm, the rest of the body/torso is likely to be 4mm and the arms and legs are likely to be 3mm. The reason for this is that we want to keep the chest the warmest as that’s where our vital organs are. We also want a thinner covering for less restriction where we move the most – our arms and legs.

Water TemperatureWetsuit ThicknessWetsuit Style
Over 22°CN/ARashguard
18°-22°C0.5-2/1mmTop/Shorty
16°-20°C2mm-3/2mm3/4 to full length
14°-17°C3/2-4/3mmFull length & booties
11°-14°C4/3-5/4/3mmFull length, booties, gloves and hood
6°-11°C5/4-5/4/3mmFull length, booties, gloves and hood
Below 6°C6/5mm +Full length, booties, gloves and hood
Water temperature and Wetsuit Guide – for °F click here
Stand Up Paddleboarder in wetsuit with historic church in background

What do I wear?

My wetsuit of choice is the Roxy Prologue 5/4/3 wetsuit which is one of the thickest wetsuits without going the full hood and gloves. I have found that wearing waterproof socks and booties can also a great way to staving off the cold.

Coming from a warmer climate I wasn’t really sure what to expect in the cooler months of paddling in Scotland so I opted to go for the thickest suit I could find without having to overspend on the budget. Check the current price of the Roxy Prologue 5/4/3 Wetsuit here!

Roxy wetsuit stand up Paddleboarding in Orkney

What I Love about the Roxy Prologue 5/4/3 Wetsuit

  • It looks pretty cool – the shield part on the front makes you look a bit ‘bad ass!!’
  • Warmth was key and it has two warmth panels front and back of the torso for extra insulation
  • No bulky zips around the ankles like my last wetsuit (ankle zips adds bulk and discomfort if you have zippered booties too)
  • It accommodates those of us with a waist and hips
  • I have found it to be surprisingly comfortable to paddle in
  • The neck is more comfortable than my last wetsuit but…

What I don’t like so much!

  • It still feels tight around my neck after being out on the water for a while – but as I said this is a problem I’ve had with other wetsuits too and I just need to remember not to tighten it too much!!
  • The insulation fabric across the back spans the zip which makes getting into it harder as it doesn’t allow it to open up so much – difficult when you have curves to accomodate. The best advice I can offer here is to just be patient when putting your wetsuit on, they are tight especially when new.

Women’s Roxy Prologue Wetsuit has reinforced at joins for major reinforcement with glued and blind stitched seams to keep water infiltration to a minimum.

Roxy wetsuit stand up paddleboarding

So do YOU need a wetsuit for Stand Up paddleboarding?  

If you are still with me chances are you have been feeling the cold and I would go so far as to say a wetsuit would be a great investment to help you continue to enjoy the sport you love throughout the colder weather.

While some people do find that they are restrictive and can get pretty hot while wearing them, I found that in cooler conditions I felt a lot better about falling into the water knowing I’d be kept warm. I think a lot of it really depends on how cold the ambient temperature is, how cold the water is and what sort of paddling you are doing.

We tend to do more chilled paddle sessions however if you are into racing a wetsuit could make paddling more challenging.

Woman in wetsuit surfing on stand up paddleboard

Stay tuned, next week when we look at Favourite Hot Drinks to Take on your SUP Adventure. Do you have a favourite SUP location that you think should be added here?  Contact us on the ‘Contact’ tab and we’ll include it in a later post.

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3 thoughts on “Do I need a wetsuit for Stand Up Paddleboarding?

  1. worldwidewalkies says:

    Good article. Thankfully, these days, the neoprene from which wetsuits is made is much more stretchy and forgiving. I love my wetsuit mainly because it is purple!
    Look forward to the Christmas Gift Guide!

    • SUP Chick says:

      I’m going to be adding to this article as our plans for better photographs were thwarted and we were stuck in Balmaha for three hours yesterday as the only way out was blocked off by the police I think they were investigating a crime. I wanted to add so much more info but time ran out… a purple wetsuit sounds awesome!! Hard to believe it’s 2 months until Christmas 🎄😳

      • worldwidewalkies says:

        Ooer, a three hour traffic jam isn’t a nice way to end your day.
        As soon as I saw it, I had to have the purple wetsuit!
        Thanks for reminding me that I had better get organised for Christmas!

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