Learning how to paddle is always good, but knowing what to wear for the water can mean the difference between an uncomfortable experience and a great time. With all the chaos of learning stroke technique and water dynamics, no one wants to be distracted thinking about how cold she is. Here is a list of proper water apparel for a typical first day out on the water for a sit-on-top or sea kayak.
Thermal base layer. It is always easier to layer up and cool off than to try and warm up when you’re cold. Thermal shorts are an easy way to stay warm, but cool off quickly when you get them wet, making them almost critical year round. I tend to wear a simple pair of board shorts over them (like shown above), but they can be worn alone as well.
Closed-toe shoes. While flip flops and sandals are nice to wear during the summer, you’ll regret that decision the first time you break a toenail or stub a toe getting out of the boat. Proper water shoes offer breathability, grip, and protection. There are two types, both of which work well. The neoprene bootie, such as the NRS Desperado, is more for those who plan to be in a sea kayak or whitewater kayak. Booties tend to be more minimalist in style, offering extra room for tight-fitting boats. They also offer protection and warmth. More standard shoes for beginners would be hybrid shoes such as KEEN’s Whisper. Unlike booties, hybrid shoes offer protection and breathability, but also have a sole that allow for usage away from the water. As thicker shoes, however, these are better left for sit-on-tops or kayaks where room is not as much of an issue.
Rash guards. Rash guards offer a layer of warmth and abrasion as well as sun protection. I rarely venture out on the water without one because if the weather is hot, I’ll probably burn, and if it’s a day where I won’t burn, I may freeze. Rash guards come in short sleeve, three quarter sleeve and long sleeve and are usually made from a synthetic material such as nylon/spandex.
So now you know the absolute basic attire for keeping comfortable while learning the paddling basics. Now go hit the water!