6 Things You Need To Know About Winter Paddle Boarding

Key Highlights

  1. Winter Paddle Boarding Paradise: Open, calm waters and the serene beauty of winter transform it into an ideal season for SUP enthusiasts, with preparation being key to enjoyment and safety.
  2. Layering for Warmth and Comfort: Learn the art of layering with synthetic materials to maintain optimal body temperature without sweating, crucial for winter paddle boarding.
  3. The Right Gear Matters: Discover why a traditional wetsuit may not be suitable for winter SUP and what to wear instead for better comfort and safety.
  4. Backpack Essentials: Packing the right items, such as hydration, snacks, and space for layers, is vital for a safe winter paddle boarding experience.
  5. Navigating Board Ice: Strategies for minimizing the risk of slipping due to ice accumulation on your paddleboard through careful paddle strokes.
  6. Safety and Preparation: Emphasizes the importance of hydration, staying close to shore, emergency dry clothing, weather vigilance, communication, and non-negotiable safety gear like PFDs.

Winter doesn't have to signal the end of your paddle boarding adventures. In fact, with crisp air and serene, crowd-free waters, winter might just become your favorite paddle boarding season. However, it demands a shift in approach to ensure safety and enjoyment. Let's explore six vital tips for winter paddle boarding that will keep you connected to nature and enjoying your board year-round.

1. Winter Is No Time to Hibernate Your SUP

The serene beauty of a lake in winter offers unmatched paddle boarding conditions, provided you're well-prepared. Open, calm waters await, transforming winter into a paddler’s paradise with the right preparation.

glide winter paddle boarding

2. Mastering the Art of Layering

Just like any winter sport, layering is key in paddle boarding. Opt for synthetic base layers that wick away sweat, and avoid cotton at all costs. A nearly-empty backpack becomes your best friend, allowing you to strip down layers as you heat up to prevent sweating, which is the winter athlete's foe.

paddle board on ice

3. Rethinking the Wetsuit

Contrary to popular belief, a winter wetsuit is not ideal for lake paddle boarding. Wetsuits are designed to trap a thin layer of water that your body warms up, providing insulation. However, in sub-zero conditions, this can quickly lead to overheating and excessive sweating, increasing the risk of hypothermia once you stop moving. Reserve the wetsuit for water-based activities where immersion is expected, and instead, focus on breathable, quick-dry layers for paddle boarding.


4. Essentials for Your Paddle Boarding Backpack

Your winter paddle boarding backpack should include hydration supplies, snacks, a phone, and space for your layers. Remember, in case of an unexpected plunge, your priority is to shed the backpack to avoid it weighing you down.

inflatable paddle board in winter

5. Dealing with Board Ice

A unique winter challenge is the ice that forms on your board from dripping paddles, creating a slippery surface. Minimize water on the deck with a careful, less vigorous paddle stroke focused more on distance than speed.


6. Stay Hydrated and Close to Shore

While you may not feel thirsty in the cold, staying hydrated is crucial. Keep a water bottle handy in your backpack. Also, paddle close to the shore where the water is calmer and safer, but watch out for ice formations.

paddle boards on a jeep


There’s no reason to head for the middle of the lake. Paddle the shoreline and stay within 1/8 mile of land. But be aware of ice: Lakes normally freeze first in the calm and shallows near the shore.


pumping up an inflatable paddle board

Winter SUP Practices Enhanced for Cold Conditions

  • Emergency Dry Clothing: Always have a set of dry, warm clothes waiting in your car. Accessibility is key, so consider leaving your car unlocked or keys easily reachable to facilitate a quick change into dry layers.
  • Weather Vigilance: Stay informed about local weather conditions and be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.
  • Communication is Key: Inform others of your paddling plans. A simple social media update can keep you safer by ensuring friends know your location and expected return time.
  • Safety Gear Non-negotiables: Always wear your Personal Flotation Device (PFD), and during winter, consider a leash as non-negotiable for your safety and security.
paddle board in winter


Always wear your PFD (personal flotation device). As you shed extra clothing, do not tie it around your waist.

On extremely cold days, you can wear a river-certified PFD over your layers. This over-buoyant jacket traps body heat quite well, and I overheat unless it’s very cold out.

glide inflatable paddle board


Embracing these winter paddle boarding tips not only ensures your safety but also opens up a whole new world of serene, icy beauty waiting to be explored on your SUP. Don't let the cold hold you back; instead, gear up and glide through the winter waters with confidence.


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