This short post outlines equipment and apparel I see as essential to make paddling safe and comfortable. I may make some brand suggestions because I’ve tried them out and really like them but it’s all about what feels good for you!
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
What you want to look for is something that fits snug, that is not too bulky, does not chafe but also has a couple of little pockets to be able to fit a snack, your phone and a flare into. My recommendation is always go for something nice and light and high vis. My favourite is the THINK kayaks http://thinkkayak.com/shop/pfds/think-pfd/. I’ve paddled with quite a few different jackets but found this to be the lightest. I hate wearing much when im paddling so anything that I can feel or any extra weight really bothers me and this works perfect, you don’t even know your wearing it, pockets are easy to access and you don’t need to worry about zips etc.
https://www.vaikobi.com/products/vaikobi-hi-vis-ocean-racing-pfd – Looks great, has the extra pocket on the back of the jacket for a drink bladder. I usually wouldn’t use these as its adding weight and resistance to you as you are paddling but its also quite convenient if you don’t want to fiddle around attaching it to your boat etc.
http://mockepaddling.com/product/mocke-racer-pfd/ – Similar with a back pocket for your drink bladder. These are nice and simply and really comfy however a bit heavier than the THINK jacket, they are a nice jacket to wear and look great too.
These are all surf ski specific lifejackets but there are plenty out there. The key is to make sure they are hi vis, light and not too bulky in the front so you can get back on your ski without obstructions.
https://www.facebook.com/standupjournal/videos/983748681733844/ – ALWAYS paddle with a leash. You may think you’re a pro but if you’re out at sea, you accidentally get knocked off and your ski starts blowing away from you, things can go bad quickly. The only time you don’t want a leash on is going in and out of a break.
You can get these at any boating/marine shop. Hand held orange smoke flare is the most common. They are small enough to just slip into the pocket of your lifejacket. You also need them for most races these days too so great investment.
Waterproof case/bag for phone
I always recommend never going downwinding alone but sometimes when the conditions are too good and no body else is available, you just have to get out there! If that’s the case, make sure to take a cellphone with you! Pop it in a waterproof bag with a little leash to your or your lifejacket so if something happens you can get some help ASAP. You can also get some cool safety apps for smart phones like “Send Help” and “SOS – Stay safe” – You can get these from any marine or outdoor shop.
GPS watch or heart rate monitor
These are fantastic training partners and also great motivators. They help monitor your progress and give you instant feedback rather than just going off how you are feeling on the day. You can program sessions into them so you don’t have to continually look at the time on your watch to see when the effort is going to end as it alarms when your effort or your rest have finished. Heart rate monitors! Most GPS training watches have heart rate as a feature, it’s a great way to monitor how your body is responding to work outs, whether you are training the right intensities or if you are just spent and need a rest. These don’t have to be the newest flashiest things on the market.
My recommendations are for the ease of use and the interactivity of their features and software which make them fun to use:
My absolute fave – https://www.polar.com/us-en/products/pro/V800
Simple but still with a great amount of feautures – https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/90671
https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/552237 – Looks great! I’m not a massive fan of heart rate on the wrist for training, I think its important to have the watch out in front of you. The HR also plays up a bit on the wrist when water gets in the mix but otherwise awesome watch, tons of features with all the smart watch features too.
http://www.suunto.com/en-CA/sports-watch-collections/Suunto-Spartan-Collection/ – Great looking watches again, a few more features and also known to be fantastic quality watches but also a little pricier.
Bring out the lycra!! Paddling shorts are one of the absolute essentials, you don’t want anything to cause you chafe but you also don’t want anything too thin that will not last long or too slippery that you’ll come straight out of you seat! Most running tights/bike shorts work well but if you want more paddling specific, here are the ones I like:
https://www.funkypants.co.za/collections/run-paddle-gym – Great, fun comfy shorts – double layered so you get a bit of movement in the bum and less friction but also super comfy!! Guys who hate high cut shorts, these are nice and low at the front so reduces that compression on your belly and also has a neoprene butt pad giving you a little more grip and protection.
https://www.vaikobi.com/products/v-heat-paddle-short-black-orange – neoprene butt pad made of slightly softer more comfy neoprene but higher cut front and back. Some of the seams are a little aggressive but otherwise great pants
http://sharkskin.com.au/product/performance-wear-pro-shortpants/ – Im a big fan of these, super comfy material and nice and durable. No too high cut its somewhere in between.
When the weather is a little cooler or you don’t want to get terrible short tan lines, here are some options:
- http://sharkskin.com.au/product/performance-wear-pro-longpants/ – super comfy and nice low cut. Keeps you cool but keeps the sun off and protects your butt with the neoprene pad.
- http://sharkskin.com.au/product/performance-wear-longpants/ – Awesome winter pants!! The material is kind of a always dry material, its fleecy on the inside but neoprene on the outside. Its so warm and comfy that I’ll happily wear these in the low degrees. Higher waste on them but they don’t taper in hugely so are too restricting. I am a fan!
- https://www.vaikobi.com/products/new-v-cold-paddle-pant-black-cyan – Another great pair of warm pants, they don’t come in super small sizes, they are all a little bit but for the most part the material is super comfy, they sit over your hips but aren’t too restricting and they are nice and flexible.
Other than the suggestions above, there aren’t a huge variety of paddling pants specific to surf ski/kayak. I use to just use Under Armour thermal pants or 2XU thermal compression pants.
Winter Paddling top
Most thermals work really well as long as they don’t chafe! I use a lot of CRAFT thermals. Under Armour thermal tops are also very popular.
- https://www.vaikobi.com/products/v-cold-storm-l-s-top – instead of wearing a full neoprene top this is a nice comfy option for when its cold out but you still want to feel like you can move!
- https://www.vaikobi.com/products/new-v-cold-performance-base-layer-top – For the slightly cooler mornings when youre on your way into summer!
- http://sharkskin.com.au/product/chillproof-long-sleeve-womens/ – when its freezing out! Super comfy, keeps you warm and dry when its horribly cold and windy out, protects you again the elements.
Summer Paddling top
A standard long sleeve rash shirt/running shirt or similar is perfect. What you want is something that is light, pretty close fitting so it doesn’t sag when its wet, will keep the sun off and keep you cool but here are some recommendations anyway:
It’s a great kit option to have in your bag to pop over your normal paddling gear for when its freezing out or when its pretty cool to start but that you can take off mid paddle if you need to. I usually go for a sleeveless waterproof/wind proof vest option but for the real cold conditions full length paddle jackets are the way to go.
http://www.hikosport.com/480-jackets – Has a great number of options given the type of paddling conditions you are exposed to.
http://www.washrider.com/product/roman-wind-vest – nice light vest.
I’m sure you have all experienced the burning hands when its so cold out that you just want to get off the water beacause its so painful then it takes you all day to get the feeling back in your hands? Well these are what saved me. You can get thermal options or just plain old wind proof options but they are lifesaving or hand saving!!
http://shop.nelo.eu/en/clothes/training/paddle-gloves.html – neoprene so great in deep winter, not so great if you hate real hot hands
http://paddles.braca-sport.com/accessories/pogies.html – Can get the windproof ones or neoprene/thermal.
http://sharkskin.com.au/product/chillproof-pogies/ – Thermal. Perfect for deep winter! Get amongst it.
This one is pretty simply, whatever is warm and fits. I usually just stick with either neoprene socks with no sole or wetsuit booties which have a bit more flex than diving booties.
Now this is a hot topic for those paddling in the northern hemisphere where it actually snows in winter! Well, the main things to look for are: seam sealed, flexible, a little extra room than normal as you need to allow for you sitting down. The main idea of dry suits is to keep you dry as the name suggests. They are thermal lines though so that means you need to make sure you have appropriate clothing underneath, because if you come off your ski you will feel the water temp straight away so you want to be able to have a barrier. Either a polar fleece top and pants or some of the above paddling gear. Here are some good options – they are all a little pricey but totally worth the investment to be able to paddle all year round! They can usually keep you pretty comfy to before 10 degree celsius with a polar fleece underneath and some good booties!!!
About Teneale Hatton
Teneale Teneale is a kayaker and surfski Coach at Paddle Monster.com Teneale was brought up near the water, with watersports and competitiveness in the blood, starting out in surf lifesaving and surf ski paddling, which is great for balance and developing paddling awareness, I branched out into other paddling disciplines including sprint canoeing, marathon and ocean ski paddling. Over the last 8 years, Teneale has earned six World Championship titles in Ocean ski, Sprint Kayaking and Marathon Kayaking, holds a World Record in the K1 1000m at the 2014 Canoe Sprint World Championships, and achieved numerous World Cup and World Series podium finishes.