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What to wear summer paddling

With the heat of summer upon us and many weeks of the season still to go, here’s a quick overview of how to dress and what to bring for summer kayaking.

1. Summer Coverage

While it may be tempting to strip down to your bathing suit and jump in your kayak, remember that UV rays can be more intense when on the water and one of the best forms of protection is a shirt, short sleeve or long with UV protection. Think about something lightweight and breathable but enough coverage to protect your back and shoulders. Look for labels stating a UV Protection Factor (UPF). UPF of 50+ will block most UV rays.

Board shorts are good for bottoms and a bit of length can help protect your thighs. Lower legs are usually protected by the deck of a sea kayak. If you’re using a boat with a large cockpit or your own sit-on-top style boat, remember that your legs may be more exposed.

kayak top

2. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is needed on everything that isn’t fully covered, and don’t forget small bits like your face, ears, back of the neck and even your feet and toes. Look for a high quality, water resistant lotion, SPF 30 or higher. Remember to apply a generous amount and think about adding in a lip balm with SPF if you don’t have one yet.

Canadian Cancer Society offers 13 tips on using sunscreen products.

3. Hat

Choose a wide brim hat if you can.  Baseball caps can offer some protection to your face but leave your neck and ears exposed. Feeling the heat? Dunk your hat in the water for a quick cool down on the go. For more shade protection you can even hang a scarf out the back for additional coverage of your neck. It may not win any fashion awards but at least you’ll be covered.

sun hat
water shoes


We recommend water shoes or a sport sandal with a bit of heel protection. You use your feet while paddling to control the rudder and to brace your legs in the boat. If you’re barefoot or in simple flip flops, your feet may be rubbing on the bottom of the boat causing soreness and irritation. You may also choose to jump out at some point to explore a beach and it’s helpful to have something to protect your feet from rocks and barnacles.

5. Sunglasses

Sunglasses are always a good idea to protect your eyes from UV rays. Don’t forget to add on Chums or some kind of keeper to stop them from accidentally falling into the water as you look down into the deep blue. 

Brent shop owner

6. Hydration

Bring lots of water. While the general recommendation is to drink 6 to 8, 8oz glasses of water per day, when it’s hot out or you’re being active you should generally consume more. Bring at least 750ml to 1 liter of water per person for a 3-hour kayak trip. Getting tired of plain water? Try adding a slice of lime or lemon. Or, try a hydration tablet like Nuun that can help restore electrolytes.

7. Take a break and grab a snack

It’s easy to get worn out when in the sun so bring along a nutritious snack to help keep you going. It can also act as a reminder to take a break. Find a beach with some shade and get out of the boat to stretch your legs and enjoy your snack. Consider items that travel easily like apples, raw veggies, nuts or granola bars. Avoid overly surgery or salty snacks that can zap your energy or make you extra thirsty.

kayak snack

A dry bag is useful for small items you want to take with you while paddling. At Bowen Island Sea Kayaking we supply your paddling gear like life jackets and paddles. And, even though it’s hot out, remember your life jacket is only useful if you’re wearing it, so be sure to buckle up before you head out.