January 11, 2022 6 min read

SUP Sun Safety

Man wearing a long sleeves and a hat while holding his GILI inflatable paddle board on the beach

Paddle boarding on the open water and getting some well-needed vitamin D sounds like the perfect activity after a long working week. 

Although the sun feels amazing on our skin, prolonged sun exposure can be extremely harmful and cause long-term problems in the future. 

When swimming or boating, we need to be extra cautious and practice sun safety as best as we can. The surrounding water reflects the UV rays, strengthening them and making them more damaging to our skin. 

So if you’re heading out paddle boarding and you need some tips on how to be sun safe, keep on reading, we’ve got you covered! 

How to Keep Your Skin Safe When Paddle Boarding

Did you know your skin is the largest organ in/on your body and it is crucial to take care of it like you would any other organ? 

More and more people are being diagnosed with skin cancer each year due to not protecting their skin efficiently. Skin cancer can easily be prevented by following some simple sun precautions which we’re going to go over in this article. 


Quite possibly the most obvious, and that is sunscreen. 

Sunscreen should be at the top of your sun protection list and you should be applying it before you even step foot in the sun. 

If you’re paddling for long periods of time, reapply sunscreen every two hours to ensure maximum coverage over your entire body.

Sunscreens come in all different SPFs and you want to find a water-resistant broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher.

Sunscreens with zinc oxide sit on top of your skin and physically block the sun’s rays from reaching it. Zinc oxide is favorably used by surfers because of its water-resistant properties and how amazing it is for protecting their skin while they’re consistently out on the water. 

Zinc oxide is also a fun sunscreen to use on your kids. Some companies make them in fun colors and your kids will actually enjoy lathering themselves up before a paddle. 

Spray sunscreens also work well with the little ones. Spraying their bodies and gently rubbing it in is far less hassle than some sunscreens that take a fair amount of time to soak in efficiently.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens are what protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays damage our skin cells and are the culprit for sunburn and most skin cancers. UVA rays, on the other hand, cause skin cells to age and create long-term skin damage. 

UV Protective Clothing

Woman paddle boarding while wearing a UV protecting clothes

Wearing UV sun protective clothing is another great way to protect your skin from the sun.

Sun protective shirts or rash guards feature long sleeves that will completely cover the top half of your body and protect you from the sun’s rays. 

Activewear leggings with UV protection are a great option to cover up your legs because they won’t be restricting when you paddle. 

When purchasing UV protective clothing, you want to look out for a high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 50+. UPF tells us how much UV radiation can reach our skin through the fabric. UPF rates between 30 - 49 offer very good sun protection, while UPF 50+ is rated as excellent. 


The top of your head is at great risk of getting burnt by the sun. Although you shouldn’t solely rely on a hat, a wide-brimmed hat can help protect not only your head, but your face, neck, and ears. 

Hats with a roll-down flap at the back are also a great alternative. They keep the sun off your face, protect the back of your neck, and most are made from swim materials that are suitable for water-based activities. 

Sunburn is still possible, even when you’re wearing your trusty sun hat, so it is important to top up your sunscreen regularly on your face, neck, ears, and for added protection, you can even put some on your scalp. 

Other Sun Safety Tips

Woman drinking beverages while on GILI adventure paddle board

Now we’ve covered your skin, there are a few other sun safety tips to keep in mind when stand-up paddle boarding.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can be a huge problem, especially when you’re paddling in high temperatures. 

Our bodies are made up of water, and it is extremely important to rehydrate ourselves at regular intervals.

Paddle boarding is a form of exercise, and like all forms of exercise, you lose precious bodily fluids.

Staying hydrated is essential in preventing heat stroke that can be caused by prolonged sun exposure or by physical exertion in high temperatures. 

Insulated water bottles are a great option to take out paddling with you. They are good for the environment and keep your water cool for long periods of time, even in direct sunlight. 

Hydration packs, that are typically used for hiking, can also come in handy while you paddle board. Having the water right on your back makes it easier for you to take a quick sip and also allows you to carry more water than your usual water bottle. 

Avoid Mid Day Paddles

The sun is at its highest and harshest in the middle of the day and should best be avoided at all costs. 

From 10 am - 2 pm you will be most at risk of sun-related issues like sunburn, heatstroke, or dehydration, so it is best to avoid paddling at these times and opt for a sunrise or sunset adventure.

Extra precautions should be taken in the summer months when temperatures are at the highest of the year. Even in the winter, the sun can damage your skin just as easily, so it is recommended to invest in a wetsuit with a high UPF rating.

Seek Shade Whenever Possible

Staying in the shade can not only cool you down mid-paddle, but it can also help shield you from UV radiation. 

Shaded areas shouldn’t, however, be fully relied on for UV protection because UV rays can still reach our skin by reflecting off the water or light-colored objects like your board or surrounding boats. 

Wear Sunglasses

Man wearing a sunglasses and holding a gili komodo inflatable paddle board

Sunglasses with full UV protection are a crucial bit of kit to take out on your paddle board with you. The lenses in sunglasses will help screen your eyes and the skin around your eyes from damaging sun rays. 

Sunglasses like the Oasis Floating Sunglases from KZ Gear are a fantastic choice for your paddle boarding excursions because not only will your eyes be protected, but you’ll also have peace of mind that if you fall in the water, your glasses will be floating right there next to you and not sinking to the bottom.

You can also check out more incredible floating sunglasses in our blog post the best floating sunglasses.

UV Index

Understanding the UV index and when the sun is at its most damaging is important if you’re going out into the great outdoors. Even on cool days with significant cloud cover, UV radiation can still penetrate your skin and cause irreversible harm. 

Most weather apps clearly show the UV index and will also tell you if the index level is low or extreme. If your app doesn’t explain the different levels, you can follow this simple rating system. 

  • 0 to 2: Low.
  • 3 to 5: Moderate
  • 6 to 7: High
  • 8 to 10: Very high
  • 11 or more: Extreme

No matter what the UV level, you should always be taking necessary sun protection precautions when heading out on your paddle board. 


🏆 How do I stay sun safe while paddle boarding?

When paddle boarding there are a few vital steps you need to take to shield yourself from the sun’s damaging UV rays. 

  • Always wear an SPF of 50 or higher. 
  • Wear sun protective clothing like UPF rash guards and leggings. 
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to cover your head and face.
  • Stay hydrated to prevent heat stroke.
  • Avoid paddling when the sun is at its highest. 
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible.
  • Wear UV-protected sunglasses.

👍 When is the best time to go paddle boarding?

The best time to go paddle boarding is before 10 am and after 2 pm. Between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm is when the sun is at its highest, harshest and when you will be most at risk for sunburn and other UV-related issues. 

🏝️ What should I wear paddle boarding to protect me from the sun?

To shield your skin from the sun, you should regularly apply sunscreen with an SPF of 50+ every two hours.

Sun protective clothing with a high UPF level will cover the skin on your upper and lower body, and a hat with a wide brim will cover your head, neck, face, and ears. Sunglasses that are specifically designed to protect against UV rays are also a must when it comes to paddle boarding and sun safety.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.