To be Dry or Not to be Dry

Anyone who uses a SOT, is it necessary to have a dry suit if you don’t plan on getting in the water. How about semi-dry suit? I’m just trying to figure out what equipment I will need to get started with. Not sure about the suits or tops and pants or if any are necessary.

you will get a lot of answers
In general, people will tell you, with varying degrees of righteousness, that you should always dress for prolonged immersion, etc, and that a drysuit is the only way to go. It’s hard to argue with some aspects of that viewpoint, but it depends a lot on where you are, what kind of SOT you are paddling, and what your fitness level and experience are. My two cents:

  1. If you are a beginner, and have a relatively low level of fitness, and are in a place with cold water, you should have a drysuit and wear it. If you fall off and lose your boat or can’t get back on, you will be in serious trouble. A drysuit won’t entirely insure your safety, but it will give you a lot more time to get back on the boat or back to shore.

  2. If you are relatively experienced and can rapidly re-enter your boat, and are paddling a normal wide SOT, you are probably ok without a drysuit. If you have cold water, you will want a wetsuit, if only because it’s not fun to be wet and cold on the boat, and you are always wet in a SOT.

  3. If you live somewhere really warm and have warm water, paddle in shorts and a t shirt and enjoy yourself.

    I paddle a surfski in MN. I’m an experienced paddler in (relatively) excellent condition. I wear a drysuit during the colder months and when I am paddling very cold water and there is a chance I will go for a swim unintentionally. When it is warm, and I am confident I will stay on my boat at least the majority of the time, I wear a pair of shorts and not much else. I use a boat leash to keep my boat with me if I do go in.

    The bottom line, for me at least, is that you have to know yourself and do what you think is right to balance safety with fun and comfort.


Good questions
I am planning to enter the world of surfskis too - that make this even more important as surfski tippiness is legendary. Even though I paddle sea kayaks down to 19" wide I know I will be in the water more than out but do wonder if its true that you rarely get your head underwater when you fall off a ski? (a huli?) A friend of mine has a semi dry Nova suit so based on the “I don’t have to roll” idea - would a semi dry be ok? (knowing that underlayers are needed to stay warm)

Also - how much does that leash endanger you regarding entanglement - or is it better to have leash-to-paddle?


Dry Suit
Alot depends on where you kayak and what time of year you do most of your kayaking. Water temp. is very important when you plan on kayaking. You will get lots of responses about this so just remember the basic common sense rules when going on the water. By the way, you said you don’t plan on getting in the water. Sometimes it happens whether you plan it or not. VF

I paddle SOT’s pretty much
exclusively. From a surf ski type OK Sprinter to the wider boats. They’re right, it depends on the conditions, the boat, your ability. Around here, the open water is very flat. The moving water is in rivers.

Is the semi-dry good for what I paddle? Yes. For you? I’d say that the big question is, might your head be going underwater on a regular basis or be dunked by large waves? The answer to that depends on “the conditons, the boat, your ability”.

Not to mention the fact that most SOT’s are inherently wet due to the scupper holes.

where are you?
Your profile doesn’t say. If it’s in the South or on a small lake in the summer, the water is nice and warm. If it’s north of that, hypothermia is a legitimate concern. Here in on the Central California coast most people I see wear wet suits. In the Northwest, a lot of people wore a drysuit. Where you are paddling and how you will be paddling play a role in what you wear.

All of the above posts are very good.
I will add that spring is the most dangerous time to paddle because water warm up lags air warm up by a couple of months. This is especially true in northern climes. People are ofter lured out in spring when air temps hit 70F, but in my area, water may still be in the high 30’s or low 40’s. Fall paddling is often very nice because water usually remains fairly warm for quite some time.

I don’t know where you are located, so I really can’t offer advice other than to look around to see what the majority of paddlers in your area are paddling (SOTs or SINKSs) and how they dress. Better yet, ask at a local paddlesports specialty shop. Generally though, I would avoid asking for advice from the big box sporting goods stores. They rarely have knowledgable staff.


Careful …
more people die from hypothermia in boating accidents in Florida than anywhere else in the U.S.

There has been some good advice on dress so I wont comment. On a SOT I always keep my paddle leashed. Not to keep the paddle but to keep the boat. I have found I dont have a problem holding on to the paddle but the boat is another story. You tend to get tossed when a SOT flips unless your thigh straps are really snug if you have thigh straps.

Wet Suit
I wear a Farmer Jane (or “John” for the guys) type of wet suit w/ paddle gloves in colder weather. The wet suit is 7mm thick. Reason I grew up in warmer climate (Calif) and now reside where the air and water temps are colder. My advice is observe how YOU experience temps-especially water. If you find yourself wishing you were warmer even in the summer then get a wet suit. I found mine used (great price) on from a private party. Wet suits are made for divers and they keep you warm (different thickness in mm) and you can swim in them if you capsize (hopefully never). Nashville Nita :slight_smile:

Definately a leash
An inexperienced friend recently got dumped, couldn’t re-enter and lost both the paddle and the boat. Floated about (no PFD) for over two hours before being rescued. The rescuers spotted the boat and began a search pattern. Lucky for her.

where did you get this statistic?
can you quote a specific source please? thank you.

In my SOT in the winter, I wear dry

– Last Updated: Mar-17-08 9:17 AM EST –

pants and Chota Mukluks with wool socks because those are the areas that invariably get wet. I also wear a paddling jacket(not dry in immersion) with several layers under it.
Our water seldom gets below 40 degrees though and usually not below 50.I have yet to fall off the Tarpon except when surfing it and we have been in some seriously rough stuff.

Semi dry suits
I like the Stohlquist body pod and I know someone who has one for white water. (I think the neck closure for this suit might be better than the one on the SuperNova.)

The semi-dries should really be OK IF YOU KEEP THE NECK CLOSED and are not going upside down frequently.

You might get a bit wetter than with a latex neck but you could take that as a hint to get back to the put in. (That is, it should not be a safety issue.)

I suspect that the semi-dry suits would be quite appropriate for a SOT paddler (and for many sea kayakers).

Useless statistic

Does that mean that people in Florida should wear dry suits and people everywhere else don’t have to?

Her problem…
“An inexperienced friend recently got dumped, couldn’t re-enter and lost both the paddle and the boat.”

Her problem wasn’t the lack of a leash it was the lack of experience. (It’s likely that a leash would not have helped her much.)

Semi dry suits
A good semi-dry suit should work just fine for a wide range of conditions IF YOU KEEP THE NECK CLOSED.

assume you will fall in
& go from there. We all do!

After you get your kayak Learn how to control your boat including going overboard and how to re-enter. Keep practicing.

As you develop skills and confidence go out in more active water and wind (preferably w. skilled paddlers) so you learn what you and your SOT can handle. the smartest thing a paddler can do is know conditions and know their limits.

As to clothing, find out about water temps in your area change throughout the year. Then decide how long in the year you want to paddle. That should help ID the clothing you need.

finally, if you do paddle where the water gets cold (say, under 50 degrees) go to the many good sites that talk about hypothermia, what it is, how to avoid it… is excellent and so

is there are many others, and you can search the archives here as well.

Paddle Leashes & SOTs Use Them

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If you are paddling by yourself in waves and winds it is very smart to have a paddle leash when using a sit on top kayak. When you go over you hang onto the paddle and you can get yourself back to the boat. If you are in the surf zone you can keep your boat from hitting surfers or swimmers.

NJpaddler you sound very inexperienced and you don't know what you are talking about; if you check out where Okole is paddling it is in Maui, which can have very strong winds. Make a mistake there and you can be blown out into the middle of the lonely pacific. Pretty scary with the winds howling and you are outside the reef in the water, with your boat headed for Tahiti or Peru. IF you get separated from a kayak in winds and waves you can be out of swimming range in seconds. Beginners often get disoriented when they capsize and it's not uncommon for them to lose boats. A paddle leash is a very simple device that can keep you alive if you screw up and make a capsize no big deal because you simple pull the boat over with the leash and climb on ...or hang onto the boat ... a few days ago I posted a story from a surf kayaker in washington who is alive because he had a leash on his paddle that allowed him to hang on for several hours in huge waves and cold water until he got back to shore, trust me he has plenty of skills and experience, and he would tell you the leash saved him. Before you say her inexperience was the problem, trust me the dumbest person will comprehend to grab the paddle when the boat is blowing away, and the paddle trails behind so it is easier to swim for it.

if the paddle is leashed to the kayak
and the kayak is blowing away, isn’t the paddle blowing away too?