What to Wear Guide for Scholastic Sailing


Your ultimate guide to apparel and accessories to wear for High School and College sailing. West Coast Sailing offers 15% off apparel and accessories for all scholastic sailors - see details below.

Staying warm and dry is an important part of enjoying sailing. Throughout all but the warmest months, a few purpose built pieces will ensure comfort and safety on the water. High school and college sailors should look for clothing that will protect them from the wind and the water. Some clothing from other sports such as kayaking and wakeboarding or even skiing and hiking may work for sailing, but we suggest you consider the following pieces of sailing specific gear in our handy checklist.

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Life Jacket

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A comfortable, well fitting life jacket is a must for spending time on the water, no matter the season. This is the most import piece of gear for any sailor. High School and College sailors should look for a life jacket that is US Coast Guard (USCG) approved and fits comfortably. Sailing specific life jackets allow a full range of arm movement and should be sleek across the upper torso. We carry a range of life jackets at multiple price points for both adult and junior sailors.



Waterproof Spray Top

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Most high school and college sailors will wear a spray top which is both waterproof and windproof. Sailing tops typically have water resistant gaskets at neck, waist and cuff and are cut so that insulating layers can be worn underneath. The waterproof material can be sticky against the skin in warm weather, so it's a smart idea to wear your spray top over a rash guard or UV technical shirt to improve breathability and to keep you comfortable in warm weather or over an insulating layer in colder conditions. It's not uncommon to see spray gear worn over a wetsuit as well.



Waterproof Spray Pants

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Sailing pants should be waterproof and windproof and cover the sailor from the ankle to chest. Pants should not be excessively baggy and should be comfortable to wear when standing up as well as crouched. The classic 'salopette' is a full length waterproof pant that is chest height and has shoulder straps. This is the most common type of spray pant used by most high school and college sailors. We love the Gill Pro Salopette, which is available in both men's and women's versions and pairs great with the Gill Pro Top or Gill Dinghy Top.



Sailing Boots

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Sailing boots should be made of neoprene or rubber and provide some ankle support in addition to insulating the foot. Footwear for the high school or college sailor should have a durable sole, be lightweight and be designed to get wet.Thankfully, we make it easy to find a pair of boots that have these features with great options from Gill, Zhik, and Rooster.


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Gloves & Hat

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Sailing gloves are typically made from leather, or synthetic leather, and help keep hands warm as well as provide extra grip for holding ropes all day. We offer a range of gloves from Gill, Zhik, and Rooster in both short finger (all finger tips open) and full finger (middle three fingers enclosed) styles. A popular alternative is rubber dipped gardening gloves such the Atlas brand. Sailors should also consider a nice wool or fleece hat for colder sailing days, as much body heat can be lost without one. A regular cap is great for warm, sunny days.


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Wetsuit or Drysuit

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While it is not uncommon to see sailors using either a wetsuit or drysuit in the winter season, these pieces of gear are not recommended as your first purchase due to their lack of versatility and price. Both items are typically worn in the coldest of conditions and do not perform well for high school sailors on hot days. However, if you already own one of these pieces of gear they can come in handy on certain days. Sailing wetsuits are typically 3-5mm and come in a range of cuts. Most are reinforced at the knees and allow good flexibility. Sailing drysuits often have integrated booties and a front zipper.



Insulating Layers

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This is the one piece of gear that is least sailing specific, yet very important. Most new sailors will find something in their closet that performs well for insulation on the water. There are however a few basic points to keep in mind. Good layering starts with a good base layer, which should be lightweight and made of a natural or synthetic fiber that wicks moisture away from the skin. Mid-layers can range in thickness according to weather and should again be made of wicking natural or synthetic fibers (such as wool or fleece). It is very important that sailors avoid cotton while on the water, as cotton will loose all of its insulating properties once wet.



When in doubt, ask for advice!

The staff at West Coast Sailing has years of experience sailing in many conditions and talks to sailors around the world every day. We can certainly recommend specific gear for your conditions, boat type, or general sailing venue. This is meant to be a guide for what we commonly recommend, but is not an exhaustive list. Talking with other local sailors about what works and what does not work is also a great way to build your sailing kit.

Reach out to our team anytime by calling or texting 1-503-285-5536 or sending an email to

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