For many, there is nothing better than enjoying a sunny summer day on the water. Compared to sailing in other seasons, summer sailing typically requires less 'specialized' sailing gear, but selecting the right apparel and accessories are key to keeping you comfortable and having fun. In this what to wear guide for warm weather and summer sailing, we're going to review our top recommendations for gear you should consider, looking at items like rash guards, headwear, UV protective items, and more.

Summer Sailing Gear Checklist

Life Jackets

A comfortable, well fitting life jacket is a must for spending time on the water, no matter the season. Sailors should look for a life jacket that is US Coast Guard 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.

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Rash Guards & UV Technical Shirts

In warm weather, the key functions of a top are to protect you from the sun and to keep you cool. There are two recommended tops for warm weather including a rash guard (or spandex top) or a technical shirt. Rash guards, often called spandex tops, are made from a combination of nylon, spandex, and polyester and designed to provide UV protection while remaining lightweight, durable, and quick drying. They tend to have a snug fit (compared to a regular shirt) and therefore popular among active sailors who move around the boat quite a bit. An alternative is a technical shirt, typically made from polyester and offering similar UV protection and moisture wicking to keep you cool. The key, as with many active outdoor activities, is to avoid cotton fabrics. We offer a variety of rash guards as well as UV technical shirts for adult and junior sailors.

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Compliment your rash guard or technical shirt with a pair of shorts. For many sailors, a pair of trusty board shorts is a staple for summer sailing. Others prefer lightweight spandex shorts, particularly sailors in active dinghy classes. Similar to selecting a top, you should avoid cotton shorts on the water. While many styles of nylon or polyester shorts will work for sailing, a sailing-specific short offers advantages in being padded and reinforced in areas that will often come in contact with the boat. Some shorts even allow the addition of a hiking pad for additional support. We offer a variety of classic sailing shorts as well as spandex and neoprene shorts.

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A good hat is a must to keep the sun off your head and allows you to focus on what is happening on the water. A lightweight, technical sailing cap is a great choice for the active sailor. We also offer wide brim hats, visors, and buffs, depending on your individual style.

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Eye Protection

Sunglasses provide protection from harmful UV rays and reduce glare so you can focus on your sailing. While any pair of sunglasses will work, sailing specific sunglasses typically offer a polarized lens and floating frame material so you are less likely to loose them. Don't forget to add a pair of croakies!

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Like sunglasses, sunscreen is very much a personal preference, but at West Coast Sailing we are big fans of the products from Z Blok. Their SPF 30 + sunscreen offers UVA/UVB protection and is water and sweat resistant, making it great for spending time on the water.

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While some sailors will simply go barefoot in the warm weather, a proper pair of boots of other close toed shoes are often required by sailing programs and just plain smart. There is nothing worse than cutting your foot while launching your boat or slipping on a dock. Sailing boots tend to work in any season so, like a good life jacket, should be a part of your sailing kit.

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Spray Gear

Not every summer day is perfectly sunny and sometimes an additional layer is required. A waterproof spray top or smock is a great layer to carry with you to offer protection from spray on breezy days or from rain when the clouds roll in. 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.

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Having a wetsuit in your summer sailing kit is often a matter of local sailing conditions. If you're sailing in the ocean or anywhere the water temperature might be low, you may need to balance your gear for warm air with cold water. A full length skiff suit, a wetsuit without sleeves (sometimes called a 'farmer john') can offer leg and core protection while letting your upper body stay cool. It's not uncommon to see sailors wear a skiff suit with a lightweight rash guard or technical shirt when the water is chilly and the air temperature is warm

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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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Jul 24th 2019 Philip Krug (Staff)

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