Scholastic Gear Guide
West Coast Sailing is your source for the best gear and advice. Everyone on our staff sailed in high school and college, and two of us still actively coach HS sailing. We've put together the following guide to help you understand what you need to wear to make the most of your time on the water.
Staying warm and dry is an important part of enjoying sailing. In all but the warmest months, a few purpose built pieces will ensure comfort and safety on the water. Scholastic sailors should look for clothing that will protect them from wind and water. Some clothing from other sports such as kayaking, wakeboarding, or even sking and hiking may work for sailing, but we suggest you consider the following pieces of gear.
Life Jacket - This is the most important piece of gear in terms of safety and must be worn at all times during sailing. Sailors should look for a life jacket that is US Coast Guard approved and fits comfortably. A good life jacket allows a full range of motion.
Pants - Sailing pants should be waterproof, windproof, and cover the sailor from ankle to chest. Pants should not be excessively bagger and should be comfortable to wear both standing and crouched. Spray pants are a great choice!
Tops - A waterproof and windproof spray top is the preferred choice for most dinghy sailors. These tops have water resistant gaskets are the neck, waist, and cuff so that insulating layers can be worn underneath.
Boots - Sailing boots are made from neoprene or rubber and provide both ankle support and insulation for your feet. Scholastic sailors should opt for footwear that is durable, lightweight, and designed to get wet.
Gloves - Sailing gloves are typically made from leather or synthetic leather and provide extra grip for holding lines. Gloves are available in short finger and long finger styles. A neoprene or rubber dipped gardening glove is a great choice for colder weather.
Wetsuits / Drysuits - Wearing a wetsuit or drysuit is common during colder months. Both options are only worn in cold conditions and do not perform well on hot days. However, they do come in handy on certain days and help you stay comfortable, warm, and focused. Wetsuits are typically 3-5mm and come in a range of styles. Drysuits are fully waterproof and have both integrated booties and wrist/neck seals.
Layers - Layers are the least sailing specific items in this guide, but also the most important. Most new sailors tend to already own suitable layers but their are a few things to keep in mind. Proper layering starts with a good base layer, which should be lightweight and made of a fabric that wicks moisture from the skin. Mid layers can range in thickness and weight depending on the season, but should also be moisture wicking (think wool or fleece. Sailors should avoid cotton at all times.
Headwear - Don't forget about your head! Many sailors wear a cap on sunny days to keep sun off the eyes and wear a warm wool hat as the weather gets colder.