The main things you need to remember are to protect yourself from the sun, the cold, and anything that might cause cuts and abrasions. It is important to be prepared for a surprise dunking. The water temperature presents just as great a risk as the air temperature. Here is some clobber you might like to consider.
Not cotton because it takes a long time to dry. This can drain a lot of heat from your body and potentially lead to hypothermia. Polypropylene, Polartec fleece, and merino are great when it is cold. Nylon or polyester shirts like rashies and specialised sun protection garments are good when it is hot. Short sleeves are not the best, unless you are going for that sexy farmer tan.
Boardshorts are fine all year round for most paddling in Australia. If you feel the cold or want extra protection from the sun, long john thermals under your boardies are good. For those with a bit more cash, long neoprene (or similar material) pants are available from specialist paddling stores.
A cap is good but a wide-brimmed hat is better. Some people even go for a legionnaires cap with rear sun flap for full protection. There’s often not much shade on the water so it is a good idea to bring your own. A beanie never goes astray if it is cold.
Three words… paddlers prefer polarised. Polarised sunnies cut out the glare off the water. This reduces strain on your eyes and helps you see the fishies below. A floating sunglass retainer is a good idea too, just in case they fall overboard.
These are particularly important when there are a lot of sharp objects like oyster shells around. Neoprene or nylon mesh uppers and soft flexible rubber soles that cup the heel are great. Flexibility in the sole makes it easy to use rudder pedals. Diving boots are a good option.
While socks and paddling don’t really seem to go together, some people swear that a pair of thermal socks add a bit of luxury to a long day on the water. Waterproof socks are also available for those who feel the cold.
There are UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) 50 gloves to shield you from the sun, waterproof gloves to ward off the cold, and gloves with durable palms to protect you from blisters.
The ideal jacket is made out of breathable material and has a neoprene waist, cuffs, and neck that can be sealed to keep out the water. This is called a cagoule, or a cag for short. However, a normal raincoat will do so long as it doesn’t have a hood. This can be an anchor if you unexpectedly go for a swim.
Wetsuits are neoprene or rubber garments that keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water against your skin. This enables it to become heated by your body temperature. Wetsuits can have long legs or short legs, and long sleeves, short sleeves, or no sleeves at all. The chosen configuration usually depends on how chilly it is likely to be, but freedom of arm movement is another important consideration. A wetsuit with long legs and no sleeves paired with a cagoule (see above) is a great choice for cold conditions.
If it is really cold, then a drysuit is a better choice than a wetsuit. Instead of trapping a thin layer of water against the body, drysuits are waterproof shells designed to completely prevent water from getting inside while still allowing you to move freely. They generally cover your whole body except your head, your hands, and sometimes your feet. Similar to a cagoule, there are seals at the points where your body extends outside the suit.
These prevent kayaks with cockpits from getting flooded when they capsize or when waves wash over the top. Spraydecks are not essential in calm conditions and you should only use one if you know how to release it in an emergency. The three choices are full neoprene, full nylon, and neoprene deck with nylon waist. The last is the most popular. This is because the neoprene creates a tight seal at boat level and the nylon is more comfortable around the waist where you don’t usually get wet unless you plan on Eskimo rolling.