How to Choose SUP Paddles

You can buy the best board out there, but without a good paddle you won’t get very far.
Getting a quality paddle that works well with your body and paddling style will make stand up paddle boarding (SUP) a bunch more fun.

Does that mean you have to buy a top-of-the-line paddle? Not necessarily. To choose the right SUP paddle for you, consider these factors:
• Length: Getting the right size paddle is key to maintaining proper paddling form and efficiency.
• Material: The materials used to construct a SUP paddle play a role in determining the weight and stiffness of the paddle. Generally, a lightweight paddle is preferred, but keeps in mind that you usually pay more for less weight.

SUP Paddle Length
It’s important to get a paddle that is the right length for you. A paddle that’s too long will be cumbersome to use; one that’s too short will require you to lean over in an awkward position to get the blade into the water.

To choose the right size paddle for recreational touring:
1. Stand the paddle up vertically so the tear-drop-shaped blade is touching the ground.
2. Reach an arm up above your head and notice where it lands on the paddle.
3. With a properly sized paddle, the T-grip handle will rest in the bend of your wrist. (If the paddle is adjustable, adjust the length of the shaft to fit.)
4. If you’re ordering a paddle online, add about 8–12 inches to your height and choose a paddle of that length.
If you’ll be doing something other than recreational touring, such as surfing or racing, you may need a different length. SUP surfers usually choose a paddle that’s a bit shorter than touring length, while racers typically go a bit longer.

Adjustable-length paddles are popular because of their versatility. They let you easily experiment to find what length works for you and you can fine-tune the length for surfing, touring or racing. Another plus is that you can share your paddle with shorter or taller friends and family members. Many manufacturers make the same paddle in a few different adjustment ranges, so make sure the one you select will meet your needs.

SUP Paddle Materials
In just two hours of paddling most people will take a couple thousand strokes. Lifting a heavy paddle that many times can quickly tire you out, which is why most experienced paddlers will invest in the lightest paddle they can afford. The weight of a SUP paddle is primarily determined by the materials used to make it

The material of your paddle will also determine how stiff it is. A stiff paddle is more efficient at transferring the power of your stroke.
While pondering your material choices, consider these points:

• Do you need a light paddle? If you’re racing or setting out on long tours, you’ll appreciate a light paddle. If you only paddle a few times each year, weight doesn’t have to be your top concern.

• How much do you want to spend? Lightweight materials, like carbon and fiberglass, cost more than heavier ones, like aluminum and plastic.

• Stiff paddles can be jarring to your muscles and joints. If you have had previous shoulder, arm or wrist injuries, you may want a paddle with some flex.

Here are the most common options for shafts and blades:
Aluminum: Used in the shaft of SUP paddles, aluminum is affordable and lightweight, but not as light or stiff as fiberglass or carbon. Aluminum shafts are frequently paired with plastic blades; these paddles are a great choice for beginner paddlers.
Fiberglass: An excellent lightweight choice, fiberglass is used in the shaft and/or blade of some SUP paddles. Fiberglass is fairly stiff, which makes it efficient at transferring the power of your stroke. But it is a bit less stiff than carbon fiber. A paddle made with fiberglass is often more expensive than aluminum/plastic, but more affordable than carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber: This is the lightest, stiffest material available, and often the most expensive. The weight savings can be worth the added cost if you’re a frequent long-distance paddler. The stiffness of carbon fiber results in excellent power transfer from your muscles to the blade of the paddle. High-end paddles use carbon fiber throughout the shaft and blade, while more-affordable designs sometimes feature a composite construction, such as a blend of carbon and fiberglass or a carbon shaft paired with a fiberglass blade.