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.
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.