How to Choose a SUP Paddle

Whether you just purchased your first SUP board or are looking to add a one-of-a-kind paddle to your growing collection, choosing the right SUP paddle takes time and consideration. You have to think about the perfect length, material, its shape, and even the size and angle of the blade.

Different paddles serve different functions. This means that what might be ideal for a beginner on placid lakes might not be so ideal if you are looking for speed and strength. The good news is, regardless of your goals and intentions, there are plenty of paddles out there to select from.

We outlined some key questions you should ask yourself before purchasing a SUP paddle, as well as some factors you should consider on your quest to procure the perfect paddle.

Group of paddlers on SUPs

Questions You Should Ask Before Buying A SUP Paddle

How Much Do I Want To Spend?

Your budget, before anything else, needs some consideration. Try to decide on a ballpark number that you are comfortable spending. This helps dictate numerous things, including the material your SUP paddle is made of, and even the brands you should look at. Knowing your budget in advance can save you lots of time weeding through paddles that aren’t in your price range.

What Type Of Paddling Do I Plan On Doing?

You should also think about what type of paddling you plan on doing with this paddle. Are you going to be racing? Balancing for long distances on open water? Is this paddle for a beginner? Different paddles serve different functions. What works great for one type of SUP boarding doesn’t always work as well for others.

Should My Paddle Be Adjustable?

You should think about whether or not you want your paddle to be adjustable. There are all sorts of reasons for this. Are multiple people of different heights using the board? Are you growing? Will this make it easier to store and transport? Decide which option is best for you before you start your search if possible.

Parts Of A SUP Paddle

As you venture out in search of a perfect paddle, consider the main parts of a paddle. All three of the key components of your paddle will impact comfort, speed and pleasurability. So Let’s review the parts of a SUP paddle.

T- Grip: The T-Grip is the grip on the very top of the paddle. It gets its name because its shape resembles the letter T.

Paddle Shaft: The shaft is the long length of the paddle. The shaft length, as we will discuss, varies based on height and the type of paddling you are interested in.

The Blade: Lastly, there is the paddle’s blade. There are multiple sizes of blades, and they point at different angles. When paddling you want the blade pointing forwards.

How To Determine The Right Paddle Length

Finding the perfect length for your paddle is not terribly complicated, but it is very important. Having a paddle that is too long or short can cause back pain, arm pain and will likely make it harder to get into a great paddling rhythm.

As a general rule you want to get a paddle that is between 8 inches and 12 inches taller than you are. This will give you the maximum pull on your paddle and allow for the smoothest rides.

If you are a SUP surfer, you likely want to buy a paddle closer to 8 inches taller than you (or even shorter than that). For racing, touring and longer distance paddlers, you should usually opt for a paddle closer to 12 inches taller than you. In the end, however, it is all personal preference. So whatever feels most natural - go with it - just use the between 8 inches and 12 inches as a guide.

Determining The Proper Blade Size For Your Paddle

Blade size is also important to think about. That’s right, just as there are all sorts of shaft lengths, there are just as many blade shapes and sizes. Determining your blade size is up to your preference, but here are some things to consider.

The Bigger The Blade, The More Power. Bigger blades have more power. This is because there is more surface area covered in the water by the larger blade. So if power is your top priority, consider a larger blade.

The Bigger The Person, The Bigger The Blade (Usually). The general rule is that the larger the person, the bigger the blade they can handle. This is because it takes more energy to paddle with a larger or wider blade. But smaller people can use larger blades also. This is particularly true if you are paddling to surf. Large blades work great for surfers in order to catch up quickly to the speed of a wave.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better. While bigger blades offer more power, they aren’t always the right decision. Larger blades also take more energy. This means when going long distances, a wide blade might start causing your shoulders and other joints to ache. There is a lot more friction with a larger paddle. So many long distance racers and cruises prefer smaller blades, regardless of their own size.

A Note On Blade’s Offset

In regards to your paddle angle, it all depends on what kind of paddling you plan on doing. If you plan on SUP surfing, you want less of an offset. Racing paddles require a greater angle, upwards of 12 degrees. The standard and most common angle, however, is 10 degrees. So if you want to do a variety of paddling, keep your offset near that 10 degree range.

Adjustable Paddles Versus Fixed-Length Paddles

The next factor you need to think about is whether you want an adjustable or fixed-length paddle. This can be a tough decision, but there are a few factors that might help you.

For one, if you are a novice to the SUP world, it is definitely recommended you opt for an adjustable paddle. There are a few reasons for this. For one, this gives you the chance to find that magical “sweet spot” for you. Once you find the perfect height, you can measure it and consider a fixed-length paddle at that height in the future.

Also, different heights work for different types of paddling. So as you try out new paddling types, it is great to have the ability to adjust your paddle accordingly.

Adjustable paddles are also the way to go if more than one person uses the board. This allows multiple people of different heights to use all the same equipment.

There are, however, instances when a fixed-length paddle is better. Many high end paddles are fixed-length, as well as wooden paddles. So if you are looking for a top performance paddle, especially in the fiberglass or carbon fiber quality range, fixed-length is ideal. They also tend to be stronger and more sturdy.

Our Budget Pick: Choose from all sorts of adjustable paddles on Amazon, including this best selling Abahub Adjustable Lightweight Aluminum Allow Paddle.

Larger Budget? Consider this SIC Maui Talon ALU Adjustable Lever-Lock Paddle Board Paddle from REI.

Pros And Cons Of Different SUP Paddle Materials

Aluminum And Plastic

Aluminum paddles are a great option for beginners and those on a tight budget. Aluminum is used in the shaft. It is a lightweight material and durable. It is not nearly as lightweight and strong as fiberglass or carbon fiber though.

Aluminum is, however, very cheap. Plastic is used for the blade and grips. It works perfectly well, and is great for beginners as you don’t need to worry about scraping or damaging these paddles because the cost is low.

Carbon Fiber

The other side of the spectrum is carbon fiber. It is typically the lightest and also stiffest paddle material you can find. These strong and almost weightless paddles are ideal for an experienced long distance paddler.

You can get the most power out of these paddles, and you use less energy since they are lighter. They are very expensive though. It is best to buy a less expensive paddle first, and work your way up to one of these top of the line paddles.

Our Pick For High End Carbon Paddles: This sleek Red Paddle Co Prime Carbon 3-Piece Stand Up Paddle has a high-grade carbon fiber shaft for light weight and maximum strength.

Fiberglass

If you are looking for a top quality paddle but slightly less expensive, fiberglass might be a good option. It is not quite as strong and stiff as carbon fiber, but it is still very light and strong. Also, fiberglass paddles are generally more affordable, even though they are by no means cheap.

Fiberglass paddles are a great stepping stone between aluminum and carbon fiber. If you are an intermediate border ready to take paddling more seriously, you should consider a fiberglass paddle.

Our Top Fiberglass Adjustable Paddle Pick: The Aqua-Bound Malta Fiberglass 2-Piece Stand Up Paddle is a great option for intermediates looking to take your paddling to the next level. It offers both adjustability with the lightweight and strength of fiberglass.

Wood

For the naturalist and traditionalist, there are wood paddles also. These paddles are often sentimental, one of a kind. There is also some cultural significance to some woods and their paddles (like Koa wood paddles for the Hawaiians, for example). Wood paddles are not necessarily the best for performance, price or ease of use. They do look amazing though - and are strong and can last a lifetime. A wood paddle is a great paddle to add to an arsenal, but not usually a top choice for a beginner, or someone looking to race.

Wrapping Up How To Choose The Right SUP Paddle

With so many SUP paddles to choose from, finding the right one for you might feel like a challenge. But once you answer a few simple questions, you are on your way to narrowing your search. Start by deciding your budget, and then ask yourself whether or not an adjustable paddle or fixed-length paddle is right for you.

Your budget will likely help determine what material your paddle is made of, since aluminum is cheap and carbon fiber is significantly more expensive. Remember to buy the right length paddle. Make sure you give the blade size some consideration as well. When in doubt, start with an all-around versatile paddle at an affordable price point. As you paddle more and more you will find what works best for you, and what type of paddling makes you happiest.


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