Some might think the board itself is the most important piece of stand up paddleboard (SUP) equipment. However, the paddle may be equally as important.
When choosing a paddle, there are several factors to consider. You will want a paddle that is light enough to use for a day on the water, yet strong enough to handle a variety of conditions.
There are a variety of materials to choose from – popular options include aluminum, carbon fiber, fiberglass and plastic.
- Aluminum: Tends to be the least expensive and is generally heavier. It’s a great option for beginners.
- Carbon Fiber: One of the strongest materials you can choose and is lightweight. This material can cause less fatigue out on the water and is a popular choice with elite boarders.
- Fiberglass: The best of both worlds. It’s a little heavier than carbon fiber paddles but also less expensive.
From there, it comes down to the style of paddling you are looking to do.
There are two common styles of paddles: surf and racing (or touring). A surf paddle often has a larger blade surface to create extra leverage in the water, allowing you to take quick, powerful strokes to catch a wave quickly. A racing or touring SUP paddle has a smaller surface area which puts less stress on your arms and shoulders while paddling over long distances.
Blade size is another feature to keep in mind. Normally, the larger or smaller the person, the larger or smaller the blade. Paddles with smaller blades normally can get up to a higher cadence rate, which means you can paddle a bit faster. Think of it in correlation to the speed of a bicycle.
Smaller blades are popular with long-distance paddlers to maintain speed that requires less effort and there is less wear and tear on your shoulders. Surf paddles, meanwhile, have a larger blade to help create extra leverage against the water. This will allow you to take fewer strokes to catch a wave.
Size matters when finding the right paddle. Fixed-length paddles are cut to the proper length for you. Ones that are shorter in length are generally good for surfing, while paddles that are longer are generally a good option for racing or touring.
An alternative to fixed-length paddles are adjustable paddles. These are able to extend to different lengths by clicking and locking into position. They’re a great option if multiple people are using it or if you’re interested in trying out different types of paddle boarding. They generally are a bit heavier, though.
FIND THE RIGHT SIZE
Sizing is important because if the paddle is too short, it could fatigue your back. Conversely, if it’s too long, you may feel a strain in your shoulders. Finding the right balance is key.
Most boarders find a paddle that extends about 6″-12″ over their head is an appropriate size. One of the best ways to find the right size for you is to first line up the paddle blade with your toes, keeping the paddle shaft straight up and down. Then, extend your arm and reach up without stretching. If your wrist can comfortably curl over the paddle handle, it should be the right size.
When choosing a paddle, consider your activity as well as the size, blade and material. Once you find the right one, it will help you move like a fish in water.
Now, you’re ready to learn how to hold your paddle the right way to begin your adventure on the water.