When it comes to Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) selecting a paddle can be almost as important as selecting a board. Picking a paddle poorly sized for you can result in a less pleasant paddeboarding time, and you may exhaust or even hurt yourself if you aren’t careful!
When it comes to choosing a paddle, there are three factors you need to consider:
- Length of the paddles.
- Materials used to make the paddle.
- Shape and size of the blade.
We break down each of these factors below so you can determine what type of paddle you need to get the most out of Stand-Up Paddleboarding!
Length of the Paddles
Probably the most important decision when it comes to paddles is the length. You don’t want a paddle that is too long because you won’t be able to use it properly, or too short and have to bend over while in the water. To pick a good size for you:
- Stand the paddle on the ground next to you.
- Raise an arm over your head and see where it rests on the paddle.
You want the grip of the paddle to rest at the point where your wrist bends. Any more or less and the paddle is the wrong size. If you are surfing or racing, you may want a slightly shorter paddle. But for recreational use, you want the grip at the bend of the wrist.
If you do not have the chance to test out the paddle’s size in person, a good rule of thumb is to add about 8-12 inches to your height and use that measurement as a guide.
Adjustable vs. Fixed Length
Depending on your needs, you may be drawn to either an adjustable paddle or one of fixed length. If you get an adjustable, the paddle tends to be less sturdy and a little heavier in the water. However, it can be used by multiple people and adjusted on the fly to suit your needs. A fixed length paddle is sturdy and lighter, but it does not allow for any adjustments.
There are even some paddles that are designed to be cut down to the size you need after purchasing!
Paddles come in a few different types of materials. In general, you want to aim for a lighter material, since you will be using the paddle for many hours and if the paddle is heavy, it will be that much more effort to move it through the water. However, the lighter the paddle, the more expensive it will be.
Here are the most common types of materials:
- Plastic--Plastic paddles come paired with aluminum shafts. Relatively lightweight and sturdy, this is good for those paddlers who are just starting out.
- Fiberglass--Something of a middle ground between plastic and carbon fiber, fiberglass is sturdier and lighter than plastic and aluminum, but not as much as carbon fiber. A good choice for those who aren’t sure they are willing to commit to full-priced carbon fiber paddle.
- Carbon Fiber--The most expensive, but also the lightest and sturdiest paddle. This allows for great power transfer through the blade, which is important for long distance paddlers. The most expensive paddles are pure carbon fiber, but there are many composites as well to offset the cost.
- Wood--The old standard. Wood paddles may look great, but they may also be the heaviest paddles out there.
Blade Size and Shape
The last of the paddle to take into consideration is the blade itself. The blade comes in two style:
- Rectangular--Rectangular blades are not as wide at the end as a tear-drop blade, which can lead to a stroke that is gentler on your body as you move.
- Tear-Drop--Blade shape that is widest at the bottom. When you push the blade into the water, you get a good and powerful stroke almost immediately, which can be useful when surfing or racing.
When it comes to picking the size of the blade, again, you want a bigger size if you are a bigger person. In general, the following guide will help you settle on a style:
- If you are less than 150 pounds, get a blade that is 80-90 sq. in.
- If you are between 150 and 200 pounds, get a blade that is 90-100 sq.in.
- If you are over 200 pounds, get a blade that is 100-120 sq. in.
In general, a larger blade is more powerful, while a smaller blade will result in a more efficient stroke. If you want each stroke to count, use a larger blade, while a smaller blade is great for surfing and competition racing.
Lastly, you need to consider the blade’s offset.The blade will be bend at a certain angle to assist with each stroke. The offset won’t make a huge different when it comes to the blade, certainly not to the extent of a blade length would, but here are some guidelines for you to consider:
- For SUP surfing, picking a blade approximately 7 degrees offset.
- For all-around paddling/mixed use, pick a blade approximately 10 degrees offset.
- For SUP racing, pick a blade approximately 12 degrees offset.