Now that you have invested time and energy finding the right board for your SUP adventures it is equally important to select the right paddle to enjoy your time on the water. If the paddle isn’t right for you and your style of stand-up paddle boarding it will not only bring discomfort while paddling but may cause an injury over the long run. Just like your board, the paddle needs to be the right fit for you and a good match for the board you are riding.
Paddles can be made of different materials and as a result can have widely varying weights. Jim Birney of Upper Tampa Bay Paddle Sports points out that most beginners opt for an inexpensive aluminum or plastic paddle but soon find that a lighter weight fiberglass or carbon fiber paddle is much more comfortable and easier to use than longer paddles.
Plastic and aluminum paddles tend to be the least expensive but are normally the heaviest. Next are wood and fiberglass paddles.
Wood paddles can either have a wooden blade with some kind of a composite shaft or be all wood. They are reasonably light and have a good look to them. They also have a great feel to them.
Fiberglass paddles are lighter than less expensive materials but not as light as carbon fiber. They are a good compromise between weight and price.
Carbon fiber paddles are at the high end of the price spectrum and are typically the lightest.
When considering price it is important to think about how often you will do a paddle stroke in one day and it is easy to see lighter is better despite the cost.
What kind of SUP Blade do I Need?
Typically there are two kinds of paddle blades that can be made from all the materials listed above. There is the surf blade that has a large surface area to help with control while riding waves. The other is the smaller cruising blade that is designed to give propulsion without causing fatigue. The blades are normally bent at an angle from the shaft to allow for a natural and powerful stroke with minimal drag when withdrawing the paddle at the end of the stroke.
How Long Should the SUP Paddle Be?
The right length of the paddle should typically be 8 – 10 inches above your height.
If you are SUP surfing then the paddle should be 8 inches above your head.
If using a wide board you may want the paddle to be an extra inch or two long to help reach past the board.
When selecting a paddle the outfitter can cut the shaft to the correct length for you and attach the handle, thus customizing the paddle specifically for you.
Fixed Length OR Adjustable Paddle?
There is another option to a fixed length paddle. Birney suggests a good option is an adjustable length paddle as the adjustable feature doesn’t add a lot of weight to the paddle and allows for adjustments to the type of paddling you may be doing. He explains that if you are paddling into a headwind you may lower your stance to create less wind resistance and as a result may need to shorten your paddle a few inches to accommodate and make your strokes more comfortable and efficient. It is also a good option if others are going to use the paddle, such as your spouse or friend.
What else do I need on the Water?
In addition to a paddle there is other equipment and accessories you will want to purchase to make your paddle time more enjoyable.
Mandatory equipment includes a life vest, a whistle and things such as a board leash; sunscreen, water shoes and hydration are all also recommended.
Transporting your paddleboard is also an important consideration and short of the rotomolded SUPs (which are a good option for someone who wants to leave his or her board on a dock or by the water out in the elements) most SUPs are lightweight and easy to move around, but transporting them can be a challenge without the right equipment. Stay tuned for other articles that will discuss these accessories and options.
Regardless of what material, length or style of paddle you go with, it is important to invest some thought into which would be best for you and consider advice a knowledgeable professional can give.