If, before you're reading this, you have a million and one other questions relating to SUP, we've probably covered it in one of our other SUP guides - our complete guide to stand up paddle boarding is a good place to start. As you can see, we really love SUP...
The first thing to know is that a SUP paddle consists of three sections:
Next, we'll explaining the three key variables to consider when buying your paddle:
This is a pretty important aspect of choosing a paddle, as a paddle that's too long will be awkward and cumbersome, and if you're paddle is too short you'll find yourself uncomfortably bending over or squatting.
For most types of paddling, the following steps will help you get the length right for you:
Ordering online? Add between 8 and 12 inches to your height and go for that length for your paddle.
If you plan on going surf SUPing, a paddle that's slightly shorter will be better. For racing, you'll benefit from a slightly longer paddle.
The material is key because, firstly, it influences how heavy the paddle is. We can appreciate that a few grams here and there may not initially seem like a dealbreaker when purchasing, and if you're only using your paddle board occasionally and casually it's not a big issue. However, if you're paddling regularly and for an hour or more at a time, especially for racing and touring, taking the weight of a heavier paddle will soon start to tire you out. So for the keen beans, it's definitely worth spending a little extra on a lighter paddle.
Additionally, the material of the paddle will affect the stiffness - the stiffer the paddle, the more effective it is at transferring the power of the stroke. On the other hand, if you've experienced injuries in your arms and shoulders at any point, you'll find a paddle with more flex less jarring on your joints and muscles.
The most common materials include:
On a simple, entry-level paddle, you'll likely find a plastic blade and handle. It's cheap and durable, so great for kids and beginners. It's generally paired with...
... An aluminium shaft. Which is, again, lightweight and durable, but not as light or as stiff as the pricier options.
This is lightweight and almost as stiff as carbon fiber, used in the blade and/or the shaft of a paddle. Fiberglass is more expensive than aluminium or plastic, but a cheaper alternative to carbon.
This is the lightest and stiffest option on the market, but also usually the most expensive. At the top end of the spectrum, there are fully carbon fibre paddles that offer the best power transfer and are extremely lightweight - the best choice for serious distance paddlers. If you need something more affordable though, there are designs which combine carbon fibre with fibreglass to cut the cost a little.
Blade size varies but greatly affects performance. A large blade will displace more water in the paddle stroke, thus offering more power on demand. However, it will also require more strength, so as a generally rule of thumb, the larger the person, the larger the blade.
Smaller blades are gentler for all users, so are your best bet if you're new to the sport - overdoing it the first time could lead to a shoulder injury or just exhaustion. It's more sustainable long term to paddle with a smaller blade, as it requires less effort.
The shape of the paddle influences how it moves through the water, and the power you'll get from each stroke.
This refers to the angle of the blade compared to the shaft, which affects how vertical the blade is when it enters the water, which can influence the power of each stroke.
It's not a huge one to worry about, but as a rough guide here's what to look for depending on how you plan to use your SUP:
To find the perfect SUP board for you, watch Wetsuit Will's video below!
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