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SUP Paddles (All You Need To Know)

SUP Paddles - Big Blue Guide

SUP paddles play a big role in your stand up paddle boarding experience. Even the best paddle board in the world won’t reach its full potential when powered by a poor quality paddle. Therefore, it is very important to choose a SUP paddle that meets your needs.

In order to find the perfect paddle, you have to consider a number of factors, such as the material used, the size, the shaft configurations and the price. You don’t want to spend too much money but at the same time, replacing your cheap paddle every other week will turn out to be even more expensive.

So, how do you find the perfect SUP paddle? In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about stand up paddle boarding paddles.

(Big Blue Guide is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision.)

What Are SUP Paddles Made Of?

Manufacturers use the following materials to construct SUP paddles:

  • aluminum alloy
  • fiberglass
  • carbon fiber
  • plastic
  • wood
Wooden SUP Paddle

Aluminium Alloy SUP Paddles

Aluminum is not as lightweight or strong as fiberglass and carbon fiber, but it is functional and affordable. Aluminium alloy paddles are great for beginners and recreational paddles. They usually come with a plastic or fiberglass blade.

Fiberglass SUP Paddles

Fiberglass is usually used for both, the shaft and the blade. It’s a lightweight and durable material that is chosen by many paddlers who are looking for great performance for a reasonable price. Fiberglass is more expensive than aluminium and plastic paddles, however, it is much less likely to need replacing.

Carbon fiber SUP Paddles

The difference between fiberglass and carbon fiber is that the latter is the stronger material. Carbon fiber SUP paddles are the lightest and stiffest you can get, and therefore known as the most expensive option on the market. Along with paddles made from 100% carbon fiber, there are hybrids that come with a carbon fiber shaft and a paddle made of fiberglass. They are a bit cheaper than the “high-end” carbon fiber SUP paddles.

Plastic SUP Paddles

Plastic blades are sometimes paired with aluminium alloy shafts. Along with aluminium SUP paddles, they are the least expensive, but also much heavier than other alternatives. Therefore, they are mostly used by complete beginners and recreational paddlers on holiday. Low quality plastic paddles don’t last as long as SUP paddles from other materials and need to be replaced more often. However, in general, the material is quite sturdy and will be reliable even during rougher SUP sessions.

Wooden SUP Paddles

Wooden paddles were used back in the beginning days of stand up paddle boarding, when ancient African, American Indians and Mayan cultures went fishing with wooden paddle boards, and transported posessions from A to B on them. Until today, the classic look of wooden paddles is popular in the SUPing community. Usually, the whole paddle is made of wood, however, there are bamboo paddles that come with carbon fiber shafts. Wooden SUP paddles are a bit more expensive than other constructions, but absolutley recommended (if the quality is good). Plus, they have this very unique look that will make every other paddler jealous. 😉

Do SUP Paddles Float?

Do SUP Paddles Float
photo: Unsplash

Paddleboard paddles float because of the foam that is hidden inside their shaft. This foam provides buoyancy. Almost all SUP paddles available today have the ability to float.

You save a lot of money by having a floating paddle, as you don’t have to replace it each time you lose it in the water. Plus, a sinking paddle in the middle of the ocean or lake poses a serious safety risk.

How Long Do Paddle Boards Paddles Last?

Paddle board paddles usually last from 1 to 10+ years. Their durability is determined by the quality of the paddles, as well as the type of use.

High quality SUP paddles, such as fiberglass and carbon fiber paddles, have a lifespan of 10+ years if treated well. Plastic paddles are most susceptible to breakage. They usually last from 1 to 3 years. Wooden paddleboard paddles are moderately susceptible to breakage. If treated well they will last 3-5 years. Aluminum SUP paddles have a lifespan of 5+ years.

What Kind Of Paddle Board Paddles Are There?

SUP Paddle Configurations

In general, you can find

  • fixed-length paddles and
  • adjustable-length paddles.

Fixed-length paddles can’t be adjusted in length (as you might have guessed already). They are stiffer and slightly lighter than adjustable-length paddles. However, most stand up paddlers prefer the latter, as it can be packed and transported easily. Plus, you can adjust it depending on the kind of SUPing you do (we’ll get to that shortly) or share it with smaller or taller paddlers.

Paddle Board Paddle Shaft Configurations

SUP paddles shaft configurations include:

  • 3-piece paddles and
  • 2-piece paddles.

The most commonly used option is the 3-piece SUP paddle. The telescoping top of 3-piece-paddles is used to adjust the paddle length to the specific needs of the paddler. Especially, when it comes to inflatable stand up paddle boards this is practical, as it breaks down into 3 parts of equal or similar length that can be packed away efficiently for better portability.

2-piece-paddles consist of the shaft and the blade. The only other piece that can be taken off is the handle, which makes this kind of SUP paddle less easy to transport. However, this can cause increased performance on the water.

What Size SUP Paddle Do I Need?

Getting a paddle that is the right length is very important, as it affects the paddler’s postition and therefore the mechanics of the strokes. Take your height and add about 8-12 inches (20-30cm) to get the right length of your paddle if you are a beginner of recreational paddle boarder. You can find the perfect length by forming your hand to the shaka sign and placing it above your head.

Choose a paddle that’s about 6″ (15 cm) longer than you are tall for fitness paddling. This usually equals a thumbs-up gesture above your head. For SUP racing you should opt for a bit of a shorter paddle than touring size. Make it about 4″ (10 cm) taller than your height. This equals a fist above your head. For river running or surfing, choose a paddle that is anything between eyebrow level (when you are standing next to the paddle) and 2 – 4″ (5 – 10 cm) longer than you are tall.

What Size SUP Paddle Do I Need
graphic: Big Blue Guide

What Size SUP Paddle Blade Do I Need?

Along with the length of your paddle, your performance will be affected by the SUP paddle blade size. In general, there is no specific blade size that is perfect for every paddler. As with so many other things, it all comes down to your personal preferences. However, as a rule of thumb, remember: The larger the paddler, the larger the blade.

The reason for this is that larger blades are able to move more water, which makes them more powerful. Larger paddlers usually find it easier to take more forceful strokes. This means that smaller paddlers will have a smoother experience with slightly smaller blades.

The kind of paddle boarding also plays an important role when it comes to choosing the right paddle boarding blade size: Long distance-paddle boarders usually use smaller blades in order to preserve their energy over a long period of time. SUP surfers on the other hand, may want to go for larger paddles in order to be able to position themselves quickly to catch the next wave.

Use the table below to get an idea of what blade size works for you:

Paddler WeightBlade Size
– 150 lbs. (- 68 kg)80 – 90 sq. in (516 – 580 cm2)
150 – 200 lbs. (68 – 90 kg)90 – 100 sq. in (580 – 645 cm2)
200 + lbs. (90 + kg)100 – 120 sq. in (645 – 774 cm2)
Read also: What Kite Size Do I Need? (Kite Size Chart)

The ideal blade size for most paddlers is in the 85-95 square inch range. Paddlers with joint issues should choose a smaller one because it puts less stress on their bodies.

How Much Do SUP Paddles Cost?

SUP Paddle on a SUP

Paddleboard paddles can range in price from $20 to $500. The highest prices reflect the materials used for the shaft and blade, the durability of the paddle, and any sort of specialty that the paddle may have.

SUP paddles with the lowest price have an aluminum shaft and plastic blades. They cost around $40. High-end carbon paddles are the most expensive.

How To Choose A Good Paddle Board Paddle

When choosing a paddle you should consider these five factors:

  • length,
  • material,
  • blade size, shape and offset,
  • angle of the paddle’s shaft, and
  • paddle’s handle.

If you want to get the most out of paddle boarding it is extremely important to have the right SUP paddle for your body, style, and board. Remember, good quality paddle board paddles not only make paddle boarding more fun, they also increase the performance.

SUP Paddle Length

To maintain proper paddling form and efficiency it’s essential to get the right size paddle. When choosing a paddle, make sure that it is proportional to your height and adjusted according to the kind of SUPing you want to do. When it comes to portability, we highly recommend 3-piece-paddles.

SUP Paddle material

One of the most important parameters when choosing your paddleboard paddle is stiffness. It determines how much of our paddling power turns into movement. Therefore, opt for carbon fiber or fiberglass SUP paddles.

Blade Size, Shape & Offset

Based on shape, blades can be divided into the following three types:

  • Bigger (wider) blade – for adults and SUP surfing
  • Smaller blade – for lighter persons
  • Narrow blade – for races

The blade offset is one of the important things you should be aware of when buying your paddle board paddle. It is the degree at which the blade is out of line with the shaft, and depends on the type of activity that the blade will be used for. For SUP surfing the offset should be about 7 degrees, for all-round paddle boarding it should be around 10 degrees, and for SUP racing you want it to be about 12 degrees.

SUP surfers and paddlers who rely on powerful strokes should choose a blade with tear-drop shape. Teardrop blades have bottoms that are wider than rectangular paddles and therefore provide more power through tougher strokes.

SUP Paddle Shaft

Bent shafts keep your wrists neutral, which prevents pain. Straight shafts are the best choice for short rides. Angled shafts are ideal for longer voyages.

SUP paddles comes with palm grips, which can be found at the handle’s top.

Palm grips can be

  • ball-shaped or
  • T-shaped.

Ball-shaped grips are more comfortable, while t-shaped grips provide more stability. Therefore, it depends on the kind of stand up paddle boarding you do which type is best for you.

Best SUP Paddles

As a general rule, we recommend paddle board paddles made of carbon fiber or fiberglass. They are sturdy and have a solid grip.

Keep in mind: If it feels like an extension of your body, you have found the perfect SUP paddle for you!

Some of the high quality paddle board paddles available on Amazon are following:

What’s The Correct Way To Hold My Paddle Board Paddle?

Now that we have established what you should look out for when choosing the perfect SUP paddle for you, let’s make sure you use it correctly.

If you are paddling on the right side of your SUP, your left hand should be your upper hand. Grip the paddleboard handle at the top of the paddle. If you are paddling on the left side of a SUP, your right hand should be on top.

The blade should be bent or sloped forward with your upper hand. Make sure you have a light grip on the upper handle, and place your lower hand on the shaft. Make sure your arms are wider than shoulder-width apart.

Place the SUP paddle’s upper handle with the rounded part forward. If you have a “T”-shaped paddle shaft, do not grip too tightly and make sure the blade is bent forward when you wrap your fingers around the handle.

Read also: Do I Need SUP Lesson? (Paddle Boarding For Beginners)

SUP Paddle Strokes

Some essential SUP paddle strokes include the following:

  • forward stroke
  • reverse stroke,
  • draw stroke
  • forward/ reverse sweep stroke.

Forward Stroke

A basic SUP stroke is normally broken up into the following 4 phases:

  • Reach – the “catch”
  • Power phase – the “triangle of power”
  • Exit – “feathering”, and
  • Recovery – efficiently return the paddle board paddle to the next catch position

Reverse stroke

You should use the reverse stroke to slow or stop your stand up paddle board and to go backwards. When doing the reverse stroke, place the SUP paddle blade in the water behind you on one side of your board. Next, draw your paddle paddle back towards your feet and out of the water. Finally, repeat the process on the other side of your board to keep a straight line.

Draw stroke

Draw strokes move your paddleboard laterally in the water. This proves very useful when manoeuvring to a dock or pulling up alongside another paddler.

To perform a draw stroke, turn your feet to the side you want to move towards to. Plant your SUP paddle blade deep into the water on the chosen side. Make sure your blade is parralel to the rail of your board. Now, pull the paddle towards the rail of your board. Afterwards, slice it towards the tail and out of the water.

Forward/Reverse Sweep Stroke

The forward/ reverse sweep stroke enables you to turn your board quickly and easily. Combining the forward and the reverse stroke can help you turn your SUP board in a tight 360 degree circle.

Your knees should be slightly bent as you paddle. This gives you more stability as you move your lower paddling arm further down the shaft. This way, you get the most power out of your stroke. It’s important that you don’t lock your knees, though.

Instead of pulling back and forth with your arms alone, use your core muscles to make the turn. Make sure you don’t hunch or lean forward. To maintain proper posture while you paddle, set your shoulders to be square to the board and level side-to-side.

Read also: SUP Boarding – Get Rid Of Shaky Legs (Tips For Beginners)

Final Thoughts

SUP Paddle on Paddle Board

Alright, now you should know everything you need to choose a SUP paddle that meets your needs. Here’s a quick summery of the important takeaway points:

  • SUP paddles can be made of several different materials, including aluminum alloy, fiberglass, carbon fiber, plastic and wood. Carbon fiber paddles are the stiffest and therefore the most efficient. The next best alternative are fiberglass paddles (they are a bit less expensive but still perform very well).
  • Paddleboard paddles float because of the foam inside their shaft.
  • SUP paddles can last between 1 and 10+ years. The durability of SUP paddles is highly dependend on the material used. Type of use and maintenance also play an important role. Again, you can’t go wrong with carbon fiber or fiberglass.
  • Paddleboard paddles can be divided into fixed-length and adjustable-length, which can be divided into two or three pieces. 3-piece-paddle are very popular, as they can be easily packed and trasported.
  • The prices of SUP paddles range from $20 to about $500. You definitely don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for a high quality SUP paddle, though. There are great affordable high quality options on the market.

Is there anything I forgot to mention or do you have a related question? Get in touch and let me know! I’m always happy to read from fellow water sports enthusiasts!

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