SUP Paddel

SUP Paddel


How to Select Your SUP Paddle

While it’s often said that choosing a stand-up paddle is a personal preference, it's crucial to note that if you've purchased your first SUP board as part of an inflatable paddleboard package, the SUP paddle choice has been made for you. The ‘included’ SUP paddle is typically a budget option designed to get you started. However, by upgrading to a higher-quality SUP paddle, you can unlock a whole new level of performance, regardless of the brand. This potential for enhanced performance should be a source of motivation and excitement for you as a stand-up paddleboard enthusiast.

How important is the SUP Paddle?

The paddle is the most important item in your equipment stash in all paddlesports. It is the tool with which you propel and control your stand-up paddleboard, and its design, construction, and overall fit to your needs will determine, to a large extent, the enjoyment and progression of your SUP paddling skills. Think of it as an extension of your arms, which creates leverage, your body, the power source, your hips and feet, the gearbox, which connects to the SUP board and delivers thrust to propel the board.

The Anatomy of a SUP Paddle

Key components include;

The Grip (Handle): The uppermost part of the SUP paddle, which your top hand grips. There are various shapes to choose from, each with its advantages. T-grips are common where your hands will be wet in extreme conditions such as SUP surfing and SUP whitewater running. The fingers wrap over the bar of the T. A Hammerhead is similar to a T-grip but with an arched T shape, while the Palm Grip, the most common to SUP paddles, is designed to fit comfortably into the palm.

The Shaft: The long extension between the grip and upper shoulder of the blade where it connects.

Fixed Length SUP Paddle: Cut to fit the physiological needs of the rider; these are often the lightest, higher-performing paddles.

Two-Part Adjustable SUP Paddle: This paddle is for multiple uses amongst differing riders, SUP board thicknesses, or riding situations. A telescopic upper shaft slides within the primary shaft and is clamped into position using clamp overlockers.

Three-Part Adjustable Paddle: As for the two-part SUP paddle with the addition of a spring clip ferrule in the lower section of the primary shaft, which permits the SUP paddle to be broken down into three separate parts under 1m, to be stowed in an inflatable SUP board bag or separately.

Throat: The lower section of the primary shaft you grip with your lower hand.

The Shoulder: The uppermost part of the SUP blade which slots into the shaft.

The Paddle Blade: These can be teardrop-shaped, common to SUP surfing, or bat-like in shape with longer parallel sides, known as high-aspect blades, which are suited for most SUP paddling situations.

Blade Width: The maximum width of the SUP blade, edge to edge.

Blade Height: Measured from the tip to the upper section of the SUP blade shoulder.

Power Face: The front side of the paddle that grips and pulls against water.

Back Face: The back of the SUP paddle, which does no pulling.

Dihedral: A ridge that runs down the power's uppermost face to displace water runoff equally left and right from the blade, keeping the SUP blade balanced and stable.

Paddle Length: Measured from the SUP blade's tip to the uppermost top of the grip.

Blade Area: The total surface area of the paddle blade's power-face (front) side.  

How to choose your SUP paddle

Naturally, your budget will often dictate your investment level in a paddle. However, the importance of high-performing paddling cannot be stressed enough. Importantly, there is no such thing as a beginner paddle. Everyone who paddles needs to be using the best they can afford.

SUP Paddle materials determine values

The primary components of a SUP paddle are often constructed from various materials. The grip, shaft and paddle blade are often made from differing materials.

Grip: Either polycarbonate plastic, fibreglass, carbon fibre or a composite.
Shaft: Either fibreglass, carbon, carbon composite or aluminium.
Blade: Either fibreglass, carbon, carbon composite, polycarbonate plastic, or bamboo epoxy laminate.

Carbon fibre is the most expensive when used for all components, offering the lightest end product.
The cheapest SUP paddles use aluminium for the shaft, polycarbonate blade, and grip.
Generally, you get what you pay for, provided the overall design is sound.

Deciding upon a SUP Paddle length

Many urban myths about paddle size relate to the length of a paddle from the tip to the upper grip. Most importantly, when paddling at the mid-point through the stroke, you want to have your top hand level with your nose and your elbow more or less level with your shoulder. If you start with a paddle 6" taller than you, you can begin to make adjustments when on the water. Using a slightly shorter paddle length is better than one too long!

SUP paddle Shaft diameter

Most shafts are between 27 and 29" in diameter, suitable for most adults. Narrow shaft diameters are preferable for kids.

SUP Paddle Shaft flex

Stiff SUP paddle shafts are rare; most have some degree of flex for what you call 'medium' flex. The idea here is that you do not want the paddle shaft to be so rigid that it lacks any uptake of force through some bend, cushioning your joints and muscles, nor have any recoil at the exit of the blade after the stroke, which creates an encouraging feel during the recovery phase. Too much bend results in a loss of power, so the general rule here is that most all shafts should offer a medium amount of flex and recoil.

SUP Paddle blade size

Based on the blade's surface area, the following can be considered.

XS 70-75 sq inches
S 76-81 sq inches
M 82-87 sq inches
L 88-95 sq inches 
XL 96+ sq inches

You want to use a small blade area to lower your fatigue rate. Your body mass will mostly determine what size blade area you should use. The heavier you are, the larger the blade's surface area you should consider. Most paddlers opt for Small to Medium blade areas between 76 and 87 sq inches. 

If you have pre-existing injuries, opt for the smallest possible blade area.
If you prefer a higher stroke rate, use the smaller blade area.

SUP Blade Shape

Low-Aspect Paddle Blade: This blade has a teardrop shape, with most of the surface area near the blade's tip, providing an early catch in the water. It is frequently used for SUP surfing.

Medium-Aspect Paddle Blade: The widest point is around one-third the way up the blade, making for efficient SUP cruising paddles.

High Aspect Paddle Blade: The widest point is around mid-way up the blade, typically rectangular. These narrower paddle blades offer you the choice of burying the blade for differing amounts of anchoring of the blade. Typically favoured by racers for their high cadence capability and distance paddlers for their efficiency in the water.

SUP Paddle Blade Profile

Flat blade with dihedral - for the advanced paddle with speed, power and high skill levels.
Minimal single or dual concave blade - assists in grabbing water, requiring early blade exit.
Deep concave (scooped) blade - Avoid these blades as they cause injury and can pull you off balance.