How to choose a SUP Paddle
Typical paddle lengths have become shorter. Most people now choose paddles that are 5-15 cm above the head. Experienced paddlers tend to use relatively shorter paddles, while less experienced paddlers are more suited to a longer paddle. Shorter paddles are a good choice for catching waves or running rapids, while longer paddles work well for cruising.
At the top of a paddle is a T-grip, used by your right or left hand, depending on which side you are paddling. T-grips come in standard, wide or round shapes, depending on your personal preference. Find a style that works for you and prevents grip fatigue.
Next, consider a lightweight and stiff shaft for smooth performance. Fiberglass shafts are lighter than aluminum ones, which are usually offered in the basic model at an affordable price. Aluminum shafts must be rinsed in fresh water if they have been used in a saltwater environment to avoid corrosion. Carbon fiber shafts are preferred among pros for their lightness during long paddling sessions and stiffness. Both carbon and fiberglass stand up well to saltwater exposure.
Shafts come as one solid piece or in adjustable/telescoping lengths to cater to families with different paddle size needs, and for compact storage and transport.
Dihedral Ridge Examples
Solid shafts will need to be sized according to the paddler’s height. Most can be cut with a hacksaw and the T-grip applied with an adhesive. Allow it to cure before paddling.
Blades are made from a variety of materials including wood, plastic, nylon, carbon composite and fiberglass. Carbon composite is the lightest material and usually priced at a premium. Carbon and wood blades are great for surf and offshore paddling because they stand up to saltwater’s corrosive and choppy environment.
Like fiberglass shafts, fiberglass blades are sturdy and reasonably light for their value, and perfect for recreational paddling. The heaviest yet most affordable blade is made of plastic. A good rule of thumb is to get the lightest paddle you can afford that will withstand years of use in whatever water environment you prefer to paddle.
Consider high visibility blade colors like red and yellow for touring safety or blue and green colors to blend into the water while fishing.
A properly sized SUP paddle will deliver a smooth stroke with minimal fatigue.
Most SUP paddle blades are angled/canted slightly forward to get the most leverage during a paddle. Look for blades with a dihedral ridge (see example) for even water displacement (less flutter) and a smooth pull through the water.
A flat blade requires more effort and potential for fluttering but delivers more power.
Most leisure paddling adventures use a long and deep stroke through the water. This paddling style is best with a larger blade and longer shaft. Paddlers looking for speed will use a quicker stroke, which is best executed with a smaller blade and a shorter shaft. However, blade selection, while somewhat determined by the activity and duration of stroke, should depend more on your size and strength. Large, strong paddlers should select relatively larger blades.
If your goal is to spend more time on the water, bear in mind that investing in a lightweight paddle will help save your shoulders and forearms from fatigue, which will contribute to a more efficient stroke. Carbon composite paddles are the hot ticket here.
TLC for your paddle
Always rinse your paddle with freshwater and when stowed, make sure it is not in the sun. Take care not to damage the blade tip on rocks or shallow bottoms and invest in a paddle cover.