Paddles - How to Choose a SUP Paddle

Paddle boarding is a lifestyle. There is no better feeling than having your board underneath your feet, your paddle in your hand, the water beneath you and the sun on your skin. The smells, sounds and sites of paddle boarding make people fall in love with SUPs. You and the board should feel like one, moving in sync and feeling confident with every move.

Choosing the right paddle is also important because it is your paddle that will be getting you through a strong wind or current so you need one that you can rely on. The first thing to consider when choosing a paddle is what are you looking to get out of your board. Then, consider your price range and your level of experience. There are boards of different shapes and sizes, and paddles can be made from different types of materials. Let’s break it down.

Consider where will you be paddling most, i.e., will you be on ocean, lakes, springs or intracoastal waters? What do you want to get out of your board, i.e., will you be touring, cruising, surfing, or fishing? And finally, what is your experience and price range? As far as paddles go, the lighter the paddle, the more expensive it will be. Think fiberglass and carbon fiber. The heavier paddle will be your most durable and can be useful for a rougher lifestyle, or for beginners and kids. The shape of the blade (bottom part of the paddle) is also important. A narrower shape is for more experienced paddlers that are racing or surfing, while a wider shape is more versatile in all conditions and user-friendly for all skill levels. 

Choosing a paddle also comes down to personal preference. How does the handle fit in your hand? Is it the right weight and length? It is good to try or demo a couple different kinds of paddles to see what works best for you. After all, paddle boarding is meant to be an enjoyable hobby/sport, so if you are feeling like you're fighting your board or paddle it might just mean you’re not using the right combo for you. That's okay! Don’t let a little learning curve make you quit your paddle boarding dream. You’ll figure it out the more you get out on the water and will be able to better customize to your needs.

Different Paddle Materials:

-Carbon Fiber: Lightweight and most durable, ideal for long distance paddling, longevity and is all around user-friendly.

-Fiberglass: lightweight, increases speed and easier movement

-Wood: lightweight, shock absorption

-Plastic: heavier but can take a beating and is less expensive

-Aluminum: durable, good for beginners and rougher lifestyle, also wallet friendly

Once you have found your perfect paddle, learning to use it is another step. The type of conditions you will be in, like flat surface water, chop, and strong currents, are all factors you will need to consider. The appropriate length of your paddle will also depend on what conditions you are in. The best way to determine your paddle length for touring or cruising is to stand on solid ground, or on your board, and raise your hand straight up in the air. With your paddle resting on the ground, or on your board, it should meet your hand where it’s raised. If you’re surfing, then you’ll need a smaller length for your paddle. Most paddles are adjustable, so you can raise or lower the handle, until you’re comfortable with the length. If you get a customized paddle with no adjustable option, then you will have to move your hands along the paddle to fit your conditions.

So, you’re on your board, paddle in hand, ready to go! How do you paddle? With the face of the blade facing FORWARD. Too often I see people using their paddle backwards. Pro tip: the logo of the brand is on the front of the blade and that should be what is facing forward.  Using the paddle this way allows the blade to cut through the water easier and provides smoother movement through water, moving the water around the blade. If the blade is backwards, and looks like a backwards “C”, it creates drag and less stability which will end up slowing you down.

Some key takeaways:

-The lighter the paddle is, the more expensive it will be. (Like fiberglass or carbon fiber.)

-The shape of the blade (the bottom part of the paddle that goes in the water) is determined by your skill level and activity of choice.

-How the handle fits your hand tells you whether that paddle is meant for you, or not.

-The weight of the paddle is super important. After all, noodle arms are for after your paddle, not during.

-Durability and quality are important things to keep in mind when shopping around for a paddle and board.

We hope these tips are helpful to you and have prepared you to jump on your board and paddle out. Sea you on the water.

- Jessica Hamilton (Avid Paddler, Water Conservationist and Photographer) Follow on insta @roamwithmephotography

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