With increased demand and decreased cost of production, the cost of stand up paddle (SUP) boards have certainly come down the past couple of years. Paddles are a different story. They need to withstand a lot more abuse and stress than boards. Simply put, if the paddle isn’t made well, it’s highly prone to breakage and it just won’t perform well on the water. It’s important to learn about your gear, especially when buying for the first time, so read on find out how choose your perfect paddle.
What Kind of Paddler Are You?
Before having a panic attack over the varying prices of paddles, first consider the components and essential materials used to make a quality paddle. The paddle consists of the blade, shaft and handle, each affecting the ergonomics of the paddler as well as the efficiency of the paddle stroke. A less expensive paddle has an aluminum shaft with plastic handle and blade. Viewed as beginner paddles, these are the most durable paddles on the market. Performance paddles, on the other hand, typically have carbon fiber blades and fiberglass shafts, both of which are far lighter weight than aluminum and plastic. Carbon fiber has incredible strength to weight ratio making it ideal for smoother strokes, using less energy. In a nutshell, if you’re a novice paddler or only plan on cursing on flat water a few times a month, a less expensive paddle will do the trick. If you have a few seasons under your belt or if you’re looking for a little more excitement with your paddling, lighter weight materials will greatly enhance your experience on the water. And of course, if you’re racing or plan to paddle for extended periods of time, you’ll definitely need to drop a little more cash on a performance paddle to reduce fatigue and to go faster.
Carbon Fiber SUP Paddle-
Adjustable Aluminum SUP Paddles-
Blade Size and Shape
Paddling style and body size are the main factors to consider when choosing a blade size. A smaller person should stick to a smaller blade for more control and less fatigue. You’d think that a larger person should always use a larger blade, but many larger people still prefer a smaller blade due to their paddling style. A high, fast cadence style of paddling will be more efficient with a smaller blade. Dynamic turning with quick, short strokes will be easier with a smaller blade. Larger blades put more power into a lower cadence stroke. Such a blade is helpful when trying to get into waves for surfing. If your paddling style depends on the day, give preference to your distance paddling needs. You’ll be much happier with a smaller blade that won’t tire your arms and shoulders out.
Length of Paddle
As a general rule of thumb, the paddle should be 6″ to 10″ longer than your height (shoes off!). A longer paddle provides a longer, stronger stroke for flat water SUPing. A shorter paddle enables the quicker, shorter strokes needed to navigate more challenging water conditions and waves. Adjustable paddles are recommended for people who plan to share their paddle with friends and family. While not performance paddles so to speak, adjustable are still perfect for most recreational paddlers and will deliver for years to come.
Like any other sport, it’s not a bad idea to ‘test the waters’ before throwing down on the highest end gear. First timers, a less expensive paddle will guarantee a summer of fun. And hey, if the paddle was only $99 and you found your new calling with stand up paddle boarding, then treat yourself to a performance paddle next summer. You can always share your old paddle with friends or other newbies!