SUP Paddle Series | How to choose the right Stand Up Paddleboard Paddle | Fixed length vs Adjustable SUP Paddles Posted on 11 Dec 12:21 , 0 comments



How to Choose between a Fixed Length and an Adjustable SUP Paddle

Adjustable SUP Paddles

Most SUP paddlers start out with an adjustable paddle during their SUP lesson or at a friends cottage. Whenever you have only one board, but several different sized paddlers, it just makes sense to use adjustable SUP paddles. It would cost a fortune to have a variety of paddles to fit every size of paddler. So at the family cottage, rentals shops or SUP schools you'll probably want an adjustable. After all, with an adjustable paddle, one size fits (almost) all.  

Three piece adjustable Travel Paddles vs 2 piece adjustable paddles

The advantage of the 3 piece 'travel' paddle is that it breaks down into 3 pieces that will (should?) fit into your iSUP travel pack. The longest single shaft tube is usually 34" to 36" so be sure to check the inside dimension of your iSUP travel bag before you buy. Most 3 piece paddles have a single or double spring pin mechanism that locks them in place. The tubes 'telescope' inside one another. The tolerances are very close, so there's not much wiggle at all. 


Two Piece Ajdustable SUP Paddle

Usually we just call these 'adjustable' paddles. Most have a wide range of adjustment, often 70" to 86" and like 3 piece paddles, the two pieces telescope inside one another. But with a two piece adjustable SUP paddle, there are more options for the clasps or locking mechanisms that hold them in place. As a result, the better built adjustables feel like a one-piece, fixed length shaft. The type below, by Accent Paddles (2015), uses an internal steel cable (Leverlock TM) connected to the bottom end of the handle to expand a rubber locking-stopper. It's much more rigid than a 3 piece. 

There's another type of shaft locking system, probably the most common, that looks like this:


How to keep your adjustable SUP paddle working like new

Both locking systems work fine when they're new. But with adjustable SUP paddles you need to provide some simple maintenance if you want them to last. Salt water needs to be rinsed off and sand can become lodged in between the telescoping shafts. I've seen cases where the adjustable became a fixed-length paddle because dirt or sand caused it to seize up. Take it apart, rinse in fresh water and wipe down the pieces from time to time.

Weight and Cost

Adjustable SUP paddles have some overlap in the telescoping tubes even when they're fully extended. So it's as if you had a super-long paddle. Which will weigh more than a similar sized fixed shaft. There's also a locking mechanism which adds an ounce or so to the overall weight. Here's a comparison of the Octane Carbon/Polymer Paddle (by Accent Paddles) in fixed lenghth, adjustable and 3 piece.

  • Fixed Shaft 22 oz (625g)
  • Adjustable Shaft 27 oz (766g)
  • 3-Piece Adjustable Shaft 29 oz (824g)

So you can see there's quite a difference in weight as you increase the number of pieces. 

It's the same issue with cost of manufacturing. More pieces and parts will cost you more. Here's a chart from Accent which shows the same model in different configurations. 

Octane Adjustable SUP Paddle – $189

Octane SUP Paddle – $159

Octane 3-Piece Adjustable SUP Paddle – $209

Fixed Length Paddles

Once you're hooked on SUP and have your own board, you'll probably want your own fixed-length paddle too. As shown above, they're cheaper and lighter than adjustables. And fixed length paddles have no moving parts, so by comparison they're easier to care for and may last longer. You just cut the shaft to the exact length you want and then glue the handle in place to make it yours alone.That's another advantage over adjustable paddles because every 'loose' (unglued) joint in adjustable paddles allows some unwanted movement (which means some loss of power) in each stroke. That little loss of power over thousands of strokes and hours of paddling adds up. That's why racers and 'serious' distance paddlers would never use an adjustable paddle.  

 Ready to buy a StandUp Paddleboard Paddle? Compare prices on a variety of paddles

You may also want to read:
How to get the right size SUP paddle


Coming Soon 

How to cut a carbon or fiberglass SUP paddle shaft

blade shapes

cost vs construction

brand preferences, value brands, how much paddle do you need?

Stand Up Paddleboard terms, definitions, acronyms