How to choose the right Paddleboarding Paddle for YOU - Terminology
Paddles for Paddleboarding - How to get the right Paddleboard Paddle for YOU.
(updated November 26, 2017)
Paddleboard Paddle - Terminology
3 piece paddle refers to a paddle that can be broken down into 2 or 3 pieces for convenient travel. (see 'travel paddle' image below)
Adjustable paddle is a paddle which can be adjusted in length by one piece telescoping up from within another piece. Often has a range of 5″ to 16″ in adjustability to match different paddler heights, thicker or thinner boards, different conditions or different paddling styles.
Alloy Paddles The term 'alloy' refers to a mixture of materials, usually metals. In SUP terminology, an 'alloy paddle' usually refers to an aluminum shaft SUP Paddle.
Blade the flat part on the end of the paddle that goes in the water and provides the forward motion.
Blade Angle the bend at the bottom of the paddle, which angles forward
There are three main reasons why the blade is angled forward. First, the angle of the blade allows the stroke to begin (the 'catch') further away from your body. This gives you a longer, more powerful stroke. Secondly, at the beginning of the stroke, the angled blade pushes down on the water before pulling straight back, which provides some 'lift' on the nose of the board. This 'lift' is thought to provide better forward glide. Then at the end of your stroke, (around your heels), the angle allows the blade to come out of the water cleanly. This way you don't lift water which would push the tail of the board down, reducing glide. (and tiring your shoulder)
The thinnest part or 'knife edge' of the paddle’s blade. Also called blade 'rail'. The blade edge is very vulnerable in carbon blades. Since carbon is stiff and brittle, it can chip just from pushing off a lake bottom, or touching down on a sidewalk. Some SUP paddle manufacturers now use an ABS material on the blade edge of carbon paddles to protect it.
Depending on your size, strength, and type of use, you'll want a different size (and/or shape) of SUP blade. The images on the left show blade faces for low, medium or high cadence. Typically, larger blade for larger paddlers - or for slower cruising. Smaller blades for racing, surfing, or smaller paddlers.
Cadence also known as 'stroke-cadence' refers to the number of strokes per minute, or simply 'how fast are you paddling' High cadence means a higher number of strokes per minute as in racing. Generally speaking, a higher-cadence blade will have a smaller-overall blade face and possibly an elongated blade face. This allows a SUP paddler a quicker catch and release with less chance of shoulder injury.
Cam Lock: For Paddle Length Adjustment
Cam Locks or 'compression locks' work similar to a quick release clamp for a bicycle seat. They've been in use for quite a while now and are reasonably reliable. But because they're on the outside of the SUP paddle shaft they can sometimes get in the way as you paddle.
Carbon Paddles Made from Carbon Fiber, which is most often a woven cloth. The cloth is impregnated with Epoxy resin to form a very stiff, rigid shape. A SUP paddle may have a carbon-shaft, a carbon-blade, a carbon-handle or any combination of those. PRO's, incredible strength for it's weight, CON's, it's more expensive than fiberglass and can be very brittle and chip on thin edges. Protect Carbon paddles with a 'sock' or a bag when possible.
Fiberglass (or fibreglass) Paddles Made from a type of plastic reinforced with glass fibers. Fiberglass cloth or weave looks much like any other fabric. But when saturated with epoxy resin it retains it's shape and has great weight to strength properties. It's rigid but has some flex. PRO's, good strength for it's weight, inexpensive and more durable than carbon. CON's, it doesn't have the same strength as carbon fiber and it weighs a bit more.
Fixed Length SUP Paddles
A fixed length SUP paddle is simply a one-piece paddle that does not adjust in length. Not recommended when you're sharing a paddle with different sized paddlers. But because there are no moving parts, it may be more rigid or last longer. Preferred by committed paddlers and racers.
Grip or Handle
The part of the paddle that you hold onto with your top hand as you paddle.
Most SUP Paddle handles are built so that the bottom part of the handle is a foam-filled tube that can slide inside the paddle shaft and be glued or epoxied in place. Contrary to the graphic above, it seems that the 'palm-grip', also referred to as 'Ergo' is the most widely used SUP handle today.
A quick, easy paddle shaft length adjustment system available on many paddles. A lever within the palm-grip moves a steel cable within the shaft tube to expand a rubber washer. This provides evenly distributed pressure within the shaft tube and locks the adjustable shaft in place. No pins or holes in the shaft and no predetermined spacing. You can adjust the length of the shaft and the direction of the handle however you want.
I believe this is the most advanced SUP Paddle adjustment system on the market today and beats all other systems hands-down.
An internal spring loaded pin connection system used for connecting two pieces of shaft, as in travel paddles which must break down into smaller parts to fit in a travel bag. Also used in budget models for paddle shaft length adjustment. Pins can sometimes break or fall out in cheaper products.
Shaft The paddle shaft connects the paddle to the handle.
Stroke – reach, catch, power, release, recovery
Your paddle stroke used to propel the board forward. Broken down into various phases: Reach – reaching forward before placing your paddle in the water. The Catch is when you place the paddle in the water. The Power is the ‘pulling’ part of the stroke. The release is taking the paddle out of the water and the recovery phase is bringing the paddle forward again for another reach.
Also known as a 3 piece paddle, is a paddle which breaks down or comes apart into 2 or 3 smaller parts to allow it to fit in an inflatable SUP travel bag.
Measuring the paddle- getting the right length
While there are several opinions on how to do it, remember the only thing that matters is that it works for you! Your body proportions, board thickness, paddling style and a dozen other factors may put you outside the standard 'guides' for paddle selection.
That said, one generalized method that works for most paddlers, most of the time, is this: stand holding the paddle upright with the blade touching the floor. Reach up with one arm, leaving a slight bend in the elbow, and adjust paddle length until you can just wrap your hand over the handle. If you're overreaching or have to twist to grab the handle, the SUP paddle is too long. Start with this length and over time adjust the paddle length to your preferences.
You may want to refer to other articles in our SUP Paddle Series : How to choose the right Stand Up Paddleboard Paddle | get the right size paddle
If you have questions about choosing a paddle or getting the right fit, send us a message: firstname.lastname@example.org .