Top Tips for choosing the best PADDLE for STAND UP PADDLEBOARDING
Buying a Paddleboard Paddle - What you need to know
Get the right overall length in your Paddleboard Paddle
(updated May 12/2018)
Most paddle companies use a rule of thumb that says 'use a paddle for paddleboarding that's 'x' inches above your head, depending on what type of paddling you're doing'. As a broad gauge you might choose a SUP paddle that is 8 - 10 in. taller than you for racing, 10-12 in. taller than you for cruising on flat water, or 6-8 in. taller than you for surfing. That's because you stand more erect while cruising and bend down more when racing or surfing.
Another way to gauge correct overall paddle length would be to use your outstretched arm. Stick your hand straight up in the air and hold the top of the paddleboard paddle against your arm while the blade rests on the ground. The top of the paddle should come up to your palm - or wrist, or a couple inches below the wrist. Because we're all built differently, with different sized limbs and spine length, there isn't one measurement that's perfect in all situations.
Even the paddleboards we use can be different thicknesses and that alone can put us up or down 2" above the water. In the end, the only factor that matters is your overall satisfaction with the SUP paddle as you use it. How comfortable are you while you're paddling with it? Are you less prone to injury? Does it move as fast - or provide as much power - as you'd like?
Upright cruising posture Bent over Racing posture Scrunched -down surfing posture
Photo Credit SUP ATX Photo Credit Dave Kalama Photo Credit Red Paddle Co
Get the right size of Blade Face on your Paddleboard Paddle
The size of the blade face is important because it determines power - how much water you catch and move with each stroke, and as a result, how much strain you put on your muscles. A bigger blade face catches more water and in theory will propel you forward faster IF you have the human strength to match it. Straining shoulder muscles while leaning forward can lead to injury. Big blade faces are meant for big muscles - or slow paddling. There is no specific size of large or small blade, but a good rule of thumb might be 100 sq in for a large blade and 90 sq in for small. +/-
Why Paddleboard Paddle Blade Shape Matters
One way to reduce injury and still have a large surface area is to elongate the blade face. The theory is that an elongated blade will put your shoulder in a better, more neutral position at the moment the blade is under maximum load. This paddle shape also 'releases' more easily at the end of each stroke so it's easier to paddle faster. The number of paddle-strokes per minute is called the 'cadence'. So a blade which is easy to paddle fast is called a 'high cadence' paddle. This shape is also popular with smaller paddlers and cruisers who want less strain on the shoulder.
The handle or paddle-grip
From left to right: Palm Grip - T Grip - T Grip - T Grip with offset
Regardless of how and why you SUP, the top hand always grabs the top of the paddle on the handle. So it makes sense that you want a grip that fits your hand comfortably, both in size and shape. While nearly 70% of all SUP paddlers are female, most SUP paddles have so far been made with a one-size-fits-all grip better suited to men. Paddle manufacturers are starting to consider smaller sized hands when building grips and paddle shafts. Whether you choose palm-grip or T-grip is a personal choice.
Racing? Cruising? or Surfing? A different PADDLEBOARD PADDLE for each.
The trend today is to use a smaller blade face that allows for a higher cadence (strokes per minute) when surfing or racing - and a larger blade face for cruising. I'll go into more detail on materials and construction in future articles.
You may also want to read:
How to choose the right Paddleboarding Paddle for YOU - Terminology
How to cut a carbon or fiberglass SUP paddle shaft
cost vs construction
brand preferences, value brands, how much paddle do you need?
Stand Up Paddleboard terms, definitions, acronyms
Paddling Pro Tips - paddling concepts - move the board not the paddle