As much as consideration you used to choose the proper SUP board, you should just the same amount to choose a proper paddle. “I’ll take anything,” you say, as you scoff while reading this, “all boards are the same”. Well, that’s not exactly true. In order to optimize your ride, you’ll need to think about the length of the paddle, how you’re going to use the board, and the material of your paddle blade.
What is your intended use?
Your length of your paddle depends on the use of your board. Are you looking to use your board for fishing, touring, or fitness paddling? You’ll most likely want a paddle that is approximately 10” taller than your body height. If you’re paddling in a river, you’ll want to find a paddle that is a bit shorter than the touring paddles (approximately 2” shorter, for a paddle height of 8” taller than your height). If you’re looking for a paddle to help you cruise on flat water, a longer paddle will help you get that longer, stronger stroke. For more challenging water, shorter paddles are great to get shorter, quick strokes.
The difference between adjustable and fixed paddles?
The name of the type of paddle, whether fixed or adjustable, is pretty self-explanatory. Adjustable paddles have one or two knobs on the handle that can adjust. This is great for buying one paddle that can fit a variety of people and uses. Imagine Surf’s Harbor Paddle is an adjustable paddle that focuses on being convertible and affordable:
Fixed paddles are one length, where the overall vibration of the board is completely different. The vibration is more even throughout the paddle, rather than just sitting near the adjustment knobs on other paddles. Naish’s Kaholo fixed paddle is extremely stable, and is great for committed paddlers:
Which blade material and shape should I choose?
The type of blade you choose will ultimately change your paddling experience. Aluminum paddles can be used for a variety of paddlers, but is a main choice for beginners. The blade is typically causes the paddle to be heavier, and if the included foam insert isn’t with the paddle, they have a tendency to sink if dropped or lost during a wipeout. Aluminum paddles are very durable, which can be great for surfing.
Carbon paddles are made of a graphite fiber or carbon composite. They are considerably lighter, which is awesome for decreasing muscle fatigue and increasing your trips. Carbon paddles are great for paddlers that live in colder locations, or they are looking for longer rides.
As for shape and size of your blade, you’ll see less resistance on a less-wide blade (almost like a knife through butter). You’ll have quicker acceleration, and less fatigue. Wider blades have more resistance and power through the water. Wider blades are used mainly for more-experienced paddlers or for those looking for a workout.