How To Choose The Best Paddle Board Paddle

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Are you not sure about which is the best SUP paddle based on your needs? We were wondering too, so we did a little digging.

We settled on a carbon SUP paddle because we get in the water often. If we were more casual SUP users we would have probably gotten a less expensive fiberglass SUP paddle. We are not a fan of plastic SUP paddles and wouldn’t buy them for a few reasons.

Enough about us. Let’s help you find the best SUP paddle for you.

How Do I Choose a Paddle for SUP?

To choose the perfect paddle for your SUP board, consider all of the following:

  • SUP Paddle Material: What is the paddle made from? Are you buying something that is made from the best possible materials, something that is sustainable or recycled, or a paddle that is cheap and low quality?
  • SUP Paddle Length: The paddle length will impact everything from the speed and weight of the paddle to how easy the paddle is to transport.
  • SUP Paddle Blade Size: The size of the blade, along with the shape and its angle, will ultimately determine how quickly and easily it moves through the water.

Keep reading for more information on all of these features of a SUP paddle.

SUP Paddle Materials

Aluminum and plastic are some of the cheapest materials used in SUP paddles. They come in a range of styles and sizes, are often adjustable, and offer a decent level of durability.

However, these materials are not very lightweight and if you’re looking for a sustainable or eco-friendly paddle, plastic is never a good option.

Other options to consider include wooden paddles (made from many different types of wood, including sustainable varieties), carbon fiber, and fiberglass.

Some premium SUP paddles use carbon fiber and/or fiberglass, creating something stiff, light, and strong. Paddles made from carbon fiber and fiberglass are definitely not cheap, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.

SUP Paddle Shaft Length (& Fixed Vs Adjustable Shaft)

When it comes to SUP paddle length, the first question you need to answer is whether you want a fixed-length or an adjustable-length paddle shaft (AKA, the travel option).

The fix-length SUP paddle shaft may be lighter and stiffer. It will feel sturdier in your hands. An adjustable-paddle shaft will allow you to adjust the length of the shaft and is easier to transport because you can either reduce the size of the paddle by pushing the top of the shaft all the way down and locking the paddle in place or you can separate the two pieces of the SUP paddle shaft to a few feet a piece.

A fixed length SUP paddle shaft of at least 5 feet can be more cumbersome to transport and store as you can imagine.

If you are a complete beginner stand up paddlers and you’re not sure what length of paddle is right for you or even what type of SUP paddle boarding you’ll be doing, we recommend looking for an adjustable paddle shaft for your SUP. That way, you can adjust the length of the paddle as you ride your SUP and adjust it as you need to.

Most adjustable SUP paddles come with an anti-twist shape to them, meaning there is one way to slide the top of the shaft into the bottom. But not all SUP paddles come with anti-twist. We’ve use adjustable paddles without the anti-twist and the paddle just doesn’t feel right when you switch it between your hands because you can never get the handle to line up perfectly with the paddle blade. An anti-twist SUP paddle does away with all of that. It’s on less thing to think about when you are concentrating on not falling into the water.

We think the benefit of an adjustable shaft paddle outweighs any cons.

SUP Paddle Shaft Thickness

SUP paddle shafts are available in a standard diameter (29mm) and a reduced diameter (26.5mm).  

The thickness of the shaft is not important in terms of paddle performance. It’s more important to see which one feels better to hold the paddle in your hands.

SUP Paddle Shaft Flex

SUP Paddle shafts generally come in stiff, medium or soft flex. Stiffer flex paddle shafts are geared towards racing and touring paddlers, medium flex paddle shafts are used by SUP surfers and general SUP paddles who may want a versatile paddle, and softer flex SUP paddle shaft are uses by younger paddle borders.

SUP Paddle Handle Options

SUP paddle handles come in two types: Palm and T handles.

A palm SUP paddle handle is a fuller handle. A T SUP handle is smaller. Paddlers with bigger hands may prefer a palm handle and those with smaller hands may prefer a T handle. It’s really a preference. Choose the paddle handle type that feels best in your hand.

SUP Paddle Blade Size

SUP paddle blades come in small, medium and large sizes.

Paddle blade size is usually determined by rider size and the type of standup paddle boarding they will do.

The heavier you are, the larger the SUP paddle blade should be. Larger blades are more powerful and will give you the additional force that you need to propel yourself through the water.

Smaller blades are easier to use and require much less effort to move through the water. They are good if you want a leisurely ride and don’t want to expend too much energy with each stroke, but they lack the power offered by large blades.

Smaller SUP paddle blades may also be better for SUP surfing because smaller blades are more easily handled when you are exhibiting bursts of energy like when you are paddling for a wave.

SUP Paddle Blade Shape

The shape of a SUP paddle comes down to “Standard” or “Tear-Drop”.

A tear-drop blade shape is widest at the bottom and delivers a powerful stroke. A standard shape is much flatter and easier to stroke.

SUP Paddle Blade Offset (Blade Angle)

The final aspect concerning blade size is the offset, which describes the angle between the shaft and the blade. A greater angle of about 10 degrees, is often best for touring and racing while minimum offset angles of 8 or 9 degrees are best for general surfing.

SUP Paddle Weight

The lighter the paddle, the easier it will be to work with and hold. To put it simply, the lighter a paddle the easier it will be on your body and the more fun you will have standup paddle boarding.

Here is a breakdown of from the lightest to heaviest paddles based on construction. We will assume the size of the SUP paddle shaft and the paddle blade are the same for simplicity’s sake:

WeightMaterialOne-Piece or Adjustable Shaft
LightestCarbon FiberOne-Piece SUP Paddle Shaft
2nd LightestCarbon FiberAdjustable Shaft SUP Paddle Shaft
3rd LightestFiberglassOne-Piece SUP Paddle Shaft
4th LightestFiberglassAdjustable Shaft SUP Paddle Shaft
5th LightestAluminumOne-Piece SUP Paddle Shaft
6th LightestAluminumAdjustable Shaft SUP Paddle Shaft
HeaviestPlasticOne-Piece SUP Paddle Shaft
Relative SUP paddle weight based on construction.

What size paddle do I need for my paddle board?

To determine which size of paddle is right for you, stand it up so that the paddle blade is pressed against the floor. Reach up to the paddle handle and rest your hand on it.

The perfect size paddle will reach your wrist, allowing you to bend your hand over it.

If you’re buying online, this is not a test that you can perform, but the easiest way is to simply add about 10 inches to your total height. You can hedge your bets by getting a SUP paddle with an adjustable shaft.

SUP Paddle FAQs

Why are SUP paddles so expensive?

The cost of SUP paddles varies by brand but are primarily driven by the material they are made of.

Why do paddle board paddles sink?

SUP paddles, specifically adjustable paddles, can take in water. When adjustable paddles have solid plastic blades, the combination of water in the shaft and the weight of the plastic blade can make the paddle sink.

What is the difference in SUP paddles?

The difference in SUP paddles depends on:

  • The material used to make the paddle.
  • The type of handle the paddle uses.
  • Flex of the paddle shaft.
  • The blade angle, size and shape.

Are carbon SUP paddles worth it?

If you are going to be an avid SUP paddler a carbon fiber paddle can be advantageous as compared to a fiberglass or a cheaper paddle. Carbon fiber paddles are lighter and easy to use.

What should I look for in SUP paddle?

Let your budget and usage be your guide. Small budgets and/or SUP paddlers who will get on the water less may opt for a plastic paddle. More avid paddles may want a fiberglass or carbon fiber paddle.

Is fiberglass or aluminum paddle better?

A fiberglass paddle is lighter and more expensive than an aluminum paddle. Which paddle is better will be a matter of your preference, needs and budget.

Summary: Choosing the Best SUP Paddle For You

A good standup paddle board needs a good paddle—it should go without saying. Remember, when you’re looking for the best SUP paddles, you want something that is made from high-quality materials and is the right length. It should also be lightweight but powerful. Most of all, you need a paddle that is within your budget.

Once you have made your decision, it’s time to get out on the water and start paddling!