Just like a good pair of hiking boots can make-or-break your hike, the right SUP paddle will make your time on the water that much more enjoyable. The paddle is the tool that connects you with the board and the water. Like any good tool, quality pays off. The best stand up paddle will be light enough for you to use all day and strong enough to handle any conditions you get into. It should be comfortable, with the right grip and length. So what makes a great paddle?
There are many different materials or composites that have been used to make paddles over the years, but carbon is King!
Carbon Fiber:Carbon fiber is the lightest and strongest material used in paddles. A lightweight paddle will cause less arm fatigue, especially on longer paddles. If you spend a large amount of time on the water, the weight savings of a carbon fiber paddle is well be worth the extra expense.
Fibreglass: Is great for entry level paddles. Fibreglass is stiff, light, and provides a good balance between value and performance.
Wood: Wood paddles are beautiful to look at, and make a great present to an enthusiast but they lack the performance and durability of composite paddles.
Aluminium: Aluminium is inexpensive and used on budget paddles. The drawback is that they are heavier and can bend easily.
Plastic: Another economical material. It is affordable but heavier and often less durable than other materials
The most crucial part of choosing a paddle is getting the right length. A paddle that is too long will tire your arms as you hold them up too high. A paddle that is too short will stress your back as you bend forward to reach the water.
Paddle length greatly depends on the type of paddling you intend to do. Generally speaking, your paddle should be 7-8″. taller than you for cruising on flat water, 6-7″ taller than you are for racing. 5-6″. taller than you for surfing.
Our advice: If the paddle is mainly for yourself – get a fixed paddle cut to your height. Others can still use it for short paddles. If it is to be SHARED or for a family, get an Adjustable paddle.
FIXED LENGTH SUP PADDLES. The best paddle is one made to fit you. It is lighter, stronger, has a better reactive flex and will not take in water. We can cut and glue your paddle to your height in 10 minutes, in-store.
ADJUSTABLE PADDLES. Are best if you need to share your paddle with others. They have a shaft that can extend and lock in different lengths. They are slightly heavier than a fixed paddle and can sometimes take in a little water.
QUICK GUIDE TO ADJUSTING YOUR PADDLE LENGTH. With arms straight, set the overall height to just below your wrist watch.
SUP PADDLE – BLADE SIZE Paddles are divided into two main groups, paddles for surf and paddles for cruising/touring. A surf paddle has a larger surface area for extra leverage against the water. Surf paddles are great for bracing and can also be used for white water SUP and SUP racing. A cruising SUP paddle has a smaller surface area which puts less stress on the arms while paddling long distances. There are also mid-sized paddles which fit the widest range of paddlers and work well for both surfing and touring.
PALM GRIPS The most common grip for the top handle is the palm shape. When paddlers enter surf and white water they prefer a T-shaped grip that your fingers can wrap around so there is less risk of losing it in rough water. Some paddlers prefer a ball-shaped grip, but ultimately the grip shape you choose is just that— personal preference.
WHY THE BEND ABOVE THE BLADE? The bend just above the blade allows for a more efficient stroke. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the blade points towards the front of the SUP. This maximises the stoke in front of your body and allows the blade to slip up out of the water at the end of the stroke as opposed to lifting water.
ADDITIONAL TIPS. Remember that for general stand up paddling, you should choose a paddle that is between 6-8 inches taller than you are. At Balmoral Paddlesurf we have committed to only stocking high quality paddles that can be relied on to never leave you up the proverbial creek. Consider the best paddle you can afford; it may be expensive now, but it will put a smile on your face with every stroke you take on the water.