Choosing the right paddle is as important as choosing the right paddleboard!
In this blog I am going to go through the different paddles and things you need to think about. Your strength, injuries and type of paddleboarding will all factor into choosing the appropriate paddle. Paddles can start from around the £50 mark for an alloy paddle and go up to hundreds pounds for a top-end lightweight paddle.
Lets try and navigate the world of paddleboard paddles to find the right one for you!
BLADE, SHAFT. HANDLE – These are the three components of a paddleboard paddle.
What is the paddle blade?
The blade is the part of the paddle that you dip into the water when you’re taking a stroke. The size, shape and offset of the blade all affect how the paddle performs. The majority of entry paddles that come with a paddleboard tend to be medium size blades as this covers a broad range of paddlers but it might not be the right paddle for you.
There’s no hard rule for determining exactly what size paddle blade you need. Over time, you might develop a preference for a certain size blade based on the type of paddling you do and other factors. However, if you’re new to supping let’s go through the basic theory of paddle blades:
What are smaller blades good for?
A small blade moves less water with each stroke, making it easier to pull the blade through the water which means you use less effort with each stroke. A small blade is a bit like a high gear on a bike, it’s easier but you would have to paddle more (high cadence).
Essentially, smaller blades mean you will tire less easily and are generally suited to lighter paddlers and beginners. A small blade might also be a good option if you’re a SUP racer or long-distance tourer and you want to preserve energy for the long haul.
What are larger blades good for?
A large blade moves a lot of water, which allows a person to take powerful strokes to get their board up to speed quickly. This would be like having a low gear on a bike – it requires more effort to paddle because it catches more water (low cadence).
If you’re a SUP surfer, for example, you might like a larger blade that will allow you to take a few powerful strokes in order to quickly position your board to catch a wave.
In general large blades are better suited to heavier and stronger paddlers or a specific paddleboarding activity.
If you suffer from any of the following, you may not have the right paddle blade:
• Sore shoulders
• Rapid fatigue
• Difficulty maintaining a high cadence
• Pain/soreness after paddling and/or next day
• Hard to paddle in straight line
Shape of the blade
There are also different shapes that a paddle blade can come in. Performance differences between blade shapes can be subtle, but as you gain experience, you may develop a preference for one shape over another. There’s teardrop blades, rectangular blades, different degrees of offset and dihedral paddles. If you’re new to paddleboarding, I wouldn’t worry about these too much and I won’t go into detail here!
What material should my paddle be made of?
What is your paddle made of? The material used to design your paddle will have an impact on the weight of your paddle, and in turn, an impact on your paddle fatigue.
Many entry level paddles that come with boards tend to be alloy paddles. When you’re starting out paddleboarding these can sometimes be the best option because they are the cheapest on the market.
However, as you progress in your paddleboarding you may want to consider something more lightweight as you will really notice the difference. If paddleboaridng is going to be a regular activity for you, it’s really worth upgrading your paddle to a carbon or glass paddle, it will make your adventures much more enjoyable.
What should the size of your paddle be?
As a starting point for determining your paddle length, Laird Hamilton (the pioneer of paddle boarding) advises to make your paddle length 3-4 inches above your head. However, the size will also depend on the different sport, for surfing, you may want it slightly shorter and for racing, slightly longer.
He then suggests adjusting from there based on your needs, mobility and experience. Over time you will likely come up with a formula that you can quickly apply based on your anatomy and paddle style!
The aim is to have the paddle blade fully engaged while your top arm is no higher than shoulder height.
Custom fixed length or adjustable?
Choosing between a custom fixed length SUP paddle and an adjustable SUP paddle? Many advanced paddlers prefer fixed length paddles because they are constructed with lighter materials and are stiffer which helps transfer the power of your paddle stroke. Fixed length paddles are great for SUP racing and SUP touring for this reason, but before you purchase one, you need to make sure you figure out the perfect length for the type of paddling you like to do.
This means that if you are a beginner, an adjustable paddle is a better option. Adjustable paddles are great because they are versatile. If you enjoy SUP surfing, SUP touring and recreational paddle boarding, you can use an adjustable paddle for all of these different SUP activities AND you can share the paddle with your friends.
I hope this has helped in guiding you on what paddles might be best for you!