With the ever increasing popularity of Stand Up Paddleboarding (or SUP for short), the demand for and availability of different types of SUP Paddles has risen. Many paddleboard brands and stand alone SUP Paddle manufacturers have developed a wide range of SUP paddles which start from around the £50 mark for an Alloy three piece paddle and go up to a couple of hundreds pounds worth of top-end carbon SUP paddle that promises to make you a guru of stand up paddleboarding. So we at The SUP Company understand the importance of choosing the right SUP paddle for you that suits and meets your requirements while also considering the limits imposed by your budget.
Read on for a few pointers on how to choose the best SUP paddle for you
Components of a SUP Paddle
Which SUP paddle is best for starting out?
For most when starting something new, budget is often a consideration. This means for many purchasing an Alloy SUP paddle. Alloy SUP paddles are good, solid, durable paddles that will last forever and get you on the water without huge expense (at The SUP Company all our inflatable SUP packages come with at least one good quality Alloy SUP paddle). While the shaft of these paddles are Alloy, typically the blades are a nylon / PU plastic, again extremely durable. Alloy paddles do have some shortcomings though, most notably the heavy weight of their construction. Generally speaking the lighter the paddle the less effort is required to paddle, meaning the further you can travel and spend more time on the water. Nylon / PU plastic blades also have a tendency to flex, meaning that don't deliver full amount of power from your paddle stroke.
While we are very pleased to have a lot of returning customers, we find most return to upgrade their paddles for lighter options. So in answer to the question; which SUP paddle is best for starting out? Our answer would be one that makes paddling the easiest and therefore most enjoyable. Alloy SUP paddles are good and do everything you would expect, but if you are going to be paddling more and more then it is worth going for the lightest construction you can.If it’s your paddlebboard and you spend a lot of time exploring your local flat-waters, your goal is usually to find something lightweight and blade surface area resulting in an efficient and powerful stroke. Where as if you share the paddle board among family members large and small, you’ll probably want something that is adjustable and durable like an Alloy paddle.
Our SUP paddle upgrades are a really affordable way of doing this with big savings. The most popular paddles we are offer are the glassfibre nylon / PU SUP paddle and the glassfibre SUP paddles - both of which are great lighter weight alternatives to an Alloy SUP paddle.
What length should my SUP paddle be?
SUP paddle length is a key factor to getting the most from your time on the water. Our SUP paddle length guide below gives you a good starting point but don't be shy about tweaking this to find what is best for you. You have to factor in the paddleboard you are using and ideally the type of paddling you will do. The eventual aim is to have the SUP paddles blade fully engaged at the point of your stroke called 'the catch' (when you are first engaging your paddle into the water - think no splashing!) while your top arm is no higher than shoulder height. To do this correctly a thicker paddleboard will need a longer paddle length.
What is a dihedral on a SUP paddle?
A dihedral SUP paddle has a spine on the blade, giving the power-side of the blade a peaked contour normally starting from the top blade (where it meets the shaft) and fading towards to the bottom edge.The purpose of a dihedral blade is to increase the SUP paddle's stability throughout the stroke. As your SUP paddle enters the water, the dihedral spine creates a path for the blade and causes the water to shed off both sides of the blade to prevent fluttering (much like the bow of a boat but under the water). Fluttering is when the blade wobbles from side to side during a stroke. If you have troubles with blade fluttering in your stroke, then a dihedral blade may be a good choice for you. As less fluttering means you are less likely to bang the rails of your board with your SUP paddle and are more likely to achieve a more even and efficient stroke.
Is there a difference in performance between a 3 piece and fixed length paddle?
Choosing between a custom fixed length SUP paddle, a two piece adjustable SUP paddle and a three piece adjustable SUP paddle does require some thought. If you are looking purely for the best performing SUP paddle then a fixed length SUP paddle cut to your fit you and requirements is best. As the SUP paddle shaft is one piece and most likely to be a glassfibre carbon composite or perhaps 100% carbon, then the designed flex in the shaft will be consistent and as intended by the designer. However, as the SUP paddle is fitted to you, it does mean that it simply won't suit others (and you are unlikely to even want to share it for any length of time!).
Two piece adjustable SUP paddles do allow for use by a broader range of people and to be shared amongst the family as they can be adjusted to fit. These paddles also retain almost all of the design characteristics of the shaft, as the adjustable section is only in the top third of the paddle. Although these paddles are slightly heavier than their one piece counterparts. However both the fixed length and two piece adjustable SUP paddles are a consideration when looking to store and transport your SUP board and paddle.
This is where 3 piece adjustable paddles come into their own; particularly when paired with an inflatable SUP. Designed to fit in the least accommodating of inflatable SUP bags, 3 piece SUP paddles are extremely easy to transport and live with. Considering the vast majority of brands also offer their most high end paddles in a 3 piece variant, it is not like you are going to miss much in the way of performance (although flex in the shafts is slightly reduced due to the connections and the overall weights are marginally higher).
Why are some SUP paddles offered with different sized blades?
The size of a SUP Paddle's blade can be compared directly to the gears on a bike: the higher the gear or the smaller the blade, the less effort each stroke requires with less forward motion generated. The lower the gear or the bigger the blade, the more energy is needed and the more forward motion is generated. Yet it is possible for two paddlers, one on a smaller blade and one on a larger blade to travel at the same speed. How you might ask? Well it comes down to stroke rate or in cycling terms 'Cadence' (pronounced 'kay-dence'). Cadence means high or low number of revolutions / high or low paddle stroke rate. If you look at this over a distance of say a couple of miles; someone on to large a blade would tire quickly, whereas if they were on a smaller / correct size blade then they would be well matched to cover the distance. There is of course the risk of being on to smaller a blade, meaning the paddler is simply not getting the desired balance of efficient forward motion from each stroke.
The vast majority of SUP paddles sold tend to be around what is accepted as being a medium sized blade as this size covers the broadest possible range of paddlers. Medium sized SUP paddle blades are ideal for general paddling as they offer easy cruising with minimum of effort.
Some manufacturers, taking Starboard as an example, offer a paddle in a range of blades and in some instances shafts and types of handle. These include smaller paddle blades offering the ability for a higher paddle stroke / cadence rate and bursts of acceleration due to the low levels of energy required for each stroke.
For most paddlers, given the amount of time they spent paddling the largest gains come from improving the quality of the materials used in making their paddle - such as upgrading to fiberglass or carbon. But for those that would like to go a stage further and find a SUP paddle that truly 'works' with them, then please get in contact with us at The SUP Company or why not book a visit to our Test Centre. We have not only the largest selection of paddle-boards available in the UK but paddles too.
What makes a SUP paddle best suited to distance cruising and touring?
What makes a SUP paddle best suited to surfing?
What makes a SUP paddle best suited to racing?
What is an Alloy paddle construction?
Alloy SUP paddles are often the least expensive option and in many cases are included within a SUP package. These SUP paddles are a good starting point because they are strong, durable paddles that get you paddling from the get go. Alloy SUP paddles are referred to as Alloy paddles because the paddle shaft is constructed of alloy. While an Alloy SUP paddles blade will nearly always be made of a nylon plastic otherwise referred to as PU (short for Polyurethane). Alloy SUP paddles nearly always are the heaviest construction yet most hard wearing, making them well suited to starting out, familes and hire operations. However for most paddlers are quickly left wanting more from their Alloy SUP paddle, preferring one that is lighter and delivers more power, such as a Glassfibre Nylon / PU, Glassfibre or Carbon construction. Alloy SUP Paddles are available in fixed and two piece adjustable, although three piece SUP paddles are the most popular due to the ease of transport.
What is a nylon / PU paddle blade?
Glassfibre Nylon / PU SUP Paddles are a complete hybrid of a SUP paddle. The simplest description is taking that of the shaft of a Glassfibre SUP paddle and mating it with a Nylon / PU paddle blade most often found on an Alloy SUP paddle. This results in a SUP paddle that is light weight and yet highly durable thanks to the robustness of the Nylon / PU blade. The Glassfibre paddle shaft has a flex that stores and releases energy during the paddle stroke increasing efficiency. This flex also means the paddle is more comfortable to paddle with as it is more forgiving on a paddlers joints. While the reduced weight means less fatigue, allowing you to paddle further for longer.
Given the relatively low cost of these paddles (especially when looking for a paddle upgrade while purchasing a SUP package) Glassfibre Nylon / PU SUP paddles are extremely popular, making the whole paddling experience even more enjoyable.
What is a glassfibre or carbon hybrid construction?
Glassfibre SUP Paddles offer a significant step up in performance over Alloy SUP paddles. Made entirely from Glassfibre, the paddle shaft have a flex to them that stores and releases energy during the paddle stroke increasing efficiency. This flex also means that Glassfibre SUP paddles are more comfortable to paddle with as they are more forgiving on a paddlers joints. Also much lighter in weight than Alloy SUP paddles, this reduced swing weight means that Glassfibre SUP paddles create less fatigue allowing you to paddle further for longer. Often a Glassfibre SUP paddles price point sits firmly between an Alloy and a Carbon SUP paddle. The benefits of a Glassfibre SUP paddle makes it is easy to justify the additional spend without having to go to the larger expensive of a Carbon SUP paddle.
Why have a carbon construction paddle?
Lighter is better when it comes to SUP paddles and there is no lighter than a Carbon SUP Paddle. These SUP paddles have the lightest of all constructions meaning less paddler fatigue and being able to paddle for longer and harder. Carbon SUP Paddles are also incredibly strong. Due to the stiff paddle shaft each positive phase of the paddle stroke is translated into forward motion. Carbon SUP paddles also tend to have more technical paddle blades ranging from those a dihedral for added stability, to very high aspect blades that are suited to racing. If your budget allows, a Carbon SUP paddle will transform your time paddling from great to superb; the difference really is that big.