Paddling Out: The Differences in SUP Paddles
Up the Creek Without a Paddle!?
We’ve all heard of this popular phrase, but it can actually be just as detrimental to be up the creek with the wrong paddle! It’s often the case that enthusiastic, new paddleboarders spend an impressive amount of time researching and learning about which SUP (stand-up paddleboards) is best for them, but will be left high and dry by not taking into account what SUP paddles are suitable.
When selecting SUP paddles, there are several important parameters to carefully consider. With this in mind, let’s get down into the nitty-gritty, so you can pick a paddle that fits your paddleboarding style perfectly.
SUP Paddle Materials
When picking out SUP paddles, you’ll have plenty of different materials to choose from. While this may be confusing at the start, we’ll make sense of each material type and what its pros and cons are. The main materials that SUP paddles are usually made of include a combination of plastic, aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber.
Aluminum is usually used as the material of choice for budget-friendly paddle shafts. An aluminum shaft, like that used on the AquaPlanet Aluminum Paddle, is usually the ideal choice for beginners or intermediates who might be going on shorter rides or are just getting their bearings in the world of SUPing.
This material is usually paired with an aluminum paddle shaft and is used to make grips and blades. Since plastic is durable and efficient to produce, it helps further ensure that a paddle is budget-conscious for beginners.
Fiberglass is a sturdy, lightweight material that is used to produce the shaft and blade of SUP paddles. These types of SUP paddles are quite rigid and help transfer power more efficiently during each stroke. Fiberglass is usually more expensive than aluminum paddles but is a cheaper option than carbon fiber. Typically, this is a good option for boarders who are somewhat experienced.
This is the lightest material of the lot and is therefore the most expensive. The highest-end paddles will use carbon fiber to construct both the shaft and blade. The unrivaled stiffness of carbon fiber helps transfer power very efficiently with each stroke, making it the ideal companion for boarders who are more advanced or enjoy longer trips out on the water.
With the benefits and drawbacks of each type of material now clear, let’s take a look at how you can pick which SUP paddles will be right for you!
The shape of your paddle’s blade will greatly affect how your SUP behaves in the water. Usually, the smaller and narrower the blade of your paddle, the better you will be at sharp turns – ideal for surfers. Since narrower blades let you paddle with a faster cadence, they’re also a good option for use on calm and flat water. On the other hand, a wider blade allows you to get more power into each stroke, though it will come at the cost of a lower cadence. People who go touring or racing might want to invest in a larger paddle size since they permit more power, speed, and momentum per stroke.
Many paddles are adjustable in length, but it’s always best to make sure that the paddle you pick can fit your requirements. A general rule of thumb is that when you pick SUP paddles, you should opt for one that is around 8-12 inches taller than you are. However, if you’re into surfing, you might want to opt for a paddle that’s a little shorter than standard, while long-distance tourers often like paddles of a longer length. Finding an adjustable paddle, like the Hurley SUP Paddle, will help take the guesswork out of paddle height and allow you to try out different heights for different activities.
What Activities Get You Out on the Water?
The type of activities you enjoy will definitely determine the type of SUP paddles you will gravitate toward. For example, if you’re a long-distance tourer, you’re likely to be engaging in several thousand strokes each time you’re out on the water. This will require a lightweight paddle. However, if you’re just heading out on the water for some yoga on your SUP, you won’t need to paddle out very far, and a more budget-friendly option will suit you just fine!
How Long do You Paddle For?
Linked with the previous point, the typical duration of your boarding sessions will also affect what SUP paddles will be suitable for you. If you’re someone who enjoys brief forays out onto the water just to soak in some sun and fun with friends, budget SUP paddles are likely the way to go. However, if you often find yourself out on the water for long periods of time, it is definitely worth spending more and getting a lightweight paddle that will not fatigue your muscles as quickly.
What Type of Water is Near You?
The type of water you paddle in also plays a huge part in what types of SUP paddles will help you excel. For example, if you’re paddling in rough, whitewater, you’ll want a paddle that’s sturdy enough to handle bumps and scrapes. In this case, fiberglass is your best bet since it is designed to be rigid and strong. Carbon fiber is the best option for deep ocean paddling since it is the most rigid and most efficient at giving you bang-for-buck with each stroke, which is a must – especially when paddling against strong ocean currents. An aluminum paddle is ideal for calm, placid lakes and streams where the conditions are not super challenging.
A Stroke of Genius
Now that you know what types of paddles you can expect to find, as well as the parameters you’ll need to consider when picking one, you can maximize your fun out on the water! Remember to take things like your height, the paddle material, the width of the blade, the duration of activities you participate in, and the type of water you most commonly board in, when picking your paddle. With the right paddle, you’ll see a huge improvement in your SUP experience!