Look for a SUP Paddle that is light enough to use for hours and strong enough to handle most conditions. The main thing is that you need to feel comfortable with it: it should have a nice grip and be light enough so you can enjoy your time out on the water.
The first thing to consider are materials. The following lists their benefits and limitations:
This material is commonly used for both the blade and the shaft and it is light, stiff and is a good balance of value and performance.
Used for the whole paddle or sometimes just the blade, wood is relatively lightweight, sustainable and just feels warm to the touch in a way that no other synthetic does. Wood paddles are usually gorgeous and make a great gift.
This is the lightest and strongest material for paddles and is also the highest end. Most say it’s worth every penny to avoid arm fatigue, especially on longer journeys. If you plan to become a regular paddler, it is worth the expense.
This is one of the most affordable materials and it is heavier.
Another economical material, plastic is molded into grips and blades. Also heavier.
The most important part of finding a paddle is to make sure it is the right length. Too long and your arms will tire from being up too high. Too short and you’ll hurt your back leaning over. Here are some general guidelines: Racers need paddles 10-12 inches taller than their head, flatwater touring paddlers need paddles that are 8-10 inches taller than them, and surfers should look for something 6 – 8 inches taller.
These are great if more than one person plans to use the paddle.
Cut to length:
The best option is to have a paddle specifically cut for you! We’re definitely able to create a custom length here at Tumalo Creek.
The two main groups of paddles are for touring and surfing. Surf paddles will have a larger surface area for extra leverage in the water. These work well with whitewater and racing. Touring SUP paddles have a smaller surface area, which puts less stress on the arms when traveling long distances.
OK… this is going to sound counter-intuitive, but the blade bends forward at the end of the shaft. That’s right, it points forward not backward. This allows the blade to come out of the water at the end of the stroke instead of lifting up water.
These allow for a more neutral wrist position when paddling and are usually high-end options. They make a lot of difference for longer trips and tours.
Other tips from our in-house SUP expert, Sue Fox:
A great way to find the correct SUP paddle length is to put the blade in front of your foot and reach your arm straight up. The t-grip should touch right below your hand on your wrist.
We’ve got lots of interesting high-end paddles in the backroom of the shop you can demo if you want to try something different. Just ask!