As the majority of SUP boards are sold for beginner and recreational paddleboarders, they don’t pay too much attention to the paddle – to one of the most important items in stand-up paddleboarding.
We get it, choosing the right SUP board can already get time-consuming and overwhelming, and by the time anyone has the interest to look into paddles, it’s the normal flow of things to forget about its importance. Luckily many paddleboard bundles come with a SUP included, therefore what you pay is what you get, and for a recreational paddler, it doesn’t make much of a difference. If you are interested to learn more about the different technologies which could help maximize your time and effort on the water – check out our guide down below.
In this review, we are going to overlook all the possible types of paddleboard paddles – their materials, sizes, blade types, flexibility, and much more.
The SUP paddle must be one of the most overlooked yet important gear items by beginner paddleboarders.
What to expect from a good SUP paddle?
A properly chosen SUP paddle has to be comfortable, light, durable, and have the right length. You want to be looking for a smooth and efficient paddling performance for the right paddling condition. Bear in mind that extra weight on the paddle wears you out quicker, and the shape + angle of the blade play a huge role in endurance. Also, the different materials and blade shapes have their own unique set of characteristics.
Choosing a standup paddleboard paddle comes down to:
- Weight – To choose the suitable blade size of the paddle.
- Riding preferences – Round or rectangular shaped blade.
- Board/riding type – The angle of the blade. 7 to 12 degrees.
- Budget – Plastic, aluminum, carbon, fiberglass, or a wooden paddle.
- Personal preferences – Carbon, fiberglass. 1-piece, 2-piece, 3-piece, surf or a touring paddle.
Review: Types of Paddleboard Paddles
Parts → Types → Blade Size / Type → Adjusting Length → Materials → Flexibility → FAQ
What are the parts of a paddleboard paddle?
- T-Grip (Palm Grip)
– the handle.
– The core of the paddle.
– Front side is called the power face. The backside, for the reverse strokes, is called a non-power face.
– The bottom third of the paddle is usually in one piece, while the upper part can be adjusted for length.
Fixed or adjustable SUP Paddle?
- 1-piece, a fixed paddle is often preferred by advanced paddlers who know exactly what they want. Fixed paddles are more durable.
- An adjustable paddle has the benefit of being used by multiple paddlers or trying out different settings in order to find the preferred length.
Therefore, a fixed paddle can be a risky buy for a beginner. A single-piece paddle often goes hand-in-hand with a solid paddle board and is used by those who know exactly what they want.
There are lots of good-quality 3-piece paddles around, often found on SUP bundles that start from $600 for the board + paddle. 4-piece SUP paddles are often used on Stand-up Kayak/SUPs which means there’s an extra blade for seated paddling.
- 1-piece – Wooden, fiberglass, carbon.
- 2-piece – Carbon, fiberglass, aluminum, plastic.
- 3-piece – Carbon, fiberglass, aluminum, plastic.
- 4 piece – Carbon, fiberglass, aluminum, plastic.
What size blade & which type?
- Bigger person = bigger paddle
- Different disciplines = different types & offset
Good news – the SUP paddles come in easily understandable sizes – Small/Medium (S/M), Medium/Large (M/L), Large/Extra Large (L/XL). What sets them apart besides the size of the paddle is also the is the curvature of the blade. Better known as the blade offset.
Paddle Blade Size Recommendations for Recreational Paddlers:
- S/M – 80-90sq. in
Less than 150lb paddler
- M/L – 90-100sq. in
150 – 200lbs paddler
- L/XL – 100-120sq. in
SUP Paddle Types
There are two main types of paddleboard paddle blades – rectangular and round.
- Rectangular paddles have a long & narrow shape which is often used for racing and performance.
- Round paddles (a.k.a tear-drop) have a large surface area. Slow cadence – powerful strokes. Found on all-around and surfing SUPs.
Offset – also known as the angle or curvature of the paddle blade is another factor that determines the outcome of your performance.
- 7° – Surfing, whitewater.
- 10° – All-around paddling, touring, yoga, basically any flat-water recreational paddling.
- 12° – Racing.
To conclude, the more curvature a paddle has – the better it is for faster speeds and longer distances. High offset (steep/curved) paddles require a paddler to be fit in order to maximize its full potential. The reason why surfing or whitewater SUPs (river rapids, etc) have the smallest curvature is that one needs a couple of powerful strokes in order to get full control over the board’s movement. Speed and distance are not as important for surfing.
All-around paddle blade offset is the mid-way of those two, therefore a hybrid choice.
What’s the correct SUP paddle length?
Recommended paddle height for different disciplines:
- 8″ to 12″ for Flatwater & touring
- 6″ – 8″ for surfing/whitewater/river paddling.
- 10″ – 12″ for racing.
*Measured above your height.
To measure the length of the paddle, simply place the blade on the ground vertically in front of you, and use the adjustment scale of the shaft as a reference.
What material SUP paddle to get?
- Material determines the price of the paddle.
- Entry-level boards use mixed materials on the blade and the shaft.
- There are many carbon 3-piece paddles, which means it is not only a choice for beginners.
- Wood & fiberglass paddles are niche products.
Aluminum shaft & plastic blade (Low $)
The cheapest option that’s found on many cheap paddleboard bundles- Aluminum shaft & plastic blade. While this combination does the trick for recreational riders, it may lack the performance for advanced paddling.
- Aluminum – lightweight and durable, but not as flexible and vibration reducing as carbon or fiberglass paddles.
- Plastic (Nylon) – with no extra features, it’s just kinda there. Doing its duty.
- Price range: $30 – $150
Fiberglass paddle & blade (Mid/High $)
The fiberglass paddle is not a common sight, but the material is widely used all along with the water-sports scene – sailboats, surfboards, etc. Fiberglass is not as durable as aluminum when it comes to direct damage, but they have good flexibility at a lightweight. Surfers prefer fiberglass surfboards over epoxy and anything else due to their distinct feel to the ride, especially in messy conditions.
- Price range: $150 – $300+
Carbon fiber paddle (High $)
Carbon fiber is the #1 choice for intermediate and advanced standup paddlers. It has the lightest weight and ultra-durable construction, therefore the best weight to strength ratio. Although not as prone to direct damage, a carbon paddle is the ultimate tool.
- Price range: $200 – $400
Wooden paddle (Custom)
There are also wooden paddles available, mainly made of Cherry, Walnut, or Bamboo. Hardwood is the main type while there are some other models that have a wooden veneer paddle.
- Price range: $300+
The flexibility of a SUP paddle plays an important role towards efficient energy conversion. Premium paddles have a slightly different feel as there’s much more technology built into the shaft and the paddle.
Paddle blades are much like surfboard fins
– they might seem just a blank piece of equipment, but there’s so much more going behind the scenes.
Therefore, in order to master the skill of paddleboarding – we’d recommend you to look into the premium products selection and read their full descriptions. To better understand what’s it all about. This not only gives you a better understanding of what you will be using – but it can also have a placebo effect, which means both outcomes are right!
A paddle that’s too stiff will wear out the arms much faster, therefore premium paddles have some flex to them.
- Carbon – Stiff yet great vibration reduction. A favored choice among fit or above-average paddlers.
- Fiberglass – Flexible and good vibration reduction. A high-quality all-around or performance paddle.
- Aluminum – Not as flexible, but lightweight and affordable.
- Plastic (Nylon) – The plastic blade does its trick for the entry-level paddler, but it might limit the progression in the long run.
Conclusions / Our Thoughts
Choosing the right paddle has become quite easy since you basically get what you pay. The budget of $200 is where to look for a good mid-range paddleboard paddle, and $300 is where’s the widest variety of top-range paddles.
Whether you’d like to get a 1-piece, 2-piece, or a 3-piece paddle – it all comes down to a personal preference. As some experts state that the comparison between inflatable and rigid boards comes down to performance vs portability – that’s not the case with paddles. Many high-end paddles are 2-piece paddles, while the 1-piece paddle is not a common occurrence. 3-piece paddles are often found in the iSUP bundles due to their superb portability. 4-piece paddles on the other hand are only used among kayak/SUPs, or by those who’d like to paddle while kneeling.
For the shape – check out some top inflatable SUP brands and you’ll get an idea of which size and type blade they’ve packed with their 13 different types of SUPs. An average sup blade has a tear-drop shape, while racing and performance blades are long and narrow.
When it comes to materials – we’d strongly recommend getting a carbon or a fiberglass paddle. Although carbon fiber & its composites are have already been dominating the sporting goods market in the past 5 years, a fiberglass paddle is much more of a niche product. If you come from a surfing background – you’d want to look into it as fiberglass as it is widely used among surfboards, boats, etc.
Choosing the angle of the paddle should be referred to the recommendations above – 7, 10, or 12 degrees. The less angle the blade has (7° = steeper) – the more power it converts in a single stroke, while the more angle the blade has (12′ = slacker) the better it paddles for longer distances & greater speeds.
What to think of 3-piece SUP paddles?
Are they durable?
As the majority of SUP boards online are inflatable, and rather affordable – the quality of their 3-piece paddles might confuse the consumer and lead them to think that “telescopic” or “multi-piece” paddles are not great. While the multi-piece SUP paddles benefit from compact storage and easy transportation, the quality of the paddle comes down to the material and which brand has made the paddle.
- Best storage solution.
- Adjust and try out new lengths on the go.
- Tons of variations to choose from.
A cheap three-piece SUP paddle is okay for recreational paddlers, while advanced paddlers would like to upgrade the cheaper – plastic/aluminum paddle to a much more advanced carbon fiber.
What are the different styles of paddling?
Again, one of the most important factors about stand-up paddling is the technique. We’d like to point out three main types of paddling: 1) All-around & touring 2) Surfing & whitewater 3) Racing.
1. All-around, relaxed, touring: slow paddling where there’s no importance of speed or power.
2. Surfing & whitewater paddling requires fast and powerful strokes to steer the board quickly.
3. Racing paddles are optimized for the board to perform best when there’s constant speed in the waterline. These paddles have to be in the right size (not too big / too small), be super light, flexible and durable to maximize the speed and distance.
Do you need a cushion for the paddle shaft?
The majority of paddles have no cushion which means the shaft area is clear. While the paddles with cushions can be more comfortable, one would need paddling gloves to prevent blisters from appearing on your palms.
Are 1-piece SUP paddles better than 2 or 3-piece paddles?
The short answer is NO since many high-end paddles ($300+) have multi-piece constructions. A single-piece paddle is preferred by those who know exactly what length, material, blade angle, and blade type they want. A 1-piece paddle is basically a tailor-fit product.
What are the popular SUP 1-piece SUP paddle materials?
Carbon, Fiberglass, and Wooden paddles are the only materials to find a single-piece paddle. Each of the materials has a different feel and characteristic to the ride.
How to choose a SUP paddle?
The main purpose of a standup paddleboard paddle is to propel efficiently in the water – therefore a good paddle should allow you to move in the most optimized way regards to distance and speed. Although choosing THE RIGHT paddle can be overwhelming for beginners, we recommend choosing a round-shaped (teardrop) paddle blade for all-around purposes.
How much SUP paddles cost?
- From $20 to $150 – Aluminum shaft & plastic blade.
- Fiberglass paddles cost around $250 on average.
- Carbon fiber paddles cost from $150 to $300 and sometimes over.
What are the best SUP paddle brands?
- Kiola paddle – Focuses on SUP paddles only.
- Shaw & Penny – Wooden SUP paddle experts.
- Red Paddle Co – ISUP specialists.
- Or find your favorite among the 45 Best SUP Brands in 2022
*This is a work-in-progress article which means if we forgot something important or you’d like something to add – feel free to let us & others know about it in the comments section!
I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.