Paddleboarders can spend a significant chunk of time finding the perfect board, but frequently overlook the importance of a high-quality paddle.
In this detailed SUP paddle guide, we’re going to walk you through the process of choosing the perfect paddleboard paddle to suit your preferences, comfort levels, activities, and strength requirements.
Our team at NIXY Sports has been living and breathing stand-up paddleboards (SUP) for over 15+ years, helping thousands of customers unleash their inner adventurer on the water with our quality paddleboards, paddles, dry bags, and gear.
We’ll walk you through the SUP paddle selection process, which involves choosing the right material, selecting a blade size & blade offset, picking the appropriate paddle blade length, and selecting a blade shape for burst output or efficiency.
Let’s dive right in.
Choosing a SUP Paddle Material
Choosing the right material for your SUP paddle directly affects the cost, weight, stiffness, strength, and flexibility of your paddle out on the water. Your choice of SUP paddle will depend on whether you’ll be surfing, racing, or using your paddleboard in a more casual or multipurpose way.
Aluminum SUP Paddles
Aluminum paddles are provided in most entry-level SUP packages and are typically the most affordable, costing anywhere from $60 - $100 on the low-end. The shaft of these paddles is made of aluminum, while the paddle blade itself is usually plastic.
While affordable, aluminum paddles are heavier than their carbon or fiberglass counterparts, can sink if they take on water, and offer poor flexibility.
For SUP novices or anyone paddleboarding on a budget, aluminum paddles are a great entry-level option that allows them to get acquainted with the activity without breaking the bank.
Wood SUP Paddles
Wood paddles are beautiful in appearance, but they often cost more and weigh more than aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber paddles.
They aren’t maintenance-free either, requiring a degree of care to keep them varnished and protected from rot. When it comes to practicality, you’re likely better off hanging your wooden paddles in the boathouse on display rather than taking them out on the water.
Fiberglass SUP Paddles
Fiberglass is one of the most popular materials in the stand-up paddleboard and surfing world, perfect for intermediate paddlers who prefer a flexible paddle shaft. These paddles are moderately lightweight and help reduce fatigue when compared to paddles made of aluminum/plastic.
Fiberglass SUP paddles are a perfect middle-ground choice when it comes to affordability since they’re more expensive than aluminum/plastic paddles and more affordable when compared to high-end carbon fiber SUP paddles. A fiberglass paddle will typically run anywhere from $100 - $250.
If you’re a recreational paddler, non-competitive SUP racer, or SUP surfer, a fiberglass paddle may be the perfect choice for you.
Carbon Fiber SUP Paddles
Carbon fiber paddles are the gold standard, being the stiffest and most lightweight paddles available. SUP paddles made of carbon fiber are also the most expensive due to their high-performance qualities.
The unique molecular structure of carbon fiber allows it to very efficiently transfer power from your muscles to your stroke, propelling you forward with remarkable thrust.
Investing in a carbon fiber paddle will allow you to experience less fatigue, paddle faster, and paddle further with the increased performance carbon provides.
SUP Paddle Blade Size Selection
The size of your paddle blade will determine the power behind each stroke.
Large SUP Paddle Blades (90 sq. in - 100 sq. in)
Larger blades lead to a slower padding cadence and are more suited to larger well-conditioned paddlers with fast-moving boards.
For novice paddlers, a large blade provides increased stability which can be preferable while learning the ropes.
When you need to move quickly with increased power output, better control, or a lower cadence, a large-bladed paddle is preferable.
For medium & large body types (150 - 200lbs.): 90-100 sq. in. paddle blades are preferred.
Small SUP Paddle Blades (79 sq. in - 89 sq. in)
Small paddle blades are an excellent choice for anyone who prefers a quick paddle cadence or anyone suffering from overuse injuries or joint pain due to the gentler nature of a smaller paddle blade. They are also preferable for smaller paddlers.
If you’re paddling long-distance and need energy efficiency, want increased acceleration, or desire a higher paddle cadence, a small-bladed paddle is preferable.
For small & medium body types (less than 150 lbs.): 80-90 sq. in. paddle blades are preferred.
Signs Your Paddle Blade is Too Big
If your paddle blade is currently too large, you may notice symptoms such as:
- Sore shoulders
- Rapid fatigue
- Back pain
- Difficulty maintaining a high paddle cadence
- Difficulty paddling in a straight line
- Experiencing pain and soreness after paddling or the next day
Signs Your Paddle Blade is Too Small
If your paddle blade is currently too small, you may experience:
- Lack of acceleration
- A decreased top-speed
- Lack of stroke power
- A consistently high heart rate while paddling
The Blade Offset of your SUP Paddle
The blade offset of your SUP paddle describes the degree to which the blade angles forward from the shaft. This angle determines how vertical your paddle blade is when it travels through the water, which directly affects the amount of power you get out of each stroke.
SUP paddles are available in blade offset angles from 5 to 15 degrees.
Straight Paddles (Low Blade Offset/Angle)
Straight paddles have blade offset angles close to 5 degrees. These can be preferable for a SUP surfer who wants fast power delivery.
Angled Paddles (Curved Blade Offset/Angle)
Angled paddles with blade offsets of 8-10 + degrees are preferable for multipurpose recreational paddlers. For long-distance cruisers or SUP racers, a blade offset angle of 12 + degrees is preferred.
Angled SUP paddles have reduced drag, use less energy, and provide more speed compared to straight paddles.
Choosing Your Blade Offset
Depending on how you’ll be using your paddle, you can determine the appropriate blade offset:
- For surfing, take a 5-7 degree blade offset
- For multipurpose use, choose a 10-degree blade offset
- For racing, try a 12-15 degree blade offset.
SUP Paddle Length
If you choose a paddle that’s too long, you’ll find your arms begin to tire more quickly as you’re holding them too high in your stroke.
On the flip side, if you choose a paddle blade that’s too short, you’ll begin to stress your back as you bend forward to reach the water.
How to Choose the Right SUP Paddle Length
- SUP Racing: Your paddle should be 10-12 inches taller than your height
- Cruising on Flat Water: Your paddle should be 8-10 inches taller than your height
- SUP Surfing: Your paddle should be 6-8 inches taller than your height
Generally, shorter paddles will optimize your control and acceleration, making them great for surfing. Longer paddles will improve your top speed and energy efficiency, making them an ideal choice for long-distance paddling.
SUP Paddle Blade Shape for Burst & Efficiency
Depending on your SUP paddle blade shape, you’ll either experience more bursts of power or increased efficiency.
A shorter, wider blade will deliver a forceful stroke with immediate power as soon as your blade catches the water. A longer, narrower blade will deliver a slower, less-forceful stroke that’s easier on the shoulders.
Teardrop Blade Shapes
A teardrop-shaped paddle blade is widest at the bottom, causing you to immediately push water with the majority of the blade’s surface area as soon as your blade is in the water. If you’re pushing more water with more surface area, the result is a more powerful stroke.
Teardrop SUP paddle blades are preferred by paddlers and SUP surfers who enjoy a more powerful stroke with a slower cadence.
Rectangular Blade Shapes
A rectangular paddle blade is narrower at the base compared to a teardrop paddle, which means dipping the blade in the water engages less surface area. As a result, rectangular blades promote a gentler stroke and are easier on the body, allowing for a higher cadence stroke if desired.
The Dihedral Groove
You’ve likely seen the ridge running down the center of some paddles – this is called the “dihedral groove”. The purpose of this groove is to shed water evenly to either side of the paddle, reducing the “fluttering” effect you may find with flatter, wider paddles. A SUP paddle with a dihedral groove will make each stroke smoother and more powerful.
ABS Edge for Blade Protection
For protecting the edges of your SUP paddle, ABS plastic is frequently installed on the blade molds. This helps reduce chipping and protects the edges from damage.
Invest in a High-Quality Carbon Fiber SUP Paddle from NIXY Sports
We’ve walked through the entire SUP paddle selection process, showing you how to choose the right material for your paddle, how to select a blade size & blade offset, the process of picking the appropriate paddle blade length, and how you should select a blade shape for optimal burst output or efficiency. Following these tips will help you choose the best SUP paddle for your needs and improve your paddle boarding experience.
If you’re looking for a high-quality SUP paddle that’ll last, invest in a SUP paddle from NIXY Sports.
We offer a wide selection of paddle materials, sizes, blade offsets, and blade lengths, and our friendly team is always standing by to help you pick the perfect paddle.