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After you’ve purchased the perfect paddle board, the next step is to find the right paddle to go with it. You might be wondering just how long should a SUP paddle be? In this guide, we’re going to show you how to choose the best-size SUP paddle for you, as well as some other important factors to keep in mind.
SUP Paddle Length
It’s extremely important to get the right-sized paddle, because if it’s too long, it can be difficult to handle; too short, and you can compromise posture and balance., or even lead to injury. As a general rule of thumb, the ideal paddle is approximately 8-12 inches taller than the rider, though the different types of paddle boarding will vary in their “perfect lengths,” (taller for more powerful strokes on flatwater, shorter a lower center of gravity and greater balance when surfing). The following is a list of the best SUP paddle lengths:
- Surfing: 6”-8” taller than the rider. Allows for quicker turns, easier handling, and better balance when on the water.
- Touring: 8”-10” taller than the rider. Taller than surfing, shorter than racing. Gives a mixture of power and maneuverability.
- Racing: 10”-12” taller than the rider. This length will give you those powerful strokes needed to get you to the finish line first.
As you can see there are optimum paddle lengths depending on what kind of riding you will do. Before spending money on a specific size fixed-length paddle ask yourself: What style of riding will I do most often? If you might only paddle surf once or twice a year then don’t buy a paddle meant specifically for paddling into waves. Your SUP paddle sizing should be based on how you most often enjoy the sport!
Adjustable vs. Fixed-Length Paddles
When it comes down to length, there are two options: an adjustable paddle or a fixed-length paddle. Adjustable paddles are typically a little heavier, but could be a more cost effective option if you engage in various styles of SUP. They’re also great for growing paddlers, as well as those who want to find the perfect length for them before committing to a certain size.
Fixed-length paddles are generally lighter and more rigid than adjustable paddles, and some can even be cut down to the right size (just be absolutely certain before cutting, as fixed-length paddles can be more expensive, depending on the material).
Your paddle’s blade will greatly affect its performance. There are three factors associated with the blade: the size, the shape, and the offset (angle).
Larger blades are more powerful, smaller blades are easier on the muscles. It’s size is measured by surface area, and should be relative to the rider’s weight and strength, as larger riders can typically handle more powerful strokes:
- Riders weighing less than 150 lbs: 80-90 sq in.
- Riders weighing 150-200 lbs: 90-100 sq in.
- Riders weighing 200+ lbs: 100-120 sq in.
There are two different paddle shapes: teardrop and rectangular. Teardrop blades move water as soon as they are submerged, using more surface area per stroke. Rectangular blades engage a more gentle stroke, making them easier on the body.
The size of the blade’s angle is one of those minute details that you needn’t worry to much about, but if you are a serious paddle boarder, here are the corresponding angles to the different SUP styles:
- Surfing: 7 degrees
- Touring: 10 degrees
- Racing: 12 degrees
Other Factors to Consider
While the SUP paddle length and size is perhaps one of the most important differences between paddles, it is certainly not the only difference. When choosing the perfect paddle, it’s important to also make clear the who, the what, the where, and, of course, how the paddle is going to be used.
WHO: If various people of different heights are using the same paddle, the most affordable option would be an adjustable paddle. If only one or two people of similar height will be using it, you may want to consider investing in a custom-sized paddle for greater performance.
WHAT: Paddle board paddles are made from all kinds of materials:
- Plastic with Aluminum is typically the lightest and cheapest option.
- Wood paddles typically come in fixed sizes and are more expensive, but perform well and are the most aesthetically pleasing.
- Carbon fiber is comparable to wood in performance, but it is much lighter and easier to handle.
- Fiberglass, like plastic and aluminum, is lightweight, but performs much more smoothly, which gives it a slightly higher price tag.
WHERE: Like real estate, finding the right paddle is partly about location, location, location. For example, riding the ocean typically requires a shorter shaft more stability and balance, while riding on flatwater is typically done best with a larger shaft.
HOW: Paddlers that are touring or racing may want to use a lighter paddle with a larger blade for more powerful strokes. The novice surfer may want to use a larger blade, while the expert carver could do well with a smaller surface area. And, if you’re a versatile rider that paddles in all sorts of styles, you may want to consider buying an adjustable paddle.
With some of these basic rules in mind, you’ll be able to find the right paddle in no time. As always, best of luck and happy paddling!