As you can guess, SUP paddles are essential gear for practicing this fascinating sport. Even if you have a great paddle board, it will be difficult to move through the water without a reliable paddle. Although at first glance they may all look the same, there are significant differences between models. Essentially, a good paddle should be lightweight, strong, and efficient.
In this article, I’m going to talk about the most commonly used materials (aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber), shaft lengths, types of grips, types of blades, weight, and other important factors. In addition, I’ll review the best models of the year, so you can find the one that best suits your skill level and intended use. For instance, some models are better suited for surfing, others for touring, and still others for races.
THE BEST SUP PADDLES
THURSO SURF CARBON PADDLE
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SHAFT: Carbon fiber
LENGTH: 71’’ to 87’’
WEIGHT: 32 oz
The Thurso Surf Carbon is one of the most popular options within the mid-high range. Built with a carbon fiber shaft and a nylon blade, this versatile paddle can be easily transformed into a kayak paddle by attaching a second blade (sold separately).
The blade forms a 10-degree angle from the shaft, which increases the power from each stroke while considerably reducing fatigue. In addition, it’s reinforced with a central rib that makes it stronger and more durable. It features a three-piece design that is easily assembled, and it can be adjusted to the paddler’s height and needs. Another of its main advantages is that it’s reasonably priced for its high performance.
AQUA BOUND MALTA
GRIP: Carbon Palm Grip
SHAFT: 100% carbon
LENGTH: 70’’ to 80’’
WEIGHT: 20 oz
The Aqua Bound Malta is another great mid-range option, as it’s ultralight, strong, and efficient. This adjustable model is made with carbon fiber and fiberglass and delivers a dynamic and powerful stroke without much effort.
Thanks to the high quality of its materials, it provides optimal performance, while keeping a light weight. From beginners to experienced paddlers, this is a great option for those who want to make the most out of this activity.
WONITAGO NEOLIFE FIBERGLASS
LENGTH: 68’’ to 84’’
WEIGHT: 28 oz
The Wonitago Fiberglass is a flexible, strong, and durable three-piece paddle. With a telescopic design, a tear-drop paddle, and an ultralight construction, this paddle allows you to travel at full speed while maintaining a smooth, pleasant pace.
The easy-to-use locking system enables you to securely adjust the paddle to your desired length. Also, it’s well priced within the mid-range, which makes it a great option for entry-level and intermediate paddlers.
WONITAGO NEOLIFE CARBON
GRIP: Palm Grip
SHAFT: Carbon fiber
LENGTH: 72’’ to 86’’
WEIGHT: 29 oz
The Wonitago Carbon features a design similar to that of the previous model, but with a slightly simpler construction and a more affordable price.
This model has a carbon shaft and a tear-drop nylon blade, which provides greater strength and durability. Overall, it’s quite lightweight and easy to paddle, even for small people, which makes it a great choice for paddlers of all skill levels.
GRIP: Palm Grip
SHAFT: Carbon fiber
BLADE: Nylon and fiberglass
LENGTH: 65’’ to 86’’
WEIGHT: 26 oz
Lightweight but strong, the Kerco Carbon is one of the list’s best values for the money. This paddle features a small/medium-size blade, which makes it easy and comfortable to use.
The blade size isn’t the best option for surfing big waves but it’s perfect for recreational paddle boarding on lakes and calm seas. This model doesn’t require much of your energy to paddle, and yet it provides maximum power from each stroke.
GRIP: Palm Grip
LENGTH: 63’’ to 83’’
WEIGHT: 33 oz
If you are looking for a good-performing SUP paddle within the budget range, the Woowave could be your model. Featuring an aluminum shaft and a nylon blade, this paddle offers great stiffness and durability, but without adding much extra weight.
You can easily adjust this collapsible model to your desired length in a matter of seconds. Also, like most models on the list, it floats, both on rivers and on the sea.
GRIP: Palm Grip
LENGTH: 61’’ to 85’’
WEIGHT: 34 oz
Finally, we complete the list with another affordable model, ideal for beginners and casual paddlers seeking a durable paddle they can use while improving their technique.
Due to its aluminum construction, it’s not the lightest model on the market (although it’s not too heavy). However, it’s highly shock resistant, which makes it perfect for traveling and practicing without fear of breaking it.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR SUP PADDLE
TYPE OF ACTIVITY
What kind of paddler are you? Do you practice quite often? Do you need a high-performing paddle? Some models are designed for long-distance touring, others for surfing, and still others for paddling in flat water. In addition, convertible models can be used as kayak paddles when you attach a second blade.
High-end paddles use the latest technology to achieve incredible performance. However, you may not need the most expensive paddle on the market if you plan to practice only a few times a year.
On the other hand, budget paddles are generally heavy and sometimes uncomfortable to use. Therefore, you must think about the intended use and frequency. That way, you’ll find the model that best fits your needs.
The most commonly used materials in the manufacture of SUP paddles are aluminum, nylon, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.
Aluminum paddles are inexpensive, strong, and durable, but they are also heavier. These models are a great option for people seeking a budget paddle that will last for many years.
Most affordable models have an aluminum shaft and a nylon blade, which is a resistant material. Sometimes, a fiberglass blade is used to reduce weight.
Considered by many to be the best material for paddle manufacturing, carbon fiber offers an excellent weight-to-strength ratio. Thanks to its ultralight weight, carbon is typically the best choice for professional paddling, touring, racing, and SUP surfing.
The problem is that carbon paddles are generally much more expensive than fiberglass and aluminum paddles. Some models can cost up to 500 euros.
Lately, fiberglass has become quite popular because it’s also a lightweight, strong material and is usually cheaper than carbon. In addition, fiberglass shafts are quite stiff, which means they can transfer a lot of power to the blade. Fiberglass paddles are a great choice for intermediate paddlers, recreational use, SUP surfing, and friendly competitions.
The grip is the end part of the shaft, right where you place your hand, and it allows you to paddle efficiently. It can be made from the same material as the shaft or from other materials such as plastic.
There are two types of grips on the market: Palm Grips and T-Grips. The Palm Grip has a rounded shape, which makes it more comfortable to grab, and it can be used for different styles of SUP boarding.
The T-Grip provides a firmer and more secure grip, which is why it’s often used for more aggressive activities, such as SUP surfing. The problem is that the T-Grip doesn’t feel as comfortable as the Palm Grip after several hours of use.
FIXED OR ADJUSTABLE SHAFT
Whether made of aluminum, carbon fiber, or fiberglass, most shafts are adjustable, which allows you to fine-tune the paddle’s length to your height. Some professionals prefer fixed shafts, specially designed for their needs, as they usually perform better. Also, fixed shafts don’t require maintenance because they don’t have a locking system.
However, you’ll see that all the models on the list are adjustable. That’s because adjustable paddles can be quickly altered depending on your height and the activity you will be practicing. Also, the paddle can be used by several people of different sizes.
The blade is an essential part of any paddle, as it’s responsible for creating propulsion through the water. Blades can have two shapes: rectangular or tear-drop.
Rectangular blades have a slightly narrower bottom than tear-drop blades, which means less surface area is involved in each stroke. This makes it easier for many to paddle.
Tear-drop blades have a slightly wider tip-end, so a greater surface area is in contact with the water. This option is appreciated by paddlers who prefer to paddle at a slower pace, but with a more powerful stroke.
In addition to different shapes, blades can be manufactured in different sizes. It would be difficult to give tips for finding the right size because it really depends on your paddling style, your weight, the activity you are going to practice, etc.
If you are new to paddle boarding, though, I recommend that you choose your paddle in relation to your weight. The heavier you are, the larger the paddle you’ll need. If you have doubts, follow these suggestions:
500 – 600 cm2 blade: For small to medium people. Medium blades perform really well for recreational use. A medium blade doesn’t move as much water as a large one, but it’s easier to paddle, which decreases fatigue.
600 – 770 cm2 blade: For medium to large people. Large blades work well for navigating rough water as well as for SUP surfing.
Finally, there is another important feature that you must take into account: the blade angle or offset. Most paddle blades are angled forward from the shaft. Angled blades allow you to start paddling a little farther away, which gives you more power in each stroke and increases efficiency.
Most models form a 10-degree angle (recommended for all-around paddle boarding), although you can find 7-degree blades (for SUP surfing) and 12-degree blades (for racing) on the market.
I recommend that you go for a lightweight model. A small difference in the paddle’s weight can make a big difference in the effort required to paddle your SUP board, especially if you want to travel long distances.
Most paddles have collapsible designs, so they are not difficult to store until the next paddle boarding season starts. If you don’t have much space in your house, look for a three-piece model that you can disassemble and store in separate pieces, either in your garage or in a closet.
SHOULD SUP PADDLES FLOAT?
Yes, they should float. If you drop it into the water, the paddle won’t sink. Thus, you’ll be able to quickly recover it. Due to the hollow structure of the shaft, most models have positive buoyancy, including inexpensive aluminum models.
Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 10 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.