SUP Paddle – Getting the correct one!

SUP Paddle
A woman does some SUP (stand up paddle board) on Jenny Lake a the Grand Teton National Park.

It is important to become successful, in any activity, to use the correct gear.  Just as choosing the correct stand up paddle board, the right SUP paddle will enable a paddler to enjoy a full day without compromising comfort, strength or weight.  A few things to consider when choosing a SUP paddle: are size, construction and materials.  The best paddle choice will be light enough to use all day and strong enough to handle any conditions that might arise while on the water.  Your choice should also be comfortable, with the correct grip and length for a paddler to enjoy full days on the water.


There are a variety of materials used in the construction of SUP paddles, each with their own benefits and limitations.


The traditional material to craft the entire paddle or sometimes just the blade.   Lightweight and easy to access, wood paddles provide warmth to the touch that cannot be matched with man-made synthetic materials.  Wood paddles are beautiful and generally last for years.


Lightweight and stiff, fiberglass is used for both shafts and blades.  Provides a great balance between value and performance.


A great economical material, although slightly heavier and cold to the touch.


Another great economical material, although somewhat heavy.

Carbon Fiber:

The lightest weight material used for paddle construction.  Generally speaking, a lightweight paddle will cause lee arm fatigue.


The most crucial part in choosing a SUP paddle is choosing the correct length.  A SUP paddle that is too long will tire your arms as you hold them high out of the water.  And a paddle that is too short will stress your back as you bend forward to reach the water.

What length should I choose?  A SUP paddle will vary in length depending the type of paddling you plan to do.  Generally speaking, you will want to size your SUP paddle 10-12 inches taller than you if you plan to race, 8-10 inches taller if you’re cruising flat water, or 6-8 inches taller if you’re going to surf. Some waves.

Adjustable Paddles

Adjustable paddles have the ability to extend and lock into different lengths.  This feature allows more than one person to fit comfortably.

Custom Length

Some manufactures will sell their paddles with extra-long shafts.  This enables the paddle to be custom sized for the SUP paddler in the store.  The staff will measure, cut the shaft to length and glue on the handle.


SUP paddles are divided into two main types, one for the surf and one for cruising or touring.  The SUP surf paddle generally has a larger surface area for extra leverage against the moving water.   The larger surf paddle can be used for whitewater and SUP racing.

A touring SUP paddle will be slightly smaller surface area which helps to reduce the stress on the paddler’s arms while paddling long distances.

Some manufactures, such as NRS are creating a mid-sized paddle.   This size works well for touring and surfing waves.

Why the bend in the blade?

The bend in the SUP paddle, just above the blade allows for a more efficient stroke.  The correct direction will have the blade facing forward and the elbow of the bend to be pointing to the rear.  This may seem incorrect, but this allows the blade to slip effortlessly out of the water on the back of the stroke.  If the paddle is faced incorrectly, the blade will try and lift water up on the exit.  This places extra strain in the arms.

In conclusion

the correct SUP paddle will be 8-10 inched above your head.  A quick measure will be a comfortable reach to the paddle grip with the blade on the ground.   This method is fast when using adjustable length paddles on demo fleets.  By choosing a medium sized blade for your SUP paddle, you can ensure both wave surfing and touring paddling needs will be met.

At the Float Shack we offer two sizes of fully adjustable paddles with our rental inflatable stand up paddle boards.  Each size will accommodate numerous paddler height and reach.   Our adjustable paddles will work great for both flat water and river running.

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