You can purchase the right paddle board, but without the best SUP paddle, you’re not going to cover much distance. Buying a good paddle, one that works for your paddling style and body will allow you to easily slice through the water and cover some serious distance. You don’t have to spend a lot to find a model that will meet your needs. However, you do have to pay attention to certain specs in order to find the best fit.
When a person buys a new paddle board it often comes with a stock paddle. Many of these paddles will work great for the beginner, but if you’re an experienced paddler, then you’re going to want a model that will suit your needs, whether you race, you’re a long-distance tourer, or you surf. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to finding a style and type that can help improve your performance on the water.
This will often include the length of the paddle, the shape of the blade, and the type of material it’s made out of. But since SUP’ing is so popular these days, narrowing down your choices and finding a model that will work for you and your paddling needs can be both time-consuming and challenging, which is why I’ve created this in-depth buyer’s guide and reviewed many of the top-selling models recommended by paddlers of all skill levels.
Each of the models on my list has something special to offer, whether it’s a lightweight design, an adjustable length, a durable shaft, or a blade that’s designed for power or speed. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that will list some of the differences and similarities between each model, what special features it has to offer, and how it rated.
SUP Paddles Comparison Chart
Best Overall-BPS Adjustable Paddleboard Paddle
The BPS adjustable paddle features a two-piece design that makes it highly adjustable, so you can lengthen or shorten the shaft depending on your height or where you want to paddle. This isn’t the lightest paddle in my list, considering it weighs over two pounds, however, it’s very versatile, affordable, and adjustable, which is what many paddle board users are looking for. Its durability means it can take on a variety of water conditions ranging from a pond to a choppy river. The fact that it’s heavier also means that it can quickly tire out the user, but for the casual SUP rider, this adjustable paddle may be exactly what they’re looking for.
Top Carbon Fiber Paddle-Super Paddles Elite 12k Bamboo Carbon Fiber SUP Paddle
This carbon fiber and bamboo SUP paddle by Super Paddles is perfect for racing and long-distance touring, due to its lightweight design. This model is highly adjustable, beginner-friendly, and suitable for most types of paddling applications including surfing and racing. Of course, the lower weight and the materials used also means you’re looking at a higher price tag, but if you’re serious about your performance and you need a paddle that can help improve your speed and stroke efficiency, then this model is worth every penny. The paddle’s bamboo veneer does have an impact on its durability, which can make this model a poor choice for paddling around in certain water conditions such as rocky areas or water bottoms that are choked with weeds and debris. But if you want a lightweight paddle that will allow you to cover more distance, without tiring you out, then the lightweight design is a fair tradeoff for a dip in durability.
Perfect for Touring-Super Paddles Alloy Elite Carbon Fiber SUP Paddle
The Alloy Elite carbon fiber paddle is another model by Super Paddles that made it onto my list. It features the classic teardrop-shaped blade and it’s made out of carbon fiber, which is a lightweight material that will allow you to paddle for hours, without much effort. The length of the shaft is adjustable, which is another huge selling point for any buyer looking for a paddle that will work for their height or where they want to paddle. The paddle is designed to improve stroke performance and power, so you’ll use minimal effort to slice through the water and cover more ground.
Beginner-Friendly-SUP Supply Alloy SUP Paddle
This model by SUP Supply is heavy, weighing over two pounds, but it’s a fair tradeoff for the paddle’s durability and adjustable design. It’s made out of nylon and aluminum, which is naturally rust-resistant and more durable compared to models that are made out of carbon fiber. This model features a three-piece design and an intuitive locking mechanism that will allow you to quickly adjust the length of the paddle based on the application or your height. The paddle will also float in the water, which will come in handy, should you fall off your board or accidentally drop your paddle in the water. The durable design will allow you to use this model in a variety of water conditions, whether you’re paddling around in an environment that’s choked with weeds and debris, or white water.
Highly Adjustable-Own the Wave 2-Piece SUP Paddle
This is a two-piece paddle that’s made out of aluminum and nylon. It features one of the best locking adjustment systems out of any paddle on my list. The Twin Pin system is versatile, intuitive, and very beginner-friendly. So you can quickly and easily change up the size of the paddle or collapse it for easier transport and storage. Since it’s made out of nylon and aluminum, you can expect a heavier weight, however, this won’t be a drawback for the casual paddler, yet the long-distance tourer may be in need of a model that weighs significantly less. Aside from the hefty design, the paddle is incredibly durable and will allow you to take on more challenging waters.
Best Value-Abahub 3-Piece Adjustable Alloy Stand Up SUP Paddle
The three-piece adjustable alloy paddle by Abahub is beginner-friendly and weighs over two pounds, which can make it difficult for some paddlers to use, especially if they’re new to the sport or spend several hours on the water. Aside from the heavier design, the paddle is incredibly durable and made out of nylon and high-grade aluminum. Adjusting the shaft is simple and straightforward, while the rugged design is perfect for both saltwater and freshwater paddling. This model is priced affordable, so it’s a great option for the SUP rider on a tight budget or the beginner in need of a more durable paddle that’s more forgiving in a variety of water conditions.
Top Fiberglass Paddle-Ocean Board SUP Paddle Board Paddle
The Ocean Board paddle is made out of fiberglass and nylon. Fiberglass is more durable than carbon fiber, but not quite as durable as aluminum. Because of this, you will have to worry about the paddle chipping and cracking, which can limit you, in terms of where you can paddle. Like the other models on my list, the shaft length is adjustable, so you can shorten the paddle to suit your height or lengthen it based on application. While this model isn’t the lightest paddle I’ve reviewed, it is significantly lighter than the aluminum nylon models, so it’s more versatile and can be used for touring or surfing, just keep in mind, at two pounds, extended use can leave you with aching joints and sore muscles. Overall, this is a very beginner-friendly model that has a lot to offer the beginner in need of a paddle that can improve their performance on the water.
SUP Paddles Buyer’s Guide
When you’re shopping for a paddle, whether you want to upgrade the model that came with your board, or you simply want to replace a worn-out paddle, there are some specs you need to pay attention to. The type of material the paddle is made out of will play a major role in determining the stiffness and weight. Essentially, a lighter paddle is often preferred, however, you’ll usually have to pay more for a lightweight model. The offset, shape, and size of the blade on a paddle defines how it moves through the water. Finding the perfect paddle is just as important as choosing the right paddle board size. You need a model that will work for your paddling goals, height, and body type. The right model will make it easier to propel you and your board quickly through the water. You’ll want to make your choice based on the type of paddling you commonly do, in addition to personal preferences. Finding a model that’s the right length will also be important. Choosing a model that’s too long can make the paddle difficult to use and can even make learning how to paddle straight impossible. Buy a paddle that’s too short and you’ll be required to lean over awkwardly in order to get the blade to slice through the water.
I’ll go more in-depth regarding the importance of these features, what options are available, and how to choose a paddle based on application, your body type, fitness level, and general paddling needs.
I’ll begin by going over the different material options available and how each type can have an impact on the paddle’s usability, performance, and price.
Most people can take a couple of thousand strokes in just a couple of hours on the water. Lifting a paddle that’s too heavy can easily tire out the user, which is why seasoned SUP riders tend to invest in lighter paddles, despite the higher price tag. The weight of the paddle is determined by the type of materials it’s made out of. The material will also determine how rigid it is. In most cases, a stiffer paddle is much more efficient in terms of transferring the power of the user’s stroke.
But do you really need a lightweight paddle? If you’re setting out on long touring adventures, or you’re into racing, then you’ll definitely appreciate a lightweight model. But if you only take your board out once in a while, then the paddle’s weight shouldn’t be a huge priority.
Price will also be a factor since lightweight materials such as fiberglass and carbon tend to cost more than heavier paddles that are made out of plastic or aluminum.
Choosing a Paddle Based on Application
If you want to buy a paddle for touring make sure it’s the right size by standing the paddle up vertically, allowing the blade to touch the ground. A paddle that’s the proper size should have a grip that rests in the bend in your wrist. If you’re looking at an adjustable paddle, then simply adjust it appropriately. If you’ve decided to purchase a model online, then you can just add eight to twelve inches to your height to find a paddle that’s the correct length.
If you want to do other things in the water aside from recreational touring, such as racing or surfing, then you’ll need a paddle that’s a much different length. Surfers often opt for a paddle that’s slightly shorter than a touring paddle. Racers will usually choose a paddle that’s a little longer than a touring paddle.
Fixed and Adjustable Paddles
If you’re just learning how to paddle board, then an adjustable model can be the perfect fit. Adjustable paddles are very versatile and popular. These models allow users to experiment in order to find a length that best suits their paddling needs, which means you can easily fine-tune the length if one day you’ll be out on the water touring and the next you want to take your board out and hit the surf. Another bonus that comes with using an adjustable model is that it can be shared among you and other members of the family, regardless of whether they’re taller or shorter than you. Most manufacturers will make the same type of paddle in a few different adjustment ranges, so be sure you choose one that meets your needs.
Fixed paddles are much stiffer and lighter since they don’t come equipped with an adjustment mechanism. Some are designed to be cut down, which allows the buyer to choose the exact length they need. However, before you decide on a fixed-length paddle, make sure you try out two to three different lengths in order to determine which length will work the best for you.
Shaft and Blade Combinations
Most models will be made out of a combination of materials. Some paddles can feature an all-fiberglass or aluminum design, but in most cases, a paddle will have a shaft that’s made out of one material, and a blade that’s made out of another. Popular combinations include fiberglass and aluminum, plastic and aluminum, carbon fiber and nylon, and wood and aluminum.
Paddles that are equipped with a plastic blade are typically designed for beginners. A plastic model is more affordable and durable. It’s also typically paired with a shaft that’s made out of aluminum.
Aluminum is another affordable option and while it’s fairly light, it’s not quite as light as carbon or fiberglass.
Fiberglass is an excellent choice due to its lighter weight. It’s commonly used in the blade or shaft design and is fairly stiff. The stiffness is what makes the paddle more efficient when it comes to transferring the power of the user’s stroke to the paddle’s blade. Fiberglass is not quite as stiff as carbon and tends to be a pricey option, yet it’s more affordable than a model that’s made out of carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber is the most expensive material, but it’s also the stiffest and lightest. The lower weight can be worth the higher price tag if you’re a long-distance tourer. The paddle’s stiffness often equals excellent power transfer from the muscles to the blade. High-quality models come equipped with this material throughout the blade and shaft. Lower priced models that contain carbon will feature a composite construction that can include a blend of fiberglass and carbon such as a fiberglass blade and a carbon shaft.
All-Wood and Wood Veneer
Some paddles feature an all-wood design, while others will only use a wooden veneer for the blade. While these paddles are definitely considered the most beautiful, they can cost and weigh more than even carbon or fiberglass paddles.
The blade is the portion of the paddle that dips into the water when you make a stroke. The offset, shape, and size of the blade will affect how the paddle performs. In terms of choosing the right blade size, this is usually a matter of personal preference based on paddling style and body type.
But if you’re a beginner, choose the blade size based on how large you are. The bigger you are, the bigger the blade should be. Typically, a large SUP user will have enough strength to pull a larger blade through the water. Use the blade’s surface area measurement to compare blade sizes.
Large blades offer more power and can move a lot of water. This allows the user to take powerful strokes in order to paddle faster and speed up the board. If you’re a surfer, then you might want to use a larger blade since this can allow you to take several powerful strokes in order to position your board quickly to catch a wave.
Smaller blades tend to be more efficient and will move less water each time you take a stroke, however, they can also be much easier to pull through the water compared to a large blade. This means you won’t need to use as much effort with every stroke. If you’re a long-distance paddler or racer then a smaller blade can give you an advantage in the water since it will allow you to conserve energy. Smaller blades tend to be a better choice for users who are looking for a paddle that will be gentler on the muscles and joints.
The blade’s shape can impact how it moves through the water as well as how powerful it is. However, the differences in performance can be very subtle.
Teardrop-shaped blades are the widest at the bottom, so the water will be pushed with most of the blade’s surface. Using a lot of surface area can result in a more powerful stroke, which many surfers prefer.
A rectangular blade is much narrower at the bottom, compared to teardrop models. This means that when the blade is first dipped into the water, less surface area is engaged. Because of this, the blade is able to generate a much gentler stroke. This can be much easier on the muscles and joints and allows for a higher cadence stroke.
A blade’s offset describes the angle of the blade from the shaft. The measure of that angle will affect how vertical the blade will be when it’s traveling through the water. This can have an impact on how much power you get per stroke. Most people won’t spend too much time choosing a blade with the right offset unless they’re very critical of their SUP gear.
You should choose the best SUP paddle based on your height and size, application, and price. Beginners will have an easier time choosing a new paddle since most opt for plastic or aluminum models that are designed with newbies in mind, while the surfer, racer, and long-distance tourer will take more care and time when choosing a paddle that can take their performance to a whole new level. Each of the paddles on my best-of list is top of the line and offers the type of performance that many paddlers are looking for, whether they surf, tour, race, or fish. I hope my buyer’s guide has helped to point you in the right direction in terms of what type of features to look for in your next paddle to ensure that you upgrade to a model that will work with your budget, intended use, and skill level.