Stand-up paddle boarding is one of the quickest growing water sports. It’s a great beginner water sport and it’s easy to get involved.
One thing which can make or break your paddle boarding experience, though, is the humble paddle.
I’m sure that we can all agree that a good paddle makes the whole stand-up paddle boarding experience much, much easier… right?
Many stand-up paddle boards come with a paddle, as you’d expect, however they are not always the best, especially for those of us who are experienced with water sports. It’s always a good idea to upgrade your paddle to something a little better.
Even if you are new to the sport, there’s nothing wrong with investing in a new paddle earlier on. The better your paddle is, the easier you are going to find the whole learning process.
In this article, I am going to cover the best paddles you can buy on the market right now and provide you with lots of useful information about a crucial piece of equipment.
It’s more than just a long stick with an ore at the end of it!
Choosing the Best Paddle Improves your Paddle Boarding Experience
Whether you’re using a classic rigid stand-up paddle board or one of those new fancy inflatable ones, you are going to need a great paddle to go along with it.
Even if you’ve got one of those package deals which includes the works, the paddles which are included often aren’t the best quality you can buy. They’re a package deal for a reason!
If you truly enjoy stand-up paddle boarding, want to maximize both your enjoyment and experience, and improve your skill level at the same time, investing in a decent paddle is an absolute must.
They’re very affordable pieces of equipment which have tons of useful benefits… there really is no reason why you shouldn’t buy one. I have several different models myself!
When you are shopping for your paddle, remember that you should be purchasing the best and most efficient one within your budget. The more efficient a paddle is, the longer you can spend out on the water without becoming fatigued.
Better paddles tend to be lightweight and have durable ores which make the paddle boarding process easier and more efficient.
Types of paddle
When looking for a paddle on the market, you will notice that there are three different types of paddle materials: aluminum; fiberglass; and carbon fiber.
- Aluminum paddles are the cheapest paddles you can buy as the materials are very cheap, however, they come with a lot of weight. Although they are durable and can last for a long time, they can tire you out easily.
- Fiberglass paddles are very strong and weigh less than the aluminum paddles. Generally, they are priced just a little more than the aluminum ones too. So if you’re deciding between aluminum or fiberglass, go with the latter.
- Carbon fiber are very lightweight, durable and expensive. With these types of paddle, you get ultimate performance and durability without all the excess weight.
The paddles which come in package deals are usually made from low-quality plastic. Although they work, they’re very inefficient as the ores tend to bend and a lot of excess energy is spent to make up for its flexibility.
Higher quality blades are stiffer and more of your energy goes towards moving the board as opposed to it being lost when the paddle bends.
The anatomy of a paddle
Stand-up paddle boarding paddles are pretty simple pieces of equipment and consist of three main parts: the handle (T-bar); the shaft; and the blade.
These three elements can vary depending on what a paddle’s intended use is, however. If a paddle is meant to be used only for surfing waves then it will be shorter, but for distance paddling then it may need to be longer and adjustable.
1. The handle
These are ergonomically designed so that you can achieve the most comfortable grip in your hand. Most paddle handles follow the T-bar design and are rounded for grip. Sometimes, they are detachable.
2. The shaft
This is usually made from the same material as the blade, but not always. If you are looking for a sturdy paddle, it’s best to go with one that has a carbon fiber shaft as other materials such as fiberglass tend to bend.
The less rigid your paddle is, the more energy you are going to use.
I would always recommend going for a paddle which is adjustable, too. This prevents you from needing to own multiple paddles for different purposes; one good all-rounder is all you need.
3. The blade
The most important part of the paddle by far is the blade, and this is where paddles tend to differentiate themselves from one another.
Blades can either be large or small, with a larger blade offering a more powerful stroke because it displaces more water. These are great for experienced paddle boarders, but newbies should opt for a smaller blade until they’re confident.
Choosing a blade size relative to the size of its operator is always a good rule of thumb; larger blades are better suited to more powerful people as they require more energy to use efficiently.
The angle of most blades usually sits between 10 and 13 degrees. This angle enables the user to produce powerful strokes. Most blades tend to be quite thin, so watching out for rocks and other objects is important.
3 things to consider when choosing a paddle
Although I have just covered the basics of a paddle above, these are the three things which you ought to consider.
1. Your ability
If you are a newbie paddle boarder, you don’t need to go out and spend lots of money on the very best fully adjustable carbon fiber paddle with a large blade.
When you are learning the basics of the sport, a basic paddle will do. In fact, if you’re a newbie, I would recommend using the paddle which came with your board (if you’ve got one) until you are more skilled.
Using an expensive, high-grade paddle during your early days of paddle boarding isn’t a good idea as you could easily damage it.
Saying that you don’t want to be using a flimsy plastic one, either. For newbies, I would recommend just going with a simple aluminum paddle.
2. What you’re using it for
If you’re only going to be using your paddle board for stand-up paddle boarding and nothing else, you don’t need to worry about whether the shaft is adjustable or not.
If, however, you want to participate in other sports or activities with your paddle board then it’s always a good idea to buy a paddle which can be adjusted.
The full-size paddle is not going to be suitable for example if you are kneeling or sitting down on your board. That said, it’s always best to buy an adjustable paddle anyway because you never know what you may decide to try!
3. Where you’ll be using it
If you know that you are going to be using your paddle in harsher and more unpredictable environments, you may want to avoid certain materials such as alloy and fiberglass.
All paddles get bashed around from time to time, it’s unavoidable, but if you know you will be in an area with a lot of obstacles such as rocks, or if you’re just plain clumsy, getting a hardwearing paddle will save you a lot of money and drama.
What is fiberglass?
Everyone knows what aluminum and carbon fiber are, but many aren’t aware of what exactly fiberglass is.
Fiberglass is a modern material which provides extra flex and mobility, meaning that their use tends to offer a more comfortable and easier ride.
They are popular with people who have joint issues or limited mobility because they have a reduced swing weight which means less energy is expelled while they are used, and they do not pressure the joints.
The downside with fiberglass is that it is a much more brittle material which breaks much easier than carbon, alloy or aluminum.
The Best Paddle for Beginners
Own the Wave’s Adjustable Alloy Paddle is, in my opinion, the best option for beginners who are looking for something a little better than the bog-standard ones included with most paddle boards.
Offering very good quality at an affordable price, the paddle comes with a blade protector to help stop it from being damaged in transit or when stored away.
The paddle can be adjusted by 12 inches – from 71 to 83 inches – and is suitable for people of all heights. The materials used are a lightweight alloy for the shaft and the blade is made from composite nylon. The T-bar handle offers a comfortable and ergonomic grip.
One of the best features with this paddle is that it can easily be broken down into two individual pieces for compact storage. If you’re looking for a good beginner-friendly paddle and aren’t yet ready to shell out for something more professional, this is it.
The 5 Best Paddles for Paddle Boarding
Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, let’s dive into my top 5 picks for the best paddles for intermediate-to-advanced paddle boarders currently available on the market.
At the time of writing, this list reflects the very best products on offer. I will update this from time-to-time as new products hit the market.
3-Piece Carbon Fiber Adjustable Paddle by Super Paddles
The California-based Super Paddles company produce some of the market’s best paddles and it has its well-earned top spot on my list.
Made from carbon fiber, it’s the perfect lightweight paddle for intermediate to advanced level paddle boarders and features a dihedral blade which delivers a powerful and smooth stroke each time without fail.
The blade itself is made from carbon fiber too and is resistant to chipping… I still don’t recommend bashing it against rock, but you can use it to gently push yourself away from obstacles without fear of damage, however.
It can be disassembled into three different pieces for storage and transport. When it has been taken apart, it stands around three feet tall and can be transported very easily.
It is an adjustable paddle and has a range of 72 to 86 inches, suitable for people of all sizes, and has a secure lock which keeps everything in place.
- Chip-resistant carbon fiber blade.
- Good range of adjustability.
- Unique blade design delivers powerful strokes.
- It can be quite tricky to assemble until you get used to it.
Bullet Proof Surf Adjustable 3-Piece Alloy Slider Paddle
This adjustable paddle from Bullet Proof surf has a shaft made from lightweight aluminum and a nylon composite blade. The shaft handle enables you to deliver powerful strokes whilst the blade is sturdy and resistant to chipping.
With an adjustable range between 71 and 83 inches, it will suit most paddle boarders, however, when it is broken down the longest piece is around 66 inches, so it is not the most compact paddle on the market.
Unlike the above paddle though, it is very easy to put together and take apart. The paddle’s shaft also includes a foam core to help it remain afloat in water if it is dropped, not something which is included in a lot of products.
This is a major bonus in my book… I’ve almost lost paddles in deep bodies of water when I’ve dropped them!
- Weighs a mere 2.2lbs, perfect for smaller people.
- Guaranteed to float when dropped in fresh or salt water.
- Ergonomic handle for maximum comfort when paddling.
- Does not come with a carrying bag as standard.
iGK Pure Carbon Fiber 3-Piece Adjustable Paddle
This paddle is by far one of the lightest you can buy. In fact, I haven’t personally come across a product which weighs less than this one does. It weighs a tiny 1.8lbs and was designed to be as lightweight and easy to travel with as possible.
It can be broken down into three pieces much like the Super Paddles product, only it’s a lot easier. Like most adjustable paddles, its length can be set between 72 and 86 inches and, when you break it down, the largest piece is 36 inches.
This paddle comes with a carrying bag as standard which has three different compartments for each piece, preventing the pieces from rubbing, knocking and grinding against each other in transit.
Two models are available: one with 100% carbon fiber; and the other with a carbon fiber shaft and fiberglass blade.
The latter paddle is ideal if you are looking for a lightweight product which delivers the easy maneuverability provided by a fiberglass blade.
Its handle is the usual ergonomic T-shape which prevents aches and pains and enables you to stay on the water for extended periods of time.
Struggling to Decide? Here’s MY Top Pick
I’m a huge fan of anything produced by Super Paddles.
I own a number of their products and I have never ever found myself dissatisfied. All of their paddles are very hardwearing, and I’ve never had one break on me or become damaged.
I am a big fan of the research that the company has clearly put behind their products; when they say chip-resistant they really mean it.
Although a lot of paddles claim to be resistant to chipping, I still notice wear and tear on them.
With my Super Paddles products, I have never noticed this. Of course, if you are going to be reckless and knock your paddle against jagged rocks and debris, it is going to be damaged no matter how good the product is.
Chip-resistant simply means it can stand up to the odd tap and being used to push your paddle away from obstacles.
I am also a big fan of how portable Super Paddles products are. It breaks down into three small pieces and although the disassembly and reassembly of their products can be quite difficult, you get used to it over time.
The reason they are more difficult to break down and put back together is that all the pieces firmly lock in place to prevent a flimsy product. That’s not a bad thing!
Which paddle is best for you depends on you, though. Only you can make that decision.
If you are a beginner, I would recommend going with the Own the Waves paddle above which I marked as a beginner product. When you begin to progress and hone your skills, feel free to move onto something more advanced (and more expensive.)
The decision is yours, though, and I hope that I have helped you make it!