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Best SUP Paddle

Paddles come in different shapes, sizes and materials. Each has its own merits and listed below are five paddles that are some of the best in their categories:

Introduction

When people think of paddle boarding they automatically envisage themselves gliding effortlessly through the water, enjoying their time on a longboard. But what people tend to forget is that the board represents half of the equation. This is paddle boarding we’re talking about here, and without a paddle it’s pretty difficult to enjoy the sport! Many would mistakenly place the paddle as an accessory to the sport, much like how a wrist-band would be an accessory to the sport of basketball. While understandable, this would be a mistake. The paddle is obviously an essential item to paddle boarding, and without it…well it wouldn’t be paddle boarding.

Paddles come in different shapes, sizes and materials. Each has its own merits and listed below are five paddles that are some of the best in their categories:

Value

Not all paddles are created equal. The subtle differences between SUP paddles can translate to significant changes in performance and comfort. Some may argue that they can use any old paddle to get the job done, and there may be some truth in this, but in general a paddler will want to use a paddle of the right length for their height, built in a manner that will allow them to paddle efficiently and with comfort.

Adjustability

SUP paddles started out as single piece wooden affairs, now while paddles like these still exist, a paddle whose length can be easily adjusted will not only suit more people, but can essentially be customized to fit a paddler to a tee. The easier a paddle is to adjust means that a paddler can spend less time finding a paddle that fits and can get out on the water faster. Furthermore, paddlers can more easily share paddles with one another, if ever the need arise for whatever reason. Adjustability, in this regard, represents a paddles versatility.

Blade Shape

Look more closely at the blades of the paddles and one will notice subtle yet noticeable differences between each. The thickness, the concavity, the angle, the shape and even the various features on its face all affect a paddles ability to interact with water. How much water is displaced, how long it touches the water and the amount of water resistance it can handle is predicated on its width, length and shape. Most SUP riders pay closer attention to the shaft and handle of the paddle, this is most likely due to the fact that these are the parts that they are in physical contact with, however the attention should really be placed on the blade of the paddle. For it is the blade of the paddle, which contacts the water and gives them the ability to propel themselves.

Material

In the early days of SUP there was a single option for the type of paddle to be used, wood. Fast forward to the present and the modern rider now has paddles of several types to choose from. From plastic to aluminum, and from carbon fiber to bamboo, today’s paddler can pick and choose the kind of material that they are comfortable with using. Eco-conscious paddlers may choose to go with a paddle made from the fastest growing grass on Earth - bamboo, while those looking for the lightweight option may go for carbon fiber. No longer are wooden paddles the default (even though they are still available), paddlers can choose the material that they want.

Review

BIC Sport Original Adjustable Aluminum or Fiberglass Shaft SUP Paddle

Mention BIC and most people will envision generic writing implements and lighters. However, BIC also makes sporting goods, surprisingly good ones at that. Having already released a line of paddle boards, it is no surprise that the company turned its attention to paddles. The Sport Original comes in two different sizes (kids and adult), two different shaft materials (aluminum and fiberglass) and an assortment of colors (orange, red, blue, etc.) All paddles are highly adjustable and can thus fit practically any paddler. BIC wanted to appeal to a large group of paddlers and have given the Sport Original a generic yet stable blade.

BIC really allows the rider to customize the paddle to their tastes from the 5 color choices all the way to the shaft material. Paddlers can opt to go with the sturdier anodized aluminum shaft which is great for beginners as well as paddlers looking to take rougher white waters. Or, they can go with the much lighter fiberglass shaft which do well for touring riders or those with long distances in mind. The only downside is that this much engineering has caused the paddle to a be bit on the heavy side. Even with the fiberglass shaft installed the BIC Sport Original tends to be a bit heavier than its competitors.

PROS

  • choice of material: aluminium or fibreglass
  • choice of colours
  • kids and adult sizes

CONS

  • durable but on the heavy side


Pure Carbon Fiber SUP Paddle 3-Piece Adjustable Paddle by iGK

This highly adjustable, highly portable SUP paddle was built with one thing in mind, being as lightweight as possible. The entire paddle is comprised of lightweight yet sturdy carbon fiber, the same material used in ultralight sports cars. Weighing in at a mere 680 grams, the Pure Carbon Fiber paddle is a delight to hold, carry and use, especially on those long paddles. The three-piece paddle can be taken out of its free carrying bag, assembled and adjusted in seconds, which means more time spent on the water.

Users are usually attracted to the full carbon fiber build of the paddle, but once they dip it into the water they know that the real star is the super dihedral blade​

Its double concave nature and dihedral features not only allows the rider to pull a great deal of water but do so in a remarkably stable manner. No more fighting with the paddle just to get moving, this blade was developed for performance and it delivers flawlessly. The only knock on this paddle is that it does not have a screw or pin set up to secure the adjustment, which is great for quick adjustments but also tends to loosen during hard paddling. The full carbon fiber build (which tends to be less durable than aluminum) also means that the paddle is more susceptible to damage should it be struck on rocks or hard surfaces.

PROS

  • lightweight
  • adjustable
  • highly portable

CONS

  • clamp used for adjustment can loosen during hard paddling


Switchblade All Fiberglass Multi-Purpose Hybrid Paddle

A hallmark of versatility, Switchblade’s all fiberglass multi-purpose hybrid paddle can be used for SUP, kayaking and canoeing. Unlike most other adjustable paddles, the Switchblade has 4 pieces. The extra piece is an extra blade which can be used as a spare or used in concert with the other parts to form a kayak paddle. The fiberglass build means that the paddle is lighter than aluminum but a bit more durable than carbon fiber.

The adjustable paddle can have lengths ranging from 67” to 87”. The blade of the paddle was developed to be used for three different types of paddling sports which means that while they can be used to SUP, kayak or canoe, it does not excel at any of them. Yes, you can use them for long distance touring, but you may not win any races with them. Yes, you can use it to kayak but again it’s not specifically built just for kayaking.

On top of this, managing the different blades and attachments can be a bit difficult if you need to do this while out on the water.

If you’re looking for a ‘one-paddle-fits-all” item though this is where it’s at.

PROS

  • highly versatile paddle that can be used for SUP, canoe or kayak
  • lightweight

CONS

  • managing blades while on the water can be tricky


Maui and Sons Adjustable Carbon Fiber and Bamboo Paddle

This paddle is nothing if not attractive. The bamboo blade contrasts beautifully with the black carbon fiber shaft. Maui and Sons made sure to not only make an eye-catching paddle but also a highly functional one as well. The paddle is fully adjustable, but it’s the weight (or lack of it!) that is instantly noticeable when you pick it up. The paddle weights a mere 1.6 lbs. and combined with the ergonomic grip makes this a very comfortable paddle to use even when paddling for hours on the water. Maui and Sons also developed a highly versatile blade that can be used in almost any conditions, from placid glass-surfaced lakes to the rougher waters of the open ocean.

Even though the blade looks like it was crafted from wood, the bamboo is unfortunately just a veneer. Beneath the surface lies a carbon fiber core, which is good for stability and weight, but should the blade strike something unyielding, like say a rock, the shock may travel through the forgiving bamboo veneer and crack or damage the carbon fiber core. Unlike blades that lack a veneer finish, damage to the core of this paddle would largely go unnoticed until it fails catastrophically. Furthermore, while the grip of paddle was built for comfort, it does seem to be a little lacking in the durability department.

PROS

  • ultra-lightweight
  • easy to adjust

CONS

  • foam grip is comfortable but not the most durable


9 Fish’s single piece, all wood paddle made it on this list due to its nostalgia factor. Well that’s not entirely true. While the paddle takes the user to days where all wood paddles were used in conjunction with all wood boards, it is still nonetheless a well-made and well-constructed paddle. The all-wood construction means that it is the most durable and rugged paddle on the entire list.

However, if one is looking to get this paddle there are the obvious pitfalls to be aware of. The solid, one-piece construction means that the paddle is not adjustable. The user must find and buy a paddle that will match their specific measurements. Being made of wood also means that the paddle is the heaviest of the bunch, which can be tiring on longer paddles. Finally, should the paddle become damaged in anyway, its single-piece construction means that the entire paddle will need to be replaced to maintain structural integrity.

PROS

  • vintage look and feel
  • very durable

CONS

  • heavier than some
  • non-adjustable


Conclusion

A paddle, it seems, is not just a paddle. It is an essential tool in which slight changes can mean big differences in performance and comfort. A paddle’s adjustability allows it to be used by more paddlers of different sizes. The shape of the paddles blade not only affects propulsion, but also stroke stability and ease of use. Finally, the material of the paddle dictates its weight and durability.

With these in mind, it is easy to see why iGK’s Pure Carbon Fiber 3-piece paddle tops this list. Thanks to its namesake carbon fiber body, the paddle is extremely lightweight, which makes it comfortable to use on even the longest touring session. Its clamp system allows it to be easily adjusted in seconds, which makes it easy to use and highly portable. However, its super dihedral blade, and its ability to deliver stable and powerful strokes, is why the Pure Carbon Fiber edged out the other paddles on this list.

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