A paddle is a paddle is a paddle… Right?
Not so fast!
Choosing a Paddle
When it comes to choosing a paddleboard paddle, there are several variables you need to consider.
Some boards come “stock” with a paddle. But chances are, is it’s a generic “do it all” paddle. Built to handle different varieties of water and people, but it doesn’t focus, or excel, in any one specific area. This may be okay for kids, or beginners that aren’t going to take paddle boarding very seriously.
But for everyone else (and should be all of you!), you should buy a paddle that seems as though it was made just for you.
A lot of paddles come with a height adjuster, but unless you luck out, chances are the paddle will be a bit too long, or a bit too short. It also will lack a certain solidness in the shaft when it is in two pieces, and will wear out more quickly.
The Different Types of Paddle Shafts
There are different shafts that are used for different situations and people. If you are new to paddling, don’t view it as a serious hobby, or have kids that paddle board, an alloy paddle is what you likely want. They’re very durable, and can be tossed around and take some abuse. Great for anyone to pick up and use.
If you are looking for lightweight, go for a carbon-fiber shaft. This is a great paddle that can but used in several situations, and is the most common used. Any rider, from beginner to pro, can get good use out of a carbon-fiber paddle.
Recently there has been a shift of preference from carbon-based paddles, to bamboo.
Why bamboo? Bamboo paddles will give you more flex, as well as toughness. It is also known that the flex of the bamboo will ultimately be easier on your joints, and will help to stave off injury. Whereas a carbon paddle is tougher on your ligaments and tendons, especially after a full day of paddling.
Figuring Out the Right Height
After you’ve decided on what your paddle will be made out of, how do you know what the right height is for you?
If you are buying a one piece paddle, you don’t have the luxury of a quick-change adjuster. A good rule of thumb for getting that perfect height paddle, is to turn it upside down, resting the handle grip on the ground.
Your eyes should line up with the where the shaft, and the blade of the paddle meet. Having a paddle that is too short will result in you being crouched over more, and after a while, you will get back pains, which will ruin a good day.
If you don’t have the option to get a one piece paddle, or one doesn’t size up to you quite right, you should err on the side of a bit too long, rather than short.
A longer paddle will just mean you will have to paddle a bit deeper. But that’s still better than a backache.
Note: If you are a do-it-yourselfer, there is a good guide for cutting your paddle that is too long, down to your right height. Check that out, but be careful. Measure twice, cut once, as they say.
The Best Paddleboard Blades
You’ve sized your paddle up to the perfect height, you have it in your preferred material, what’s next? Why, the most key aspect of the entire paddleboard paddle of course.
Blades are being crafted specifically for a certain style of rider, in a certain type of environment.
First determine where you will be spending most of your time.
Are you an ocean dweller, or on a large freshwater lake such as one of the Great Lakes, where the waters can be more unpredictable and rough? Or are you inland, on a lake or a pond, where waters are generally calmer and docile?
Let’s start with the ocean.
If you’re spending your days zig-zagging and cutting through the waves, you should consider a smaller sized blade. The smaller size allows you to make turns, and navigate through the waters easier. The drawback is you will have to paddle more in order to gain speed.
If you are in calmer waters, a smaller lake or pond, take a look at a larger blade. The larger surface of the blade will allow you to take heavier, more powerful strokes, which will grant you the ability to glide, and reach greater speeds than you could with a small blade.
Have fun, and happy paddling!