October 03, 2020 10 min read

What is the best SUP paddle?

Getting your gear right and having the best possible paddles for paddle board adventures in your hands for you will increase your experience, performance, and enjoyment.

Choosing a stand up paddle board is the first step, next comes the paddle itself. Finding the best-suited equipment for you depends on your skill level, body type, and intended performance.

Once you’ve nailed your gear, there will be no stopping you out on the water.

Lucky for you, here at GILI Sports we have a fantastic collection of SUP paddles for sale that are versatile, durable, buoyant, and travel-friendly - making them perfect for anyone. From beginners to advanced paddlers, we’ve got you covered.

GILI Aluminum Travel Paddle

gili aluminum SUP paddle

Are you looking for a solid entry-level paddle? Our Aluminum Travel Paddle is your best option that is both affordable but still provides decent performance.

Specs & Key Features:

  • 3 Piece Travel Paddle
  • High Strength Round Aluminum Shaft
  • Nylon Blade
  • Adjustable from 64" to 86" for riders of all heights
  • Floats in Water

Even though this is the heaviest of our GILI paddles, it is still an ideal lightweight option perfect for beginners. It breaks down into three pieces and fits into our SUP Backpacks along with your board. And don’t worry - it still floats, so no issues if you go overboard.

GILI Fiberglass Travel Paddle

gili fiberglass sup paddle

Our Fiberglass Paddle is an excellent middle-ground option that is great for all-around paddle boarding experiences.

Specs & Key Features:

  • 3 Piece Travel Paddle
  • Durable Round Fiberglass Shaft & Nylon Blade
  • Adjustable from 67" to 86" for riders of all heights
  • Breaks down to 34"
  • Weighs 34 ounces
  • Floats in Water
  • Ergonomic Handle

This is a solid upgrade from the aluminum option without being overly expensive. The performance is an improvement but remains at a middle-ground level.

The fiberglass is lighter, stronger and slightly stiffer than aluminum paddles. It is also fully compatible with our fiberglass kayak kits, allowing you to easily convert your iSUP into a sit-down kayak.

GILI Hybrid Carbon Fiber Travel Paddle

gili carbon fiber SUP paddle

Perfect for traveling, our Carbon Fiber Hybrid Paddle is the top of the range in materials, design, and construction. This is the one to go for if you want optimum performance and the most lightweight paddle.

Specs & Key Features:

  • 3 Piece Travel Paddle
  • High Strength Round Carbon Fiber Shaft & Nylon Blade
  • Adjustable from 67" to 86" for riders of all heights
  • Breaks down to 38"
  • Weighs 29 ounces
  • Floats in Water
  • Anti-rattle, anti-twist locking system design
  • Ergonomic, comfortable handle and shaft

This is a solid favorite with our customers and proves to be rigid, durable, lightweight, and comfortable. Without a doubt, this paddle feels awesome in your hands and will get you gliding over the water effortlessly and with style. I use this paddle myself with my GILI Adventure touring SUP. The strength of the carbon fiber paddle makes it rigid and helps transfer your paddling efforts into thrust.

What are the key features of a SUP paddle?

Not every paddle is “one-size-fits-all”. In fact, most paddles have key features that you should bear in mind when shopping for a new SUP paddle. These include:

  • Blade Shape
  • Blade Angle
  • Grip
  • Ergonomics
  • Shaft and Travel Ease

These features all play a part depending on your skills and experience level on a SUP. Let us walk you through each one.

 Blade Shape

The blade is what cuts through the water and propels you along the surface. The shape of the blade affects the power of each paddle.

The two main shapes are teardrop and rectangular. To a beginner paddler, the differences will be undetectable. However, as you gain more experience and are looking for more performance you will be able to feel the difference between these two shapes.

Blade Angle / Offset

The blade angle, also known as the offset, is the degree the blade is forward from the shaft. Offset generally increases as the paddle performance increases.

The size of the angle affects how vertical the blade is when entering the water. When you are starting out on a SUP you don’t have to worry too much about this. However, as you get more experienced and are specializing in your paddling, then you will probably need to look into the offset angle more. Here is a rough guideline to follow:

  • SUP surfing: around 7 degrees
  • All-around/general: around 10 degrees
  • SUP racing: around 12 degrees

SUP kayak conversion kit

Grip

The grip is crucial for your comfort. There are two variants: T-Grip and Palm Grip. The choice of these features comes down to personal preference.

While a palm grip is often considered the more comfortable grip of the two, the T-grip offers a more secure hold on your paddle making it recommended for SUP surfers.

Ergonomics

The ergonomics of paddles for SUP is important to give you comfort and efficient paddling while out on the water.

If possible, we recommend you try holding the paddle and seeing how it feels in your hands before purchasing anything.

Shaft and Travel Ease

And of course, there is the shaft itself. You can find fixed-length shafts, adjustable shafts, and even shafts that can break down into three pieces to assist with travel.

Anyone who has an iSUP in their quiver would probably be interested in getting a travel-friendly paddle to fold down and fit neatly in a SUP backpack.

Also located on the shaft is the elbow. The elbow is the joint between the shaft and the blade. An effective elbow takes the pressure off the rider’s wrists and makes long paddles easier to manage.

stand up paddle board travel backpack

How do I choose a SUP paddle?

Now you know what you are looking for, but how do you choose a stand up paddle board paddle that is best for you?

Firstly, you need to determine what style of paddling you want to be doing. An all-round paddle can manage a whole range of styles. However, if you are focusing purely on racing, then perhaps you can look to find a more specialized, high quality paddle.

Buyer’s Guide:

  • Paddle Length
  • Shaft Shapes
  • Grip
  • Paddle Blades - Shape and Size
  • Blade Angle
  • Materials for Blade and Shaft
  • How to Paddle Board

Paddle Length

Most standard paddles are adjustable to some degree. It is only when you get more advanced and are looking at the higher performance paddles that you start to find fixed-length paddles. Adjustable paddles are great for beginners buying their own gear for the first time and those wanting to do a mix of activities with their SUP.

Several variables affect the length you need for your paddle. You need to consider your height, the water conditions, and the length and width of your board’s hull.

It is generally accepted that a paddle needs to be between eight and twelve inches taller than the rider. If the paddle is shorter than this, then you need to excerpt more energy to get moving. If any longer then you risk not being able to pull the paddle out of the water for the next stroke.

With adjustable paddles, you can play around with the sup paddles length and work out what is best for you.

Here are some simple tips for the hands up method to help you get the correct length for your paddle:

  1. Stand next to the paddle holding it vertically with the blade on the ground
  2. Reach your arm overhead and make a note where it hits the paddle
  3. Adjust the length of the shaft so the grip will fit in the bend of the wrist

how to measure sup paddle

Shaft Shape

As we have previously mentioned, a shaft can be adjustable with an extend-and-lock system. Adjustable paddles are great if the paddle is being shared by multiple riders or you plan to travel with your gear.

The majority of standard paddles are a fairly straight shape with an elbow attachment for the blade. However, you can find some SUP paddles that have bent shafts. A bent shaft is more costly, but you do get better comfort with a neutral position with less wrist strain when paddling long distances.

Grip

The grip feature is more of a personal choice. All of the GILI SUP paddles have a hybrid ergonomic handle that finds a comfortable balance between a T-Grip and a Palm Grip.

If you plan to hit the waves and surf with your SUP then it’s recommended that you get a paddle with a decent T-Grip in place to provide a secure hold.

The most important thing to remember is that your hand needs to be comfortable and secure while paddling.

GILI SUP paddles on the beach 

Paddle Blades - Shape and Size

 DESIGN GRAPHICS OF BLADES -

  • TEAR-DROP / SMALL BLADE - BEST FOR BEGINNERS, LESS FIT PADDLERS, AND ENDURANCE
  • RECTANGULAR / MEDIUM BLADE - BEST FOR MID-RANGE POWER, SPEED AND RACING
  • ROUNDED / LARGE BLADE - BEST FOR HIGH POWER, STRONG AND EXPERIENCED PADDLERS, AND BIG WAVES

    Your paddle blade is the most crucial element of the paddle. This is the part of the paddle that provides acceleration for the rider.

    The size and shape of the blade depend on your skill level and fitness. They typically come in small, medium, or large sizes, with various shapes to give different results.

    Generally speaking, the larger the blade the more powerful the paddle but they require more strength to pull through the water. Whereas the smaller paddles are efficient but need more frequent strokes.

    Dihedral or Flat

    There are two shapes of paddle blades: dihedral and flat. The main advantage of a dihedral blade is that it reduces the ‘flutter’ in your stroke through the water. If your paddle flutters, then you run the risk of hitting your rails or even losing control of the stroke.

    However, with the dihedral shape you do lose a degree of power which is not ideal for SUP surfers needing to turn their boards quickly to catch a wave.

    Most beginners get on well with a dihedral blade, as the sacrifice of power is outweighed by the smooth cut through water.

    Blade Angle

     sup paddle out of water

    The blade is angled to the shaft for good reason, not for aesthetics. As we mentioned above, a good all-around blade angle is around 10 degrees. However, you can get some ranging from 6 degrees up to 12.

    Reasons why the blade is angled

    1. Allows the paddle to begin a stroke at the furthest point away from the paddler and give a higher amount of power to each stroke.
    2. The nose of the board doesn’t dip in the water with the force of the stroke, giving a better gliding sensation.
    3. Water drains efficiently from the paddle at the end of each stroke to help preserve your energy.

    Materials for Blade and Shaft

    There are decisions to make when it comes to the materials used on paddles for paddle boards for both the shaft and the blade. Materials can have an affect on the flexibility, rigidity, and durability.

    Aluminum

    • Cheapest material
    • Relatively lightweight
    • Great for beginners starting their SUP journey

    Fiberglass

    • Can be heavier than carbon fiber and aluminum
    • Good mid-range performing material for intermediate paddlers
    • Cheaper than carbon fiber

    Carbon Fiber

    • Lightweight and strong
    • Fantastic for long distance paddles or racing
    • Can withstand being knocked around with little damage
    • More expensive than others

    How to Paddle Board

    how to stand up paddle board

    Read more - How to Paddle Board: The Beginner’s Guide to SUP Basics

    Now you have your gear sorted there is nothing stopping you from hitting the water. If you are new to paddle boarding then make sure you take the time to get to know the basics before heading out.

    1. Prepare your gear, adjust your paddle if necessary.
    2. Launch your SUP into knee-deep water. Place your paddle across the deck and sit with your knees on the board. You can practice paddling from your knees before moving on to the next step.
    3. When you feel comfortable, time to stand up. Move one foot at a time, placing your feet where your knees have been resting on the board. Slowly rise up from a squat keeping your knees flat and slide your hands into position on your paddle.
    4. Maintain your balance and enjoy your paddle. If you fall in the water, don’t worry! We’ve all been there. Keep smiling and jump back on board. It’s all part of the process.

    Top Balance Tips:

    • Make a first stroke as soon as your stand. This gets your momentum going straight away, just like riding a bike.
    • Engage your core.
    • Keep your feet parallel and hip-width apart, toes facing forward and knees slightly bent.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Adjustable-length or fixed-length SUP paddles. Which is better?

    For all-around purpose, adjustable-length paddles are great for versatility and make your life easier when storing. You can also play around with the length to find what is right for you.

    If you are planning on mixing up the activities and doing some surf paddle boarding as well as gentle cruises, then an adjustable paddle is recommended. But, if you plan on having a separate paddle just for racing then often people prefer a fixed length paddle.

    Best SUP paddles - shaft

    What size SUP Paddle do I need?

    Most standard paddles are adjustable which means you can play around with the length to get the right fit for you. However, not all paddles are adjustable. The more performance SUP racing paddles tend to be a fixed length.

    How to find the right size paddle

    Generally, you want your paddle to be around 9”-10” taller than you. There are exceptions when it comes to SUP surfing (6”-7” taller than you) or SUP racing (11”-12” taller than you).

    We always recommend the Hands Up Method to size your paddle. In one hand, hold your paddle up straight and parallel to your body, with the blade touching the ground. Hold your other hand straight up as if you’re about to do a pull up. Adjust your paddle to the height of the top of your pull up hand. Double check that the paddle grip feels comfortable in the palm of your hand, or keep adjusting until it does.

    Once you’ve chosen the right height, push in the metal button on your paddle that allows you to adjust. Guide the handle up or down to reach the height you need, and make sure the button makes that satisfying click to tell you it’s securely in place.

    Why are SUP paddles angled?

    Don’t get caught out holding your paddle the wrong way. The angle to the blade is important for these reasons:

    1. Allows the paddle to begin a stroke at the furthest point away from the paddler and give a higher amount of power to each stroke.
    2. The nose of the board doesn’t dip in the water with the force of the stroke, giving a better gliding sensation.
    3. Water drains efficiently from the paddle at the end of each stroke to help preserve your energy.

    Wrapping-Up

    Now you are geared up and raring to go. Go hit the water and take your new paddle and SUP out for a spin.

    Remember to always keep a close eye on the condition of your equipment, the weather conditions for your paddle, and your body's limits. Have fun!

    Warren Tsoi
    Warren Tsoi

    Editor - Warren is an avid waterman and conservationist who will take any chance to be outdoors. He believes the best way to protect our environment is to get people outside to appreciate nature.


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