How to Choose an inflatable SUP Paddle

Table of contents

1.The handle
2.Length adjusting system
3.How to choose a paddle based on the materials?
4.How to choose a blade?

inflatable SUP Paddle

A suitable inflatable SUP paddle can go a long way to improving your performance and enjoyment of the sport. For instance, for long distance SUP sessions on a touring inflatable paddle board, a lightweight carbon-fiber paddle would make paddling much easier for you. If you are not satisfied with the paddle you are currently using, it’s time to consider getting a new one. Even though some of the best paddles can be expensive, if you are going to be paddling a lot, it’s definitely worth investing your money in it. Below is some tips to help you pick out the most suitable paddle for yourself.

The weight of a paddle can have a major effect on your paddling experience. To propel the board forward, you need to use the paddle to transfer the energy of your body to the water. If you’ll be doing some high-intensity paddling or long-distance touring on the water, a lighter paddle would make them easier for you.

You can easily take up to 1500 strokes in one hour in a moderate-intensity paddling session. So I think it’s safe to say that your paddle plays a critical role in your SUP experience. 

There are certain aspects of a paddle you should pay attention to when trying to find a suitable paddle for yourself. For example, you should probably make sure the handle is comfortable to hold, the shaft is rigid enough for whatever activities you’ll be doing, the blade is efficient and the weight is acceptable to you.

You probably don’t know how a few ounces of extra weight can affect your SUP experience when you are paddling for the first time. But as you paddle for longer hours, you’d probably notice how they can be a burden to you and the importance of a lighter paddle.

When buying a paddle, be sure to check out its specifications to find out its essential features and elements.

Here are some of the features and elements you should look into when buying a paddle board paddle.

The Handle

The handle can determine how enjoyable your SUP session can be. So make sure it’s comfortable to hold and you like how it feels in your hand.

Most cheap paddles come with a handle made of molded plastic and a lot of them have some rough edges that can cause skin irritation or even blisters after long hours of usage.

The better and of course, more expensive choice here is a carbon handle. Some carbon handles are molded with the shaft of the paddle to form a seamless piece. A paddle like this is usually more durable than those with a glue joint that can come loose at some point in its lifespan.


Length Adjusting System

Different paddling conditions require different paddle lengths. An adjustable paddle would work just fine for you most of the time. There are a few different ways to secure the adjustable part of a shaft.

Some old and cheaper models will feature several holes near the top of the main shaft. And they put a metal pin in the telescoping handle shaft which snaps into one of the holes to set the length. This is an inefficient design which makes it hard for the paddlers to adjust the length. And it also allows the possibility of water getting inside the paddle shaft, cauing the paddle to sink when you drop it into the water. This is the kind of paddle that you should avoid.

There’s a new design in which the paddle length is adjusted on the handle. They use a cable that attaches to a lever on the handle to secure the handle shaft to the main shaft. You can flip open the lever from the cutout in the handle and start to adjust the paddle length.

This is a clever design but not perfect. A notable defect is that the handle can only be made of plastic due to the utilization of the lever. The cutout for the lever will make the handle uncomfortable to hold, especially when you will be paddling for a long time. And as time goes by, the cable will start to stretch and loosen which will eventually make the paddle unusable.

Cam Lever Length Adjusters
The most durable and easy-to-use length adjusting system, we think, is probably the one that uses a cam lever fixed on the outer shaft. It’s extremely easy to adjust the paddle with this system, just flip the lever open, slide the handle shaft to the ideal position and fasten it again. 


How to Choose A Paddle Based on the Materials?

Aluminum is used mostly on the cheapest paddles. It’s the heaviest material for making a paddle and not as strong as other materials.

Mid-range paddles are usually a blend of fiberglass and paddle. This kind of paddle would suit most paddlers well as it’s lighter and stronger than an aluminum paddle, which justifies the price gap between them.

Carbon paddles
The lightest paddles would be the full carbon paddles. But pay attention when you are trying to buy a carbon paddle. Usually, if it is not described as “Full Carbon” or “100% carbon fiber”, but rather “carbon shaft”, then it basically means it’s only a fiberglass/carbon blend. There could be as little as 10% carbon if it’s not described as 100% carbon fiber. You should look for more detailed descriptions to find out the actual carbon content.

But that’s not to say that fiberglass is bad. It’s very strong. The only disadvantage is its weight. So blending fiberglass with carbon is an acceptable compromise if the paddle is reasonably priced and the manufacturer is honest about the true carbon content.

Some paddles being sold as “carbon paddles” usually use fiberglass on the inside, with only an outer layer of carbon to justify their name. You can’t see the inside of the paddle, and that’s what a lot of manufacturers are taking liberties and calling their paddles “carbon” without telling buyers it’s actually a fiberglass/carbon blend.

Paddle Weight
There’s a simple way to tell if a paddle is full carbon or a carbon/figerglass blend, and it’s by the weight of the paddle. A 3-piece 100% carbon paddle usually weighs under 25 ounces and a 2-piece paddle can be even lighter.

If a carbon paddle weighs more than 30oz, it’s basically a fiberblass/carbon blend. 

Shaft Texture
One more little detail to pay attention to is the texture on the shaft, which is smooth or textured. A paddle with a smooth shaft could be slipery to hold firmly which could be a drawback in high-intensity SUP activities. And it’ll be even more slipery when you get it wet.

How to Choose a Blade

The blade is what decides the level of performance a paddle can achieve. The material of the blade will affect the swing weight and the cost of the paddle. High-end paddles will usually feature a fiberglass or carbon fiber blade. And the more affordable paddles will use plastic or composite plastic material.

Plastic blades
Plastic blades are the most common as it’s the most cost-saving choice. It’s also more durable than carbon blades as it’s more tolerant of abuse. The drawback of a plastic blade is its weight and rigidity. A plastic blade can make the paddle feel heavy and flimsy if it’s not well designed. 

To buy the right paddle blade, always check the total weight of the paddle. Some paddles can weigh less than 30oz even if it uses a plastic blade.

A plastic blade is not always the inferior choice. For example, a plastic blade would perform much better in whitewater paddling than a carbon blade because it’s more resistant to abuse. If you use a carbon blade on whitewater, it can break easily when hits a rock, whereas a plastic blade will only have nothing more than a few scratches. 

If you are going whitewater paddling or paddling on shallow and rocky places where there’s a high chance you’ll hit rocks, then you’d better use a plastic paddle. But in most conditions, a carbon blade are always the better option as it’s lighter and more rigid. 

Blade size
When choosing a blade, you should also take the blade size into consideration. Larger blades can generate more power with each stroke but make it harder to maintain a fast paddling cadence. 

A blade within 85-95 square inch range would work fine for most paddlers in most paddling conditions. If you have some joint issues, a smaller blade would probably suit you better as it will put less pressure on your body.


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