We had questions for our SUP Paddles. Our paddles refused to answer. So, we went looking for answers elsewhere and created this SUP Paddles FAQ.

It contains every question we’ve had, or have come across, with regard to our paddleboard paddles. And it contains the best answers we could find online.

Hope you find it useful.

So, let’s get to it! Everything you ever wanted to know about SUP Paddles but were too ashamed to ask. And let’s start with…

How to Choose a SUP Paddle

Choosing a paddle is mostly a matter of personal preference. In general, though, you will need to consider the following:

  • your budget – SUP Paddles can range from around £50 to over £400. How much you’re willing to invest in a paddle is dependent on how much time you think you’ll be able to invest in your new hobby. As always, you get what you pay for.
  • your paddleboarding style/discipline e.g. SUP Leisure/Touring, SUP Racing, SUP Surfing – Different SUP disciplines benefit from different paddle construction & length. Whichever type of paddling you find yourself doing the most, choosing a paddle specifically designed for it is best.
  • your height – This is more important when considering a 1 piece fixed-length paddle. Break-down 2 or 3 piece paddles are easily adjustable for most paddler heights. 1 piece paddles are not. Not unless you want to cut and hot glue it back together.
  • paddle composition & weight – this determines paddle flex, buoyancy, power throughput and overall paddling economy and efficiency.
  • paddle portability & ease of storage e.g. is it 1, 2 or 3 piece? – 1 piece fixed-length paddles need transporting & storing just the same as come apart 2 or 3 piece SUP paddles. How you intend on transporting your SUP equipment will obviously determine which paddle you choose. Where and how much space you have to store your SUP equipment may also be a deciding factor. An 8 foot long fixed length paddle with a large blade tends to stick out a little.
  • paddle blade shape, size and length – for the more advanced/expert stand up paddleboarders, blade shape, blade material and blade size can make a real difference to performance.


SUP Paddle Differences

SUP Paddles come in one (fixed length), two or three-piece (adjustable length) variations. Occasionally, you can buy them in 4 piece kits with an extra paddle blade section to turn them into kayak paddles. They are made from a range of materials.

At the budget end, there are the alloy shaft (normally aluminium) and nylon/polyurethane blade paddles. They are solid, durable but heavy – weighing between 0.9 and 1.2 kg. They can be susceptible to corrosion if not properly maintained. And they are also less likely to float.

Next up are the fibreglass or carbon hybrid paddles. These are lighter, more rigid and much more buoyant than the alloy/plastic paddles. They tend to weigh between 0.7 – 1 kg. They cost more, but are often the recommended paddle for the enthusiastic beginner.

Towards the top of the range are the 100% carbon fibre paddles. These are stronger, more rigid, even lighter and extremely buoyant. They can weigh between 0.5 – 0.8 kg. Aimed at the advanced/pro-market they come with different blade lengths, blade shapes, palm grips and blade offsets, so they can be fine-tuned for different paddling styles & paddle boarding disciplines.

You can also get bamboo composite and fully wooden SUP paddles. They are pricey and can be heavy, but boy do they look nice.


Correct SUP Paddle Length

The correct SUP paddle length for you will depend on a number of factors.

If you search Google for “ideal sup paddle length”, you’ll see that most results recommend you take your height and add anything between 6 – 12 inches to it. However, it’s actually a little more complex than that – especially if you want to really get it right and start paddling like a pro.

We’ve written a complete blog on it. Just click the link above.

It includes an easy to use, scrollable, mobile-friendly SUP Paddle Length Chart / Calculator and a simple step-by-step guide to help you fine-tune it further.

Don’t worry, it’s all info based on the recommendations of paddle boarding experts. We’ve just trawled through it all and put what we thought was useful for us in one place.


Adjusting your Paddleboard Paddle

One-piece paddles, being fixed-length, are not adjustable without cutting the shaft and hot glueing the handle back on. 2 and 3 piece adjustable SUP paddles have a ferrule clamp and pin system that enables the blade and middle shaft sections to lock and the handle section to remain adjustable for paddler height.

On our paddles, they look like this. Below is the ferrule pin locking mechanism that joins the paddle blade section to the mid-shaft section. Some paddle designs have these pin locking mechanisms along the length of the shaft to allow for length adjustment.


The mid-shaft and paddle handle sections connect on ours via a ferrule clamp mechanism. It looks like this below.


To adjust your SUP paddle, all you need to do is undo the handle clamp and slide the handle section up or down to the correct length, then reclamp.

It’s not difficult to use. What is slightly more difficult, though, is adjusting it to the correct length for you. Very often, beginners will either guess or not bother at all. You can use our simple SUP paddle length guide to find your ideal paddle length.


What’s the Correct Way to hold A SUP Paddle?

Stand up paddleboarding beginners can sometimes be forgiven for not knowing that there’s a right and a wrong way to hold a paddle. We certainly made this mistake, and with our barely offset paddles, still do occasionally.

The correct way to hold a SUP paddle is with the angle/offset of the paddle blade pointing forwards to the nose of your paddle board. Most SUP paddles will have a manufacturer’s logo on the forward face of the blade that should help you identify which face is which. You should hold your paddle with the logo pointing towards the paddle board nose.

The reason many first-time paddlers get confused is that logic suggests your paddle would work better the other way round. My kids intuitively do this.

However, a paddle blade angled forward pushes the water down, raising your paddle board higher in the water, thereby causing less friction. This not only allows the water to move more easily around the paddle, helping to keep your paddle stroke straight and even, but it also helps your paddle board glide and move faster through the water.

A paddle blade angled backwards tends to scoop the water, which is struggling to push past the blade surface, causing your paddle blade to move side to side (“flutter”) as you perform your pull stroke.

Provided your SUP board is properly inflated, you can notice the difference quite easily.

Paddle the correct way and it’s nice and smooth. Switch your paddle around and it’s zig-zagging towards you like a shark fin.

Try it!

SUP Paddle Hand Positioning

Proper hand placement is important. Depending on which side you’re paddling, one hand should be resting lightly on the paddle t-bar/ball handle and the other a shoulder’s width apart further down the paddle shaft. If your hands are too close together, or too far apart, your paddle stroke will be less efficient, less powerful and could potentially lead to physical injury.

There’s a simple 3-step exercise you can use to find the correct hand positioning:

  1. place one hand on the paddle handle and the other somewhere further down the shaft.
  2. Now, keeping your hands in position, lift your paddle above your head and bring the paddle shaft section between your hands down until it rests on your scalp. Make sure the shaft runs along the length of your shoulders. Pretend you’re weightlifting with it if it helps.
  3. Then, bend the arm that’s holding the paddle handle until it’s at roughly 90 degrees. Slide your other arm up or down the handle until it’s also at 90 degrees.

Hopefully, your arms should now be roughly shoulder’s width apart and your hands are now properly positioned.

Pro Tip: Use waterproof tape to mark the position so you can easily find it next time

SUP Paddle Grip Spacing

SUP paddle hand positioning is not set in stone. Your grip spacing can and will change depending on the type of stroke you might need to make.

Moving and manoeuvring from one type of stroke to another, may mean your top hand lets go of the handle and moves further down the shaft to help with short, quick strokes from a lower position. This brings your hands closer together, allowing you more control and increased cadence/rhythm.

This is sometimes called “choking down on the paddle“.

We often paddle like this for a few seconds when moving from a kneeling to a standing position (because the paddle length is set for a standing position and is too long for kneeling).

Pros may use it to lower their bodies to reduce wind resistance and/or when going from slow back to normal speed.

In SUP Racing, you can often see it used after making a turn around a buoy. SUP surfers can sometimes be seen using it to paddle quickly to catch a wave.


The Correct Way to Use a SUP Paddle

Once you’ve adjusted your paddle correctly for your height and SUP discipline ( Touring / Leisure, Racing or Surfing ) using our simple paddle sizing guide, and now you’ve worked out which way round it goes and how to hold it, it’s time to learn how to use it properly.

If you’re paddling on the right side of your SUP board, your upper hand should be on the left side of your body. If you’re paddling on the left, your upper hand should be on the right. Your upper hand should be relaxed, lightly gripping the handle. You should aim to paddle with your knees slightly bent, feet shoulder width apart and your eyes focused on the horizon. Looking at your feet will unbalance you.

We (literally) fell for this every time at the beginning! We’re not so bad now.

Core is Key

Instead of relying on just your arms to pull the paddle through the water, the aim is to utilise your core muscles. Core muscles are stronger than arm muscles (which will tire quickly if overworked).

  • Without hunching or leaning, put your paddle blade into the water as close to vertical and as perpendicular with the side of your SUP board as possible.
  • Bend at the waist and twist your body slightly at the hips as you do this. Make sure the whole blade enters the water.
  • The lower hand should steer/pull the paddle blade alongside the sup board side rail, while the top hand pushes down on the paddle.

As you do this, the aim is to twist your hips and torso at the same time. Experts describe it as…

pulling your paddleboard towards your paddle. NOT pulling your paddle towards you.

When the paddle blade reaches your feet, you should roll your upper wrist so that your thumb is pointing forward.

This action is called “feathering” and twists the paddle blade enabling it to exit the water smoothly ready for the next stroke. Repeat this a few times, then switch your hands and paddle on the other side if necessary.

It looks simple, but takes practice. It’s also difficult to describe in words. If you want to see it demonstrated by experts, check out this YouTube video

FYI: We haven’t even got close to perfecting it. Especially the feathering. If you’re behind us when we’re paddling, chances are you’re gonna get wet!


Different Strokes for Different Folks

Different SUP paddle stroke techniques are useful in different circumstances. Some help you power efficiently over long distances. Others help you maintain a straight line without too much switching sides. Some SUP strokes help you stop, reverse or turn quickly.

Your Basic SUP Paddle Stroke

A SUP Paddle stroke is normally broken up into 4 different phases.

  • Reach – the proper paddle blade placement and water entry forward of your body position. This is called the “catch”.
  • Power phase – the travel of your paddle blade along the side rail of your SUP board. Arm, hand and paddle positioning should attempt to create a so-called “triangle of power”.
  • Exit – turning the paddle blade 90 degrees once it reaches your feet so as to exit the water efficiently. This is sometimes also called “feathering”.
  • Recovery – the return of the paddle efficiently to the next catch position.

A normal SUP paddle stroke, or at least the one most SUP instructors teach, is where the paddle shaft is as vertical as possible when the blade enters the water. The paddle blade is then made to travel along the side rail of your SUP board to approximately your feet, using your arms and core muscles.

Any time the paddle blade spends in the water behind your feet is less efficient, so a clean exit and recovery to the next catch phase is important.

This basic sup paddle stroke enables the paddle blade to work properly and helps you to efficiently utilise the “power triangle” created between your arms and paddle.

A short and really helpful instructional YouTube video explaining the science behind a good basic SUP paddle stroke can be found below.

Paddling in a Straight Line

OMG, what wouldn’t we give to be able to paddle in a straight line. Switching paddle sides is annoying! Two strokes on the right. 3 strokes on the left. Back to the right. Ad infinitum. Admittedly, it’s a good SUP workout, but it slows you down. You lose speed. You lose momentum.

You gradually lose interest.

Unfortunately, until you learn a more efficient SUP stroke, zig-zagging your way slowly across the water is a rite of passage for most beginner stand up paddle boarders.

Why can’t I paddle my PaddleBoard in a Straight Line?

The more of an angle your SUP paddle is away from vertical when it enters the water, the more your board will turn. Likewise, the further your paddle blade is diagonally away from you when it enters the water, the more your board will turn.

Basically, if you’re looking over the paddle shaft when it enters the water, rather than between the paddle shaft and your arms, you’re holding your sup paddle too diagonally and you’re heading haphazardly for zig zag bay.

A diagonal paddle shaft is useful when you want to manoeuvre your paddle board i.e. make quick turns. It’s not when you want to point it at something and head directly there.

There are SUP paddling techniques that claim they can help, though.

Paddle in a particular way and, apparently, you can get more paddle strokes per side than normal, thereby maintaining your momentum and straight line speed.

How to Paddle in a Straight Line

The key to paddling in a straight line is to place your SUP paddle blade into the water slightly off to the side, rather than vertically perpendicular to your board. The paddle blade should also be angled slightly towards you. Then, during the power phase, stroke the blade towards your sup board and straighten it out as it reaches the side. Finish the remaining phases of the stroke normally, before placing your paddle blade slightly off to the side again, blade facing towards you.

This is sometimes called the “reverse J stroke” as the paddle blade makes an upside down reverse letter J shape in the water as you perform the stroke.

If performed correctly, it should help keep your SUP board in a reasonably straight line for longer.

You can see it demonstrated in this YouTube video by BluePlanetSurf.

And, if you’re interested in the physics behind it, you can see it described more scientifically (and with paddle board video & diagrams too), here at wired.com.

There are other useful SUP Paddle strokes you need to know about too.

Other Types of SUP Paddle Strokes

The J Stroke

This is where it gets a little confusing.

In canoeing / kayaking, the J stroke is a paddling stroke used to stop or slow down the canoe or kayak. The paddle blade is placed into the water behind the canoe and angled towards it slightly. It’s then brought towards the canoe and forwards along it’s length. Used on the left or port side, it makes the shape of the letter J.

In stand up paddleboarding, it’s often used to describe the basic stroke – where the paddle blade enters the water near the nose of the SUP board, travels along the side and then exits out and away from the paddle board towards the rear.

Again, on the left or port side, it forms the letter J.

The Reverse Stroke

The reverse stroke is used to slow or stop your stand up paddle board and even to go backwards should you need to. It involves placing the paddle blade in the water behind you on one side of your board, and drawing your paddle back towards your feet and out. You then swap the paddle to the other side of your board and repeat.

Combined with a draw stroke, it enables you to go backwards in a straight line at a reasonable speed.

You might not use it much out on the open sea, but on rivers / creeks / canals etc. it could come in handy.

See it demonstrated below.

The Draw Stroke

A draw stroke enables you to move your paddleboard sideways or laterally in the water. This comes in handy when manoeuvring to a dock or landing place where you might want to step off your SUP board without getting wet. Or it can prove useful when you want to pull up alongside another paddler. There are a few different varieties of draw strokes including nose and sculling draw.

All are expertly shown in this YouTube video below. This man teaches SUP instructors, so he knows his stuff.

The Forward/Reverse Sweep Stroke

This stroke enables a paddle boarder to turn their board quickly and easily. Combining the two strokes can help you turn your SUP board in a tight 360 degree circle.

Both strokes are again demonstrated really well in the YouTube video below.

SUP Stroke Tips for Beginners

We’re beginners. We only recently started our stand up paddleboarding adventure.

As you can tell by our use of them, YouTube has some great instructional videos to help us and you get up and running with the basics. One day we might even post our own just for a laugh and to record our own progress.

Until then, as a final watch and just because it’s in Hawaii, this is one video that, as paddleboarding beginners, we found very helpful.


Paddle Maintenance

If you want your paddle to last and perform to its best for as long as possible, you need to look afer it. That means regular care and maintenance and proper storage.

We found this out the hard way when, after just a few trips out, our brand new 3 piece SUP paddles refused to come apart no matter what or how hard we tried. Eventually, though, we fixed them. And the reason our paddles became stuck?

Poor care and storage.

Now we know better. And we make sure we take some quick and simple steps before and after we paddle board. This is what we do for our adjustable 2 or 3 piece paddles.

Before:  Before assembling your paddle, make sure the shaft joins are clean and free of any sand, dirt, grime, oil etc. that could get trapped in the mechanism. Fresh clean water from a bottle, hydro pack or tap should be used to rinse them off. Then dry with a clean towel before assemblage.

Never use lubricant. Oil attracts more dirt and grime and causes more trouble than it solves. Try getting oil out of a wetsuit if you don’t believe us.

The only oily lubricant we could find to recommend is that secreted by the skin at the sides of your nose and on your forehead. Rub your clean finger there and then on the shaft join. We’re not kidding either. It’s an old fisherman’s trick and it  works for us.

After: When we’ve finished paddle boarding for the day, we make sure we take our paddles apart immediately and rinse the salt and sand off them with fresh clean water as soon as possible.

If you don’t do this, and if you leave and store your paddle assembled for any length of time, you run the risk of getting them as stuck as ours were. And that is not fun.

Salt, sand & marine material left in your paddle joins and ferrule mechanism cures to a glue like bonding paste in no time. This can make it almost impossible to get your paddle apart again without resorting to tougher, potentially more paddle-damaging methods.

If you don’t believe us, just read our exhaustive blog on it.

We tried 17 different ways to get one of ours apart before we achieved success. Once we knew what the cause was, we cut it down to just two for the second paddle.

Needless to say, we never intend on going through that again.

Paddle Storage

You should store your 2 or 3 piece paddles disassembled after you have thoroughly cleaned and dried them. Avoid storing them outside if you can, where moisture and temperature extremes can shorten your paddle life-span and weaken the material it’s made from. It’s also preferable to store them blade up. This protects your paddle blade from any accidental damage.

We lost count of the amount of times we nearly stood on the shaft or blade of our paddles without realising it. Repairing or replacing a SUP paddle is not cheap.

Now we store ours upright in sections in a DIY paddle rack made out of an old wooden pallet. Keeps them safely out of the way and looks good too.

Paddle Transportation

A major cause of hidden and/or accidental damage to your SUP paddle is how you get them to and from the water. Scratches, dents and dings caused by heavy handling can lead to weakness in the paddle, which can result in more significant damage later.

Investing in a good padded paddle bag can help prevent this. Something like this paddlebag at Amazon should do the job nicely.

Or just take extra care!


My Paddleboard Paddle Won’t Come Apart

In 2 or 3 piece adjustable paddles, paddle shaft joins and ferrule lock mechanisms can become too tight. This is normally due to sand, salt or marine material and dirt getting trapped in the join and creating a glue-like bond. This can make it almost impossible to separate your paddles if left.

Don’t believe us? Why not read about how much fun we DIDN’T have with our stuck paddles and how we finally managed to get them apart again – after 17 failed attempts.

My Paddle Comes Apart Too Easily

Conversely, over time, paddle shaft joins can wear down and lose their super-fine tolerances. Paddle shafts can then slip and twist as you use them, making your paddle loose and less than straight – which can be quite annoying.

We often have to tighten the screws that adjust the ferrule clamp mechanism on our paddles. Otherwise the handle section just keeps sliding up and down when in use.

My SUP Paddle Broke

This can and does happen. Paddle blades can be damaged on rocks, by SUP board fins and through general lack of care and improper storage.

Scratches, dinks and dents can cause invisible damage to your paddle blade and shaft, which can result in potentially more serious problems later.

SUP Surfers especially can go through paddles quickly. Body weight, SUP board momentum and wave power, can all conspire to break a SUP paddle completely in half. They can be repaired. But that can cost time and money, and there’s no guarantee it won’t happen again.

Here’s a great video from paddle manufacturer Quickblade, demonstrating through the use of blunt force and physical weight, the strengths and causes of weaknesses in paddles.


SUP Paddle Prices

Obviously prices vary widely. On average though…

  • A budget, bottom of the range alloy / polyurethane SUP paddle can be bought new for as little as £25, sometimes less.
  • Fibreglass hybrid paddles can be found from as little as £40.
  • You’d be hard pushed to find a fully carbon paddle for less than £80 – £100.

As always, buyer beware.

Ultimately, you get what you pay for.


Do All SUP Paddles Float?

No. Not all paddle board paddles float. A paddle’s bouyancy or ability to float depends on a number of factors. Whether it’s 1, 2 or 3 piece. What material(s) it’s made from. How air tight the paddle shaft is. The paddle’s age.

A sealed one piece paddle should float regardless of the material it’s made from – unless you decide to prove us wrong and make it out of lead, of course. However, a 2 or 3 piece SUP paddle’s bouyancy depends on the material it’s made from and its age.

In an adjustable 2/3 piece paddle, water can enter at the joins and connections. These joins wear over time and become less watertight. When this happens, some paddles will begin to take water into their hollow shafts.

If the paddle is a high-end 100% carbon fibre model with a bouyant core blade, it will probably still float even if the shafts are waterlogged.

If it’s a hybrid fibreglass/plastic composite SUP paddle with composite blade it will float, but its bouyancy will decrease the more water it takes into its hollow shaft sections. We’re beginning to see this with our own paddles now.

If it’s a beginner/budget paddle made from simple aluminium alloy and plastic, it will probably sink. How quickly it sinks is unknown.

Don’t worry too much, though. Most new adjustable SUP Paddles, that haven’t had time for their joins to become worn, will either float indefinitely or float for a long enough period of time for you to recover them should you become separated. Even, the cheapest 2 or 3 piece aluminium paddles should float for a minute or two before becoming waterlogged and sinking towards the bottom.

Plus, there are budget paddles such as this paddle on Amazon for instance, that are comprised of an alloy shaft but with a buoyant fibreglass blade. The manufacturer’s claim these will not sink even if the shaft is waterlogged.

In the end, you could quit worrying about it and just get yourself a paddle leash.

Then you don’t have to worry about losing your paddle ever again.


Paddle board paddles are angled or “offset” from the shaft to maximise paddling efficiency, to enhance power generation and to improve economy of movement through the water for your paddleboard and the paddle itself. 

The degree a SUP paddle blade angles forward from the shaft (also called the “back angle”), affects how vertical the paddle blade is when it enters and travels through the water. This, in turn, affects how much power you can get out of each paddle stroke.

Provided you are holding your SUP paddle correctly, the offset allows the blade to push down on the water, raising your paddleboard and reducing friction with the water surface.

Different types of stand up paddleboarding benefit from paddles with different offsets.

  • For SUP Surfing, an offset of approx 7 degrees works better.
  • For SUP Leisure/Touring an offset of 10 degrees is recommended.
  • For SUP Racing, an offset of 12 degrees helps reach maximum power efficiency.


In simple terms, a dihedral is the angle formed by two plane faces. A paddle blade can be flat or it can have a dihedral. The dihedral provides direction for water to flow off a blade when it comes into contact with it.

A flat blade gathers water against its power face. As the blade is pulled through the water, pressure builds up. The water piled up behind the blade has nowhere to go and tries to escape to either side. As it does, the paddle blade “flutters” left and right and can even hit the side of your paddle board.

To counteract this fluttering effect, paddle designers have incorporated a dihedral on the power face of the blade. This shape allows the water to escape the surface of the paddle blade more easily, reducing or negating paddle fluttering entirely.

As per usual, though, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Watch the YouTube video below from Hawaiian paddle manufacturer Kialoa explaining the origins of the SUP paddle dihedral and why, sometimes, it’s actually not needed at all.


Pimping your Paddle

Paddles are meant for paddling. There are very few bells and whistles available to turn them into something they’re not.

Saying that though, if you have a GO Pro video camera  then why not use your SUP Paddle as a selfie stick or camera mount to capture those awesome action shots?

GoPro have a mount designed specifically for this kind of thing, and it’s reasonably priced. Or it was last time we looked for the mount on Amazon.

The only other thing we could find specifically for SUP paddles were paddle leashes. They don’t pimp your paddle up and they’re hardly cool, but they do stop you losing it to a strong current or to the bottom of the deep blue sea.

Again, Amazon has a wide choice of paddle leashes. Something like this paddle leash might do.

It’s up to you whether you decide you need one. From what we’ve read, most paddlers don’t bother. Why?

Firstly, because it can interfere with your paddling. Secondly, experienced paddleboarders rarely let go of their paddles. And lastly, if they do, it doesn’t take long to retrieve them again.


SUP Paddles for Children

Paddles designed for adults can look unwieldy in the hands of a small child. They can be heavy, too long and physically tiring to use. Not much fun, when you’re trying to have fun.

So, although in many cases a standard adjustable 2 or 3 piece paddle will adjust down to a size suitable for a child, sometimes it’s better to get one made specifically for them. And you can. There are plenty of junior SUP paddles suitable for children of most ages.

In many cases, these paddles will grow as your child grows, or until they’re ready to move up to a standard SUP paddle. They’re often lighter with smaller blades, so your kids can expend their energy on having fun, not on wrestling with a giant lollipop. Plus, they’re often cheaper.

Most paddle manufacturers make an affordable kid’s paddle. Most SUP board suppliers sell them for smaller riders.

And, you can obviously find kid’s SUP paddles online for budget prices.

Rounding Up

There you have it. Frequently unasked questions about stand up paddleboard paddles. We’ll update this post every time we think of, or come across, a new one.

In the meantime, we hope it helps!