Adjusting your SUP paddle
We’re laying it all on the table here folks. It’s time to settle the heated debate on the correct way to properly size your SUP paddle. But first, let’s take a step back for a quick second. There will always be multiple ways of doing something correctly; for example, cooking food, cleaning your house, eating healthy and most importantly, sizing your SUP paddle.
Yes, you read that right, there are multiple correct ways to size your SUP paddle. Forget what you’ve read online or in your paddle’s manual and pay close attention. The correct method of sizing your paddle varies from person to person. We’re all built differently which means your paddle’s length should be customized to:
- Your arm length
- How tall you are
- Your paddle board’s height off the water (epoxy, inflatable, soft top)
- Your paddle activity of choice (recreational, SUP surfing, SUP racing)
Yup we know, that’s a lot of factors to consider, but don’t let this intimidate you. We’re going to dumb this way down and help you find the perfect paddle length for you. One paddle sizing method might work better for you than another, it’s all about finding one that will provide you with the most comfort, maximum efficiency and will help prevent you from injury – that’s our rule of thumb.
The 4 SUP Paddle Sizing Methods
Laird Hamilton’s Method
As a starting point for determining your paddle length, Laird Hamilton (the pioneer of paddle boarding) advises to make your paddle length 3-4 inches above your head.
He then suggests adjusting from there based on your needs, mobility and experience. Over time you will likely come up with a formula that you can quickly apply based on your anatomy and paddle style.
The Hands Up Method
If Laird’s method doesn’t feel comfortable for you, try this next method. Raise one of your arms as if you were doing a pull up. The other hand should be holding your paddle upright, parallel to your body, with your paddle’s blade touching the ground. Adjust your paddle to the height of the top of your hand in the air. Make sure to adjust until your paddle’s grip fits comfortable around the palm of your hand.
The Shaka Method
Throw a shaka sideways and place it on top of your head. The tip of your pinky is where your paddle’s shaft should end.
Stare it Straight in the Eyes Method
Hold your paddle parallel to your body, but with the grip resting on the ground and your paddle’s blade in the air. Where your paddle’s blade meets the shaft should be about eye level with you. Adjust the proper length of your paddle accordingly.
Adjusting your SUP paddle for different paddle board sports
- SUP surfing: Size your paddle shorter than usual so you can easily maneuver from each side of your paddle board for catching waves.
- SUP touring and SUP racing: Size your paddle a bit longer than usual for more power in your stroke.
The Different Types of SUP Paddles
There are many different types of SUP paddles you can choose from. Your skill level, budget and what type of paddle boarding you plan on doing (surfing, touring, racing, etc.) will determine what SUP paddle will suit you the best. Below are a few things you need to consider.
How much should your paddle weigh?
If you’re using your paddle board for SUP racing or SUP touring, you’ll want a lighter paddle. Lighter paddles use materials like carbon and fiberglass which are more expensive. However, if you’re not a serious paddler and plan to only go paddle boarding occasionally, a plastic or aluminum paddle will do just fine. FYI, plastic and aluminium paddles are more affordable.
Adjustable vs. fixed length paddles
Adjustable SUP paddles are typically for beginner paddle boarders. Adjustable paddles allow you to experiment with what paddle length works best for you. Adjustable paddles are great because they are versatile. If you enjoy SUP surfing, SUP touring and recreational paddle boarding, you can use an adjustable paddle for all of these different SUP activities. Another pro to an adjustable paddle is that it’s great for sharing with your friends and family because they can adjust to whatever size is perfect for them. Most inflatable paddle boards come with adjustable paddles because they have the capabilities to break down into three pieces which is great for when you’re on the go.
Many advanced paddlers prefer fixed length paddles because they are constructed with lighter materials and are stiffer which helps transfer the power of your paddle stroke. Fixed length paddles are great for SUP racing and SUP touring for this reason, but before you purchase one, you need to make sure you figure out the perfect length for the type of paddling you like to do.