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Buying guide for best stand-up paddleboard paddles

One of the fastest growing outdoor activities is stand-up paddle boarding, also known as SUP. A cousin of surfing, this engaging and carefree aquatic excursion took off in the mid 2000s and is a pastime that can offer both intense exercise as well as relaxation and wellness. 

The two main components of paddle boarding are the paddle and the board; we’re going to focus on the former here, which is equally if not more important than the latter, as we will cover later. The paddle comprises three different parts: the handle at one end, the blade at the other, and the shaft in between. These may be all made of the same material or different ones, and the paddle may be purchased as one, two, or three pieces.

The paddle is the key to movement, but the right paddle also will work your body without straining you and will help you explore efficiently. Our buying guide will help you choose the right paddle to make the most of your water-bound adventure.

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As paddle boarding has grown in popularity, so too have the activities you can do while paddle boarding. Fishing, racing, jousting, and yoga are among the many fun possibilities.

Key considerations


One of the most important choices you will have to make is the type of material from which the paddle is made. Paddles will be made of either aluminum, wood, plastic, carbon fiber, or a combination of materials. Sometimes a blade may be a different material than the shaft, while other times a paddle may be made of a mixture of materials. Each material has its own specific properties, so choosing between them can be a significant and difficult decision.

  • Aluminum: Both the cheapest in price and the heaviest, aluminum is one of the more common materials used in paddles. It’s a good introductory material for beginners and recreational users before deciding whether to become more involved in paddle boarding. However, its heavy nature may be a deterrent to younger paddlers.

  • Plastic: Similar to aluminum, plastic paddles are cheap and popular with beginners. These tend to be lighter than aluminum, but they are also less durable.

  • Fiberglass: Lighter in weight than aluminum and plastic but relatively cheap, fiberglass is a common choice among invested recreational paddleboarders. Fiberglass also tends to last longer.

  • Wood: For increased durability, wood paddles, including those made of bamboo, are an ideal choice. Depending on the wood, however, these may not be the lightest options available. These are popular among paddleboard enthusiasts.

  • Carbon fiber: These are the most expensive of paddle materials and are best reserved for the most serious and competitive of paddle boarders. These are exceptionally lightweight and long-lasting, making them a worthwhile investment. Some paddles may only be made up of a certain portion of carbon fiber, reducing the price.

Number of pieces

As paddles feature three different parts, they may come in three distinct pieces, requiring you to assemble the blade, shaft, and handle. This is useful if you plan on traveling frequently with your paddle and need it to take up less space. Paddles with separate parts also feature an adjustable height, allowing more than one person to use them comfortably. A one-piece paddle doesn’t offer the same mobility conveniences, while at two-piece offers a compromise in terms of transport while still being adjustable.


Paddles in general will feel light when you pick them up, but their are significant once you’re on the water. Think about how long your paddleboard outings may be and how the weight of the paddle will affect your energy over time. While you always have the option of resting while paddle boarding, you will still need to wield the paddle in order to get back to where you’re going.

If you’re looking for a workout while paddle boarding, then you don’t necessarily need the lightest of paddles. However, if you’re looking for a more relaxing outing or if you’re new to the activity, it’s best to go with something a little lighter.


While there are a few different methods to find the right height for your paddle, in general, you’ll want a paddle that runs from the ground to the top of your hand when raising your arm vertically, without fully extending your elbow. The paddle will likely be a foot or so taller than you. Remember that you are taking into consideration that the blade will be submerged in the water. Most paddles, especially those for beginners, are adjustable.



Both the handle and the paddle itself may come in a variety of colors or patterns. For recreational users, or those looking for relaxing, therapeutic outings on the board, look and style may be as important as functionality.

Fixed-length paddle

For advanced paddlers, especially those racing or competitive, a fixed-length paddle offers consistency, durability, and less weight than a two- or three-piece paddle. A fixed-length paddle has fewer joints and parts to accommodate piecing everything together, which translates to less weight. What’s more, a fixed-length paddle does not need to fit a range of individual users, meaning there is no excess material. In addition, there are fewer parts to break.

Paddle bag

Certain purchases may come with a paddle bag, making the paddle easy to transport. Blades in particular can be cumbersome or sharp, and having a bag protects both you and your equipment.

Expert Tip


Once you have your paddle and your paddleboard, there are a few other items you may want to pick up to prepare for a day on the water.

Regardless of the sport or activity, it’s important to always be safe when on the water. Wearing a life preserver or flotation device — like this comfortable one from Onyx — is recommended while paddle boarding.

A waterproof sealing bag that can keep any personal belongings from getting wet while on the board. It can sit on the front of your board, and once properly closed and tethered, gives you piece of mind that your valuables are safe and secure. Earth Pak’s bag comes with a handy shoulder strap and is offered in a variety of colors.

We recommend getting a leash to keep you and your board tethered. You can purchase a leash that wraps around your ankle and connects the other end to the board. Our favorite is the Ho Stevie! surf leash, which offers convenience if you fall off your board or get caught up in waves.

Perhaps you want some peace and quiet on the water — but perhaps you want some accompanying music as well. A portable USB speaker, including Decal Life’s inexpensive, floating option, can attach easily to the front of most paddleboards — just make sure it’s waterproof. Its extra-strength design makes it unlikely to snap, even in a rough fall.

Stand-up paddleboard paddle prices

Stand-up paddleboard paddles vary widely in price mostly due to their materials.

Inexpensive: For under $40, you can find plastic, aluminum, or fiberglass paddles that are ideal for beginners and recreational users.

Midrange: For between $40 and $100, durable and lightweight paddles of various materials are available, though 100% carbon fiber paddles are rare in this range. These may have two or three pieces and come with some worthwhile accessories.

Expensive: For advanced paddleboarders, a carbon fiber paddle can cost you up to $200. These will be longer lasting than other paddles, but the initial investment is high.

"Paddles will float — but only if all the pieces are together. Make sure nothing is loose or flimsy before taking off."


  • Let go of the paddle when falling. While you may be tempted to hold on to your paddle, it’s better to toss it away from you as you fall to keep yourself from hitting it when impacting the water. The paddle will float, and smacking into it may be painful.

  • Try different paddle heights. There are a few different methods to find the perfect height, so don’t be afraid to experiment to find what’s most comfortable for you.

  • Mark your height if you’re paddle sharing. If your family or friends are sharing a paddle, it can be tedious to regularly re-adjust the height. Mark it with tape or something permanent so you can quickly get back on the board.

  • A quality paddle is better than a quality board. Paddle boarding can be a high monetary investment, but a quality paddle offers more energy efficiency and less stress on your body. It’s better to invest more in a paddle than a board if you have to choose between one.

Other products we considered

There are a few great paddles outside of our top recommendations from which to choose. For a great deal, consider the Abahub Carbon Fiber SUP Paddle, which is a low-priced three-piece paddle. The shaft is carbon fiber and the blade is plastic, and it comes with a bag for protection and easy transport. If you are comfortable spending a bit more, there’s the iRide Carbon Paddle for SUP, which weighs just over one pound. It also comes with a case for the paddle, as well as dry bag to protect any valuables from the water. One of the cheaper options available, Wey & Fly has a lightweight, adjustable aluminum paddle useful for beginners and recreational paddle boarders.

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Bring a friend or a pet! Stand-up paddle boarding offers freedom and flexibility to do what you want, including sharing a board with someone special.


Q. How do I get back on the board with my paddle if I’ve fallen off?

A. There are a couple of different ways to get back on a board after you’ve fallen off, but it’s always best to retrieve your board before your paddle. You can get back on from the side using the carry handle on your board. You want to throw your weight towards the middle of the board as you lunge up. Getting on from the back may be easier, especially if you’re wearing a bulky life jacket. You can put more of your weight on the back with less fear of the board tipping. Then you can stay on your stomach and move with your arms and legs to retrieve the paddle.

Q. Can I use paddles from other watersports instead?

A. Stand-up paddleboard paddles are specifically designed for this activity. The paddle is longer than most and made light enough to prevent stress from repeated movements. Using a paddle from a kayak, for example, would be inefficient and possibly even harmful. Similarly, a paddle for paddle boarding should not be used for other watersports.

Q. What’s the best form for paddling?

A. One hand should hold on the shaft of the paddle about halfway up, while the other is at the top of the handle. You’ll want to keep your legs and shoulders apart, parallel to the sides of the board. Your stroke should reach out in front as far as you can. Then, fully submerge the blade and bring it behind you. Longer, deeper strokes are more efficient than shorter, shallower ones. You should feel the energy exerted from your shoulders, arms, core, and legs with proper form.

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