What should my SUP paddle length be? The most commonly asked question SUP. Well it really comes down to personal preference, but is also influenced by what you’re doing on your SUP. To get you started here is the SUPboarder basic guide to paddle length.
For cruising and general paddling, a paddle length approx 6 – 8 inches above the head of the paddler is a good place to start. It can then be tweaked according to individual needs. This length of paddle in relation to paddler height means it’s a pretty efficient set up – not too short to make you bend over too much and not so long that it’s cumbersome swapping sides. You should be able to hold the paddle handle comfortably with the shoulder of the blade in the water, and, when the paddle is in mid-stroke, the handle should be no higher than your eye-line.
Typically a paddle set up for surf will be shorter than one for general paddling, somewhere between 2 and 4 inches above your head. There are several reasons for this; SUP surfing is far more dynamic than other SUP disciplines and a shorter paddle suits paddling in a more compact surf stance, making power strokes easier, allowing for tighter turns, and easier paddle transitions. With more surfing experience you are likely to find you want an even shorter paddle.
A longer paddle, approx 6-10 inches above the head, is typically used by racers. This is to allow greater paddle reach and leverage, therefore producing a more powerful and effective stroke.
When setting your paddle to the correct height, stand on level ground with the paddle vertical and blade close to your feet. Ensure you’re in bare feet or wearing the footwear you’ll be paddling it. Cup your hand around the handle and then put one arm up in the air. As a rough guide, for general all round paddling your elbow should be slightly bent. Not very scientific but a simple way to get the correct approx paddle height. The exact height can then be tweaked later.
Having an excessively long or short paddle can not only be uncomfortable to paddle with, but can also cause injury (most commonly shoulder and back) So although paddle height comes down personal preference, it’s worth being aware of the potential risks if you get it wrong. Read more about common shoulder injuries here.
Adjustable paddles make it quick and easy to adjust your paddle to the right height. They’re also a good way to try out lots of different paddle lengths before cutting your fixed paddle to your preferred length. Cutting your paddle shaft the wrong length can be an expensive mistake!
Remember that your paddle length may change depending what board you’re on. The boards thickness and deck shape will alter how close to the water you’re standing and ultimately your correct paddle length. Blade length is also not taken into account with this simple paddle height setting method.
So, although it’s important to be aware of the paddle length basics, get out paddling with an adjustable paddle and find your preferred length. A length that is not only comfortable to paddle with but also allows you to do what you want with it – cruise in comfort, paddle with power, or carry out simple transitions in the surf. And have fun!