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Considerations when choosing your first or upgrading your SUP paddle.

There are no two ways about it. If you’ve been bitten by the stand up paddling bug, and want to continue along the SUP path (improving your technique and skills as you go), then you’ll need to find a good paddle that suits your style and fits in with your aspirations. Simply upgrading to a mid-range carbon SUP blade will be a great start. Paddles that sit in this sector will offer more performance than more budget types. All McConks SUP paddles are good quality – we wouldn’t package our gear with anything less. But it goes without saying that all the paddles in our range have different performance traits. If you’re thinkng of choosing a new SUP paddle or upgrading your current one then a few simple considerations to be aware of follow below.

SUP paddle length (shaft).

SUP paddle length is iportant. Getting it right means not only will your actual paddling strokes be efficient you’ll also mitigate risk of injury. Unfortunately stand up paddle boarding does weigh on joints and muscles. You may have heard of rotator cuff injury? This is one of the most common forms of body damage occurring through incorrect paddle shaft length (there could be other factors but length f your shaft is the main contributor).

Adjustable paddles have a come a long way in recent years. So much so that they’re usually a good choice for recreational SUPers. This removes the need to accurately identify how long (or short) you need the shaft to be (unlike a fixed shaft paddle) – it’s very easy to get this wrong and there’s WAY too much confusing info available. Instead, an adjustable system allows riders to experiment and attain a length that feels comfortable. Test different sizing and ensure you’re not uncomfortable when on the water – if you are then change the length again. Once you’ve nailed down your correct SUP paddle shaft length it may be time to switch to a fixed version. A fixed SUP paddle is slightly more efficient than an adjustable so you would be getting a performance SUP boost.

SUP paddle parts.

Blade size and types are extremely varied. There are a whole host of different blade shapes and types available. All do very different jobs. In general a wider blade will give more power and allow deeper lower cadence strokes whereas slimmer blades are great for snappy rail to rail changes and a higher stroke rate. Advance paddlers usually favour narrower types, for a higher cadence of stroke, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

Dihedral is a term you’ll hear when talking SUP paddles. It refers to the ‘spine’ that runs through the blade’s face. This helps deflect water in various ways (depending on other factors). Most importantly, from a newbie or intermediate’s point of view, pronounced dihedral reduces ‘flutter’ during the power part of the paddle stroke. Blade flutter is when a SUPer’s stroke isn’t quite as refined and the blade wobbles as it’s pulled through the water. Too much flutter results in an inefficient stroke and loss of power. This could also in time lead to repetitive strain injury if a rider starts overcompensating.

There are generally two types of SUP paddle handle available with slight variances on the theme. Palm grip and T handles deliver slightly different feels. Which you ultimately choose is down to personal preference. For more help with choosing your perfect SUP paddle partner why not try the McConks SUP paddle selection tool. This will guide you towards your perfect paddle partner.

Paddling technique is important.

Some perceive stand up paddle boarding to be a technique free discipline. SUPing has as much technique as any other sport, although it’s not as critical you get this right from the off. SUP is, after all, quite forgiving. With improvement, however, it’s worth getting a handle of paddle technique.

As with the wrong paddle if you’re paddling with incorrect technique then you’ll be less than efficient on the water and may cause injury to yourself in the long run. One such gripe can be problems surrounding the rotator cuff. This can also affect seasoned paddlers. We’d stress, however, that understanding basic SUP paddling technique, in tandem with correct paddle length, with help riders avoid this.

Once you’ve completed your first SUP forays getting some SUP coaching from a qualified and experienced SUP instructor would be a good idea. They’ll be able to identify areas with your paddle stroke needs work (among other things). Through analysis and breaking down each part intermediate stand ups will be in a good position for developing and honing an efficient stroke.

There does seem to be some reluctance on the part of stand up paddlers (at least in those early stages) to get coaching. And yet, time and again we see paddlers taking to the water not even knowing which way round the paddle blade should be. While it’s commendable seeing new recruits favouring the ‘go it alone’ approach there’s nothing wrong with utilising the services of a SUP school and qualified instructors. Progression will be rapid and once armed with essential knowledge you’ll be in a position to head along whichever SUP path you choose, as well as remaining as safe as can be on the water.

You can find more SUP paddle chat via the following links –

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