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While proper paddle length is critical to optimizing your performance, there is no universal answer to a question regarding SUP paddle length. Finding your optimal length takes considering a combination of variables from your height to your board-type to your paddling style. The table below makes some suggestions based on the type of paddling you do, your height and what board you use.
Top tip: The use of hot glue enables you to easily shorten your paddle, our recommendation is that you leave your paddle slightly longer and then cut down if required.
Tip: This table is not designed to be a one-size-fits-all solution, and recommended lengths may vary by approximately 1″ (2.5cm) depending on the paddler’s preference. It’s easier to cut your paddle down than to glue on more shaft (especially with our hot glue construction, more on that below), so we err on the side of caution by recommending the longer end of the spectrum.
While many paddlers will use their paddles for a variety of disciplines, it’s not always possible to have multiple paddles at different lengths. When selecting the length for a given paddle it’s important to consider what type of paddling you’ll be using it for most and how that affects your choice. Let’s look at the different SUP disciplines and see how they influence paddle length.
If your main goal when getting on the water is fun and comfort, then a slightly longer paddle is the way to go. A longer shaft enables you to stand more upright in a relaxed stance and lower the cadence of your stroke. Also, recreational boards tend to be wider and thicker with higher volume and a longer paddle can really help here.
As your paddling skill progresses to high-level racing ability, you’ll likely develop a more aggressive stance with bent knees and increase the cadence of your stroke. Race-specific boards are also narrower, which translates to shorter reach in your stroke. Those factors combined make a shorter paddle most conducive to racing, but not so short that you’re straining your back excessively to submerge the blade.
If you’re paddling a dugout paddleboard—or a board with a recessed cockpit and sunken deck—you are effectively closer to the water, which means you should be using a shorter paddle. Depending on the extent of your board’s recess, you will need a paddle two to three inches shorter than you would on a flat-deck paddleboard.
Let’s start by looking at the concept of reserve buoyancy: the board volume in liters minus the paddler weight in kilograms. The higher this number is, the more floatation a board has, meaning it’s usually more stable and sits higher out of the water.
If your reserve buoyancy is ≥40 your board is highly buoyant and you will want a longer paddle.
If you answer is less than <40, your board size is smaller (you’re closer to the water) and you will want a slightly shorter paddle.
If you answer is ≤20, as it is in the case of many performance SUP surfboards, then your board is getting extremely small and you will want a considerably shorter paddle, which also helps when aggressive surfing.
If your answer is ≤10, your board is very small and you will likely want a paddle that’s shorter than your height.
The newest of all SUP disciples is foiling and depending on whether you are in the surf or downwinding your paddle length might change slightly. If you are downwind foiling then a slightly longer paddle will give you a little extra reach and help you make an efficient blade entry when riding on the foil and pumping. If you are SUP foiling in surf then you may not need the extra length as you are only using the paddle to get up onto the foil and doing less pumping.
We suggest that you shorten your paddle over time, feeling out the adjustments and keeping the increments small. 1cm or 0.5″ will make a much bigger difference than you might imagine, so take it slowly and gradually find the perfect length for you. We strongly recommend the use of our extra-strength hot glue when reconnecting your paddle handle after changing lengths. This enables you to not only swap out parts but also to take off your handle, shorten and re-glue. Check out this great video by ambassador Luke Tipple.
If you paddle is too long you may notice some or all of these symptoms:
If you paddle is too short you may notice some or all of these symptoms: