Stand up paddle boarding is a discipline that’s often misread. By that we mean it’s often thought of as a board sport. When in actual fact it’s much more about the actual paddle. Far too much emphasis is placed on the board. And whilst it’s certainly important to get the correct SUP board it’s much more crucial to get the right paddle. Here’s a brief example regarding one reason that’s so.
A true SUP story.
Paddling happily along rider A was enjoying the company of sweeping with rider B. Both were on touring adventure SUPs between 11’ and 12’. Conditions were mostly still and calm, with only a very slight breeze and swell in effect. The tide was pushing in and there was a degree of current flowing parallel to the beach (east to west).
Heading west the pair were huffed along at a few extra knots aided by said current and it was pretty easy going, allowing time for chats and socials. Rider A was using his usual teardrop shaped, narrow bladed full carbon paddle that features high shaft rigidity and a pronounced double dihedral on the blade face. It was familiar and could be used without thinking about it. Every one of his strokes and style of paddling aligned with his tool.
Rider B meanwhile was also using a full carbon paddle. Only this time the shaft flex was moderate and the blade face completely flat, much wider and devoid of anything like dihedral. It delivered power but paddle stroke accuracy needed to be more finely tuned.
Once at point B the pair pivoted and began the journey back to point A. This was a straight line paddle sesh which now had the parallel flowing tide against them. Much harder strokes were needed to be employed going in the opposite direction. And after a while paddler B (of much smaller stature by the way) began to tire. Rider A (because of his kind hearted nature) offered to swap their paddles over. Believing the paddle he was using to be more efficient.
Continuing the journey back to the put in paddler A had to alter his paddling stroke significantly to accommodate the different shape and style of paddle he was now using. His whole biomechanics of SUP stroke changed and whilst it didn’t feel detrimental at the time it was post-session where the proof of the pudding came to the fore.
In contrast, rider B had a much easier time using the more efficient paddle with narrower blade and increased rigidity. She didn’t have to stroke so hard to maintain momentum and gain ground. Thereby making a perceived arduous journey all the more enjoyable.
Having packed all their gear away paddler A and B headed for some R&R. But this is when the issues of using a lesser efficient SUP paddle set in for rider A. As muscles started to stiffen it became increasingly uncomfortable with aches and pains rearing their head. Joints and muscles were stretched but the discomfort continued right through the evening and into the night. The following morning more stretching was required to alleviate joint and muscle pain.
It should be noted that paddler A is a regular SUPer. And by regular we mean often daily for a period of time with never more than a few 12 hour periods elapsing between sessions. As such he has his equipment very finely tuned and knows what works. Therefore deviating from this messes with muscle memory and ways of doing things. That all said, different paddles are often used but he knows what suits his style and riding ability so he’ll gravitate towards similar gear. But that, of course, has taken time to acquire said knowledge.
SUP paddles bottom line.
The above is just one example of how using the wrong SUP paddle can affect your overall enjoyment of stand up paddle boarding. And this goes for all areas of SUP – from recreation to performance sweeping and so on.
There’s no accounting for getting hold (literally) of the right SUP paddle. To find your ideal paddle mate you’ll need to go through the demo process of trying plenty. Which we appreciate is tricky. Best practice, however, dictates that if at the time of a new gear purchase you stump for a paddle upgrade you’ll be getting something much more efficient. Then as you progress and develop your skills you’ll hopefully get a chance to try more. At some point discovering your optimum.
SUP paddles and choosing the correct type can be a quagmire. If you need advice or a guiding hand then get in touch with us here at NCW’s Rubber Shack. We’re only too happy to help. Check out NCW’s range of SUP paddles, boards and accessories here.