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How To Find The Right Height For Your SUP Paddle

Beau from SUPboarder with us again, and this time he walks us through the nuances of SUP paddle length, and figuring out what will work best for you, your board and paddling style.

There’s already a ton of information out there about paddle heights however, in this video we really hope to reveal some insights about finding the correct and recommended paddle height for you. We will also touch on the importance of having the correct paddle height, because not only does it help our paddling technique, but also takes the pressure off our body.

The Ideal Paddle Height

First things first, let’s get into finding out the recommended paddle height for you. If you’re starting out as a beginner or intermediate paddler and just want to cruise for recreation on flat water, then you ideally want to adjust your paddle to eight inches taller than your height. This typically equals one shaka above your head. If you’re out on the water doing more fitness or workout training on a SUP, or even starting to get into the racing scene, then you ideally want to adjust your paddle to 6 inches above your height, which is a shaka without the pinky finger. For those elite racers who are competing in sprint disciplines or if you’re wanting to paddle fast on your board, opting for a paddle height that is your height or four inches above your head is going to be perfect, roughly a fist above your head. There are of course so many different variations to this and we’re going to touch on those in a moment, but let’s speak about the surfing discipline before we jump into that.

Choosing The Right Paddle Height For Your Discipline

When we SUP surf, our paddle heights can really change between using different boards. SUP surfing is a very dynamic sport where we’re constantly bending over and getting low, so riding a smaller board would equal a paddle height that is maybe eyebrow level or up to your head. Riding a bigger board with more volume could equal a paddle height that is about two to four inches above your head.

Let’s speak about these disciplines in even more detail, but also find out why it’s really important to have the correct paddle height. Paddle height can be determined by how much of the blade is submerged in the water during your stroke. Ideally you want the blade fully submerged for the right paddle stroke and the right paddle height. If you’re submerging part of the shaft then your paddle is too long and if you are not submerging your blade fully during your paddle stroke, then your paddle is too short. The thickness or volume of your board will also determine your paddle height because more volume will equal more floatation, therefore you sit higher on the water meaning you need a higher paddle height. For example, when riding a surf SUP you sit lower in the water because there is less volume in the board, so you’ll need a shorter paddle.

As a beginner or intermediate paddler, when we get out on the water we tend to stand a bit more relaxed and upright with our body position. As we are standing taller we need to have a longer paddle height to complement our posture. You may find that if you are on a six inch thick inflatable paddle board or a board that has a lot of volume, then you may want to extend your paddle past the recommended 8 inches, as standing on a thicker or bigger board means we are standing further away from the surface of the water. A good tip to look out for if your paddle is too short, is noticing if your top hand drops below your eye line when paddling in mid-stroke. Similarly, if your top hand is above your head when paddling mid-stroke, then your paddle may be too long. If you are training on the water, entering some distance races or doing a downwinder, then adjusting your paddle height a little bit shorter is really going to help, because when we do these types of sub-disciplines we are bending lower from our waist and knees more. This means we are lower to the water so we need a shorter paddle and aiming for that six inches above your head is a great place to start. For sprint racing it must be mentioned that if you are racing on a dugout design or a normal deck board, this will definitely influence your paddle height. The different variations in height standing above the water between these two boards means your paddle height needs to be adjusted to suit, but generally sprinting calls for a shorter paddle as you are bent over trying to get the maximum cadence to go as fast as possible. Aiming for your head height or even up to about four inches above that is a great place to begin for your paddle height.

Choosing The Right Paddle Height For Your Board

When we look at surf SUPS this really does depend on the volume of your board. There is a great way for us to find this out. Firstly take the volume of your board and minus your weight in kilograms from that. This will equal the extra buoyancy you have with your board when standing on it in the water. The more volume you have left over, let’s say 40 or 50 litres with that equation, then you need to go for a longer paddle as you will sit higher on the water. If you only get 5 to 10 litres from that equation then you are sitting very low in the water, which means a shorter paddle height will be better. As mentioned before, SUP surfing is very dynamic and we’re doing a lot of bending over, getting low or sprinting to catch waves, so it’s really a personal preference with your paddle height. If your paddle is an adjustable length then you may find changing your paddle height out on the water really helps to find the right size for you. However, with a fixed paddle you may want to consider using a hot glue gun so you can easily resize the paddle later if needed. We would always recommend cutting your fixed paddle a little bit longer than you think, that way if you need to resize it later you can cut it down. Remember, if you do cut it too short there’s no going back.

How To Spot if Your Paddle Is The Wrong Size

Some common signs to look out for if you think your paddle might be the wrong size is if you are getting lower back pain or if you aren’t getting enough power out of your stroke. These are prime examples of having a paddle that is too short for you. On the other hand, if you’re getting shoulder pain or you feel like your paddle is awkward to cross over between hands, then this could be a sign that your paddle is too long. Knowing these signs is a really great place to find your correct paddle size. The wrong paddle size is detrimental to our body and this is how those pains and aches start to creep in, so make sure your paddle height is correct and it’s going to allow you to paddle for longer and of course have more fun.

We’ve got several SUP paddles in stock and ready to ship, so why don’t you check them out here. Need any help in choosing the right paddle? Contact us via email or on 1-888-252-4983 and we’ll be happy to help.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a hockey fan, football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.

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