Of course, the most needed accessory when you go out paddle boarding: your paddle! Hence the name paddle boarding obviously 😉
There are huge differences between paddles, although they all may look the same to you. If you pick up a high quality paddle, you will feel the difference immediately though.
High quality paddles for paddle boarding are made out of fiberglass and/or carbon, which make the paddles a lot lighter than cheap plastic or aluminum ones. This makes it a lot easier to paddle without getting exhausted, but these paddles are also way more durable.
So I will not surprise you below, no aluminum or plastic paddles will be included. However, these are often included with beginner paddle boards to keep the pricing low. As a beginner, just to get started and practice without making long tours, an aluminum paddle will suffice.
Do you want to make long tours or paddle faster, then get an upgrade or purchase a package where a better paddle is included. Check out my article about the best paddle boards for 2021 to find some good packages with fiberglass/carbon paddles included that aren’t crazy expensive.
Below I will tell you all about the best SUP paddles and what makes them so good, besides the fact that they are fiberglass or carbon. Because paddles of the same material are of course a bit harder to differentiate, I will also take other online reviews into account to see what their conclusions are.
Let’s get started below with the important factors when choosing a SUP paddle.
Important factors SUP paddles
There are 5 factors that are important when looking for a SUP paddle
As I have already clarified in the introduction of this SUP paddle guide, the material is the most important choice to make. This will also have an impact on some other factors, like weight and price.
The most important part here is the durability of the paddle, as fiberglass and carbon paddles will not nearly break as fast as plastic or aluminum paddles.
Also after a while of using plastic and aluminum paddles will slowly bend before they break, so they become less effective and you can paddle less fast than you would like.
If you have a good carbon or fiberglass paddle this will last for years and it might even be more likely that you will have to replace your paddle board before you replace your paddle!
The lighter the paddle, the easier it is to make your strokes and the less energy you need to lift up the paddle after every stroke. Seems downright logical, right?
You can conserve this energy to paddle a longer distance, or just to not exhaust all your muscles completely during a paddling tour.
So if you have the same type of paddles with the same material and the same quality, pick the one what is slightly lighter as it might still make a big difference if you have a thousand strokes with only 10 grams less weight.
The functionality of a SUP paddle determines in which situations it can be used and for which purpose it can be used.
What is always the first thing you should look at: does the paddle float? There are still paddles out there that sink to the bottom, which makes your trip very inconvenient. Make sure to never purchase a paddle that does not float on the water.
Most of the paddles can of course be used for all kinds of Stand Up Paddle boarding, but there are specific types that can for instance be turned into a kayak paddle with a second blade (as you can see on the picture above).
This makes the paddle more versatile and usable for different situations than a paddle that is purely for stand up paddling boarding.
In this case size surely does matter! The longer the paddle, the more suitable it is for taller people. As you need to be able to reach the water, even if you’re a tall person, it is good to have a bigger paddle.
However, a smaller person needs a smaller paddle, because if it goes too deep in the water it is too hard to use your force to move forward.
Luckily most SUP paddles are height adjustable. This means almost every person can use them, no matter their length. This is also great news for kids, as the paddles can grow along with them and be used for a very long time.
Therefore I would recommend always getting an adjustable paddle, so you can use it no matter what. And when it is needed someone else in your family or group of friends will also be able to use the paddle.
There are immense price differences in SUP Paddles, from a cheap paddle of $15 up to paddles completely out of high quality carbon that cost over $150 or even $200.
As in all other guides I do not want to pay more than necessary to get a good quality item and this is the same for paddles.
For this guide I try to find the best paddles that are also still affordable, but also offer high quality and are made out of carbon or fiberglass.
Like I said many times before, I am not looking for the cheapest stuff, I am always looking for the best value for money.
How to choose a SUP Paddle
So now that we have seen the different factors that play a role when picking a SUP paddle, how do you pick your own SUP paddle?
Check if the paddle length is suitable for you
As said most SUP paddles are height adjustable, so often this factor will not cause any problems. But always check the paddle length to make sure of this. A paddle that is too long for you will be quite hard to use, when using a paddle that is too short you will have to bend over in an uncomfortable position to move enough water.
When you are choosing a paddle length for you put the paddle on the ground with the blade touching the surface. Stretch your arm above your hand and see where it grabs onto the paddle.
If the size is correct, your wrist should bend on top of the handle of the paddle. If it is too low or too high you can adjust your paddle to make sure it is the right size.
In case you are ordering a paddle online, which happens in a lot of cases, pick a paddle that is around 10 inches taller than your body length. This will make sure the paddle is perfect for you. I would always recommend a height adjustable paddle, just in case anyone else of your friends or family wants to use it.
The length may also depend on the kind of activity, so for some purposes (for instance surfing) you might want to use a shorter paddle. If you want to race and reach higher speeds you want to move as much water as fast as possible, so then a longer paddle is more suitable.
Choosing your preferred SUP paddle material
Because you will paddle a lot, it is important that your arms do not get tired too quickly and your muscles won’t start to hurt after only a bit of paddling. As said I recommend carbon or fiberglass paddles, because they are very durable and also light.
If you just want to paddle once in a while and don’t want to spend too much money, you can always opt for an aluminium paddle. This is why these are often used by beginners. Check out the total package and which paddle is included when purchasing a Stand Up Paddle board. This can save you money on an expensive paddle later.
Choosing the shape and size of the SUP paddle blade
There are different shapes and sizes of paddle blades, as you can see between the teardrop-shaped MOAI paddle and the rectangular Bluefin paddle on the pictures above. The difference is that the teardrop-shaped paddle has most of the volume on the bottom of the blade, so you grab a lot of water right away and it gives you a strong stroke. If you want to paddle a bit slower with harder strokes, this is a great choice.
The rectangular shaped blade spreads the impact of the water more over the whole blade, which more evenly distributes your energy over the stroke and it is easier for faster paddling. If you want to race and reach higher speeds with faster paddling, this is the better option.
There are also differences between the sizes of the blade. The same rules that apply to the shape also apply to the size, bigger paddles offer more water movement and power, while smaller paddles are more efficient. A quite easy tip for this: If you are a bigger person, use a bigger blade.
Below I have made my top 6 of best SUP paddles so you can hopefully see a bit of the differences between similar products and make your choice.
So lets get going with the top 6 of best SUP paddles for 2021.
My top 6 of best SUP paddles:
BPS Adjustable 2-Piece Paddle
✓ 70.86″ – 83.85″
✓ Carbon fiber shaft and nylon blade
Abahub 3-Piece Adjustable Paddle
✓ 67’’ – 86’’
✓ Carbon Fiber Shaft & Blade of 40% fiberglass plus 60% PP construction
South Bay 4-Piece Paddle
✓ 65’’ – 84’’
✓ Full Carbon Fiber Shaft with Nylon Composite Blade and Handle
WooWave 3-Piece Paddle
✓ 68.9″ to 87.4″
✓ Carbon fiber shaft and nylon composite blade
Thurso Surf 3-Piece Paddle
✓ 71″ to 87″
✓ Carbon fiber shaft and a nylon blade
This BPS Adjustable 2-piece paddle is very popular on Amazon and rightfully so! It looks really nice and has a matching carrying bag, but also offers very high quality.
The paddle is adjustable from 70.86″ – 83.85″, which makes it suitable for a wide range of people. With the weight of only 1.7 lbs this is the lightest paddle in this list and therefor a lot easier to paddle with.
This is what makes this the number one on my list of the best SUP Paddles of 2021. I love how easy the paddling goes with this light paddle and it seems very sturdy. This made me get tired a lot less quick than with heavier aluminum shaft paddles I have tried before.
The design is also very sleek and you can choose which color logo you prefer on the paddle, which is just an added bonus.
All in all this very light but very sturdy paddle wins it for me and a lot of people are confirming for me that this is indeed the correct choice to get a great paddle!
Out of 267 ratings, 92% rated this paddle with 4 or 5 out of 5 stars, which is an incredible score for this paddle (Based on scores at Amazon on March 13th 2021)
The cheapest option on this list and because of the low pricing versus the high quality this is my number two in the top 6 of best SUP paddles. The best budget option in case you don’t want to spend $90 on a new paddle.
In every list I am looking to show a budget option and not only the highest quality ones, but the best value for money. This paddle sure does a good job for the cost of only $60.
Just like the BPS paddle it is delivered in a well designed carrying bag, which makes the presentation of the product very good.
This paddle consists out of a carbon fiber shaft and a blade of 40% fiberglass plus 60% PP construction. The construction is solid and light, with a weight of only 1.9 lbs only slightly heavier than my number 1 paddle.
Out of 44 ratings, 95% rated this paddle with 4 or 5 out of 5 stars, even better than the previous paddle because of the lower cost (Based on scores at Amazon on March 13th 2021)
The ISLE Surf and SUP 2-Piece adjustable carbon paddle is the best performing carbon paddle out of the big brands that still stays affordable for a wider audience.
It consists out of a carbon paddle and a carbon blade and for a fully carbon paddle the price is $90 is not at all expensive.
This paddle is adjustable between 67″ and 84″ so it is also suitable for most people that want to get on a paddle board.
The weight of the paddle is 2 lbs, so again a tiny bit heavier than the previous one. I prefer the 2-piece over the 3-piece paddle, as there are less probabilities of problems when you have less parts.
Because it is full carbon this might be your first choice, but I prefer the lighter weight of the BPS paddle, the carrying bag and the design option. Also I believe it is just as strong as a full carbon blade, it seems very unlikely you will break either one quickly.
Out of 13 ratings, 92% rated this paddle with 4 or 5 out of 5 stars. Not a lot of ratings yet but nonetheless a good score. (Based on scores at Amazon on March 13th 2021)
The South Bay paddle is the only 4-piece I have included in my top 6 best SUP paddles, but it is also the best quality 4-piece paddle I could find for an acceptable price.
This means this paddle includes an extra blade, so you can convert this paddle into a kayak paddle. You can sit down and paddle at ease, preferably when also using a kayak seat.
In total the paddle weighs 3 lbs with all components included, so if you’re using it as a regular SUP paddle this will be lighter.
It is a full carbon fiber shaft with nylon composite blade and handle. It can be adjusted from 65” up to 84” so it is usable for nearly everyone that needs a SUP or kayak paddle.
Out of 20 ratings, 86% rated this paddle with 4 or 5 out of 5 stars, which is an incredible score for this paddle (Based on scores at Amazon on March 13th 2021)
If I have to be honest, the blade of this paddle has the coolest design of all the paddles I have come across. It almost seems like art, the black paddle and shaft with the blue paint brush style dots on the blade, I love it!
The size is adjustable between 68.9 to 87.4 inches it is very lightweight with only 2.07 lbs that you have to carry with you.
As you have noticed is quite common by now, this paddle is constructed with a carbon fiber shaft and a tough nylon composite blade as are most in this list of best SUP paddles.
Out of 9 ratings, 85% rated this paddle with 4 or 5 out of 5 stars, and there are no 1 or 2 stars reviews to be found for this paddle yet (Based on scores at Amazon on March 13th 2021)
Let me be clear about this, the only reason the Thurso Surf 3-Piece paddle is on the bottom of this list of best SUP paddles, is because of the high pricing, not because of the quality.
The paddle costs $129, which is the most expensive on this list, while it basically offers the same materials and features as paddles we have seen above.
This paddle is adjustable between 71″ and 87″, even the tallest people will not have a problem paddling around with this quality paddle.
The weight of the paddle is 2 lbs, which we have seen before above. This is a lightweight and good paddle made out of a carbon fiber shaft and a nylon blade.
Out of 10 ratings, 74% rated this paddle with 4 or 5 out of 5 stars. Which only seems low because of a needless 2 star score. (Based on scores at Amazon on March 13th 2021)
Conclusion Best SUP Paddles of 2021
As you can see there are still quite a few differences between SUP paddles, even though the selection I have made above is all from the same segment.
Like I said I do not like paddles with a plastic or aluminum shaft, which is why these are not included in this guide. This makes this guide of best SUP paddles seem less differentiated but offers better quality.
All paddles in this overview are sturdy and can be without a doubt used for a very long time without having any problems of them breaking down.
Just give it a try for once, even when you’re just renting a paddle, to replace your aluminum paddle with fiberglass or carbon once and you will instantly know why these are so much better for your trips!
Which paddle do you use and for how long have you been using it? Did it come with the board or did you especially purchase your paddle separately? What do you think are the best SUP paddles?
Let me know in the comments so I don’t feel so alone 😉