7 Best SUP Paddles For All Paddler Skill Levels

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Looking for the Best SUP Paddles can be a daunting task. There are so many to choose from and so many things to keep in mind!

But, in this guide, we make it easy for you. We have selected the best SUP Paddles of each type and price point range and put them into this handy dandy guide so that that is something for every paddler. 

We label all of the paddles based on their specific use and detail you on their specs as well as what types of people and conditions they are best suited for. Most of our picks are adjustable which means they will be able to fit a wide variety of paddlers from 5’ – 6’2” and up. 

If you are unsure about what kind of SUP paddle you want we can guide you through our buyer’s guide attached to this list as well as a more detailed How to Choose a SUP Paddle article.

Best SUP Paddles List

Our Top 7 Best Paddles for Paddle Boarding goes as follows

  1. Aqua Bound Malta – (Lightweight 2 Piece Pick)
  2. Red Paddle Prime Light Weight SUP Paddle – (Carbon Travel Pick)
  3. Werner Vibe – (Fiberglass Touring Pick)
  4. Nixy G4 Hybrid Paddle – (Lightweight Fiberglass Pick)
  5. Werner Trance 95 – (1 Piece Power Pick)
  6. Starboard Lima – (Racing Performance Pick)
  7. Abahub 3 Piece Aluminum Paddle – (Budget – Beginners Pick)

All of these paddles are made by manufacturers who have been in the business for years and have had the time to refine the paddles over time. This in turn gives you a well-tuned paddle that you can use for most purposes. 

1. Aqua Bound Malta SUP Paddle (Lightweight 2 Piece Pick)

Specifications

  • Length Range: 64-70”, 70-80”, 76 – 86”
  • Weight: 1.16 Lbs (18.5 oz)
  • Offset: 10-degree bend
  • Blade: 87’ sq
  • Materials: Carbon Shaft with Moulded Fiberglass Blade

Why We Chose it

The Aqua Bound Malta is a great pick because of its lightweight design without having to fully break the bank. The Malta 2-piece paddle has a full carbon shaft with a fiberglass blade which allows the paddle to be at a lower price point than you would expect to pay for many full carbon paddles on the market. But in many cases, this paddle weighs just as much as some more premium carbon paddles out there. 

The Malta is a 2 piece paddle that comes in 3 different varieties based on their height. So do some measuring before purchase to make sure you get the correct fit (see the below guide on how to do that).

The Malta also features a good mid-range blade size which makes this a great paddle for a variety of Paddle Board purposes. This paddle would especially be ideal for those who plan to do a lot of long-distance touring. This is due to the greater paddling cadence the 87” sq blade offers to make it less tiring to paddle for long bouts. 

Pros

  • Fantastic looking design
  • Very Lightweight for a fiberglass blade
  • A full carbon shaft will give the paddle a good lightweight feel
  • The paddle feels good in your palm
  • One of the more affordable lightweight paddles

Cons

  • You have to choose the right size as one model does not have full adjustability for all paddlers
  • Not the best pick for those who want more power in their stroke due to blade 

2. Red Paddle Prime Lightweight 3 Piece Paddle (Carbon Travel Pick)

Specifications:

  • Length Range: 67” – 86.6”
  • Weight: 1.6 lbs (26.1 oz)
  • Offset: 10-degree bend
  • Blade: 81’ sq
  • Materials: Carbon Shaft and Composite Blade

Why We Chose it

The Red Paddle Prime 3 Piece paddle is the perfect companion for those who are traveling and want to get some performance paddling in. The paddle breaks into 3 pieces and is held together by a bungee connection system. This in my mind is a great little invention and you will never have to worry about a paddle piece getting lost again!

The Red Paddle Prime Lightweight will fit paddlers who have an endurance background. This is due to the smaller 81” rounded teardrop-shaped blade which gives you greater paddling cadence and stroke rate due to the decreased drag of the paddle. 

It’s also an ideal paddler for smaller paddlers who rely more on endurance and less on pure power from the blade. The blade shape is dihedral which allows water to flow evenly off each side without creating bubbles that can affect your stroke. 

Pros

  • A Great travel paddle that will fit in most SUP bags
  • Tear Drop blade shape gives greater endurance
  • Can fit most sized paddlers
  • Ideal blade for smaller paddlers. 

Cons

  • It weighs more because of its 3 piece design
  • Not the best blade for those looking for power strokes

3. Werner Vibe 3 Piece Paddle (Fiberglass Touring Pick)

Specifications:

  • Length Range: 68” – 84”
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs (31.75 oz)
  • Offset: 10-degree bend
  • Blade: 100’ sq
  • Materials: Fiberglass Shaft, Nylon w/ fiberglass reinforcement Blade

Why We Chose it

The Werner Vibe is one of the more popular SUP paddles in the market and for good reason. It’s rather unique rectangular design allows you to have a mix of good cadence while still maintaining the power of a more rectangular-style blade. Don’t let the 100” sq diameter fool you as the blade rides further up than most SUP paddles making it more than manageable for a wide variety of SUP activities. 

The Werner Vibe has a more conventional T shape handle that will gives you a good grip on the paddle, whatever conditions you are in. Its shaft is good for people between the sizes of 4’10” all the way to 6’2” which will be in the range of 80% of paddlers. 

Pros

  • 3 Piece gives it a good travel size
  • The paddle is one of the most popular SUP paddles around
  • Relatively lightweight for a full fiberglass spec paddle
  • Unique blade design mixes power and cadence

Cons

  • Not the best paddle for folks over 6’2”
  • Heavier compared to the top 2

4. Nixy G4 Hybrid Carbon Fiber Paddle (Lightweight Fiberglass Pick) 

nixy paddle collapsed

Specifications:

  • Length Range: 67” – 84”
  • Weight: 1.57 lbs (25.12 oz)
  • Offset: 7 degree bend
  • Blade: 90” sq
  • Materials: 30% Carbon 70% Fiberglass Shaft, Nylon Blade

Why We Chose it

The Nixy G4 Hybrid paddle is probably one of my favorite paddles I have used. Let alone my favorite paddle that actually comes included in a SUP package. I feel the 90” blade is the perfect size for me because it allows me to utilize the correct amount of power through each stroke without giving me too much fatigue. 

If there was something I would change it would be increasing the length range to 86”.  Oftentimes I find myself going to the very end of the notches on the paddle due to my preference in paddle height. 

From a weight perspective, this paddle is almost the perfect blend of value-to-weight ratio. In fact, it’s lighter than many of the paddles above while being significantly cheaper to boot. From a pure value perspective for recreational paddling, this paddle will always be one of my favorites to use. 

Pros

  • One of the best price-to-weight ratios on this list
  • The paddle is well made and feels good in your hands
  • The blade is a good blend of power mixed with cadence
  • One of my favorite paddles on this list
  • The paddle has a great finish to it

Cons

  • The blade does have some nylon in it which makes it a bit heavier
  • I wish they made the paddle up to 86” high

5. Werner Trace 95 (1 Piece Power Pick)

Specifications:

  • Length Range: 70,72, 74, 76, 78, 80, 82
  • Weight: .98 lbs (15.75 oz)
  • Offset: 10-degree bend
  • Blade: 95” sq
  • Materials: Full Carbon Blade and Shaft

Why We Chose it

This is a great pick for those who want a 1 piece paddle that is as light as possible. In fact, it’s almost .2 lbs lighter than the top pick! The only caveat here is that you need to know what size best fits you ahead of time. But you can check out Werner’s size chart to help you with this. 

The Werner Trace 95 features a dihedral rectangular blade at a 10-degree offset. This helps guide the water off the paddle efficiently as you are pulling through the catch. Which gives you minimal paddle flutter ( the amount of effort you need to keep the blade still while in the water). 

The Werner Trace 95 is a good pick for those who have more of a power stroke IE a good amount of upper-body strength. If you are a smaller paddler or want to use this paddle for more long-distance use I’d recommend the 85” sq paddle. 

Pros

  • The lightest paddle on the list
  • Great for racing purposes or touring if you get the 85
  • Can be a great paddle to get good initial catch for surfing
  • Water flows off the blade efficiently
  • Price is pretty good for a full carbon paddle

Cons

  • You will need to know your size beforehand
  • Not the recommended size of smaller paddlers

6. Starboard Lima 3 Piece (Racing Performance Pick) 

Specifications:

  • Length Range: 64”-88”
  • Weight: 1.2lbs (19.3 oz)
  • Offset: 10-degree bend
  • Blade: 88” sq
  • Materials: Carbon  with PVC Core Blade and Carbon Shaft

Why We Chose it

If you are looking for something that the pros use then the Starboard Lima will be your answer. In fact, this particular paddle was used by the Starboard team in international championships.

The Starboard Lima features 5 different flex options ( S30, S35, S40, S45, S50). These range from S30 is the stiffest flex for those who want the most power in their stroke, and S50 which gives you the biggest degree of flex which is suitable for younger/ lighter paddlers or those who have injuries.

What’s different with the Lima is that it features a twin rib shape on the back that helps keep the blade thin for a smoother catch. This twin rib helps keep the rigidity of the blade that allows them to make it super thin. 

Pros

  • Lightest 3 Piece Blade on the list
  • A thin blade gives you a smooth catch in the water each time
  • Well-designed and manufactured for pure efficiency
  • Different flexes allow you to really customize the shaft to your preference

Cons

  • Because this is a 3 Piece you are adding a bit more unnecessary weight
  • The paddle is pricy

7. Abahub 3 Piece Aluminum Paddle (Budget – Beginner Pick)

Specifications:

  • Length Range: 68”-84”
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs (35 oz)
  • Offset: 10-degree bend
  • Blade: 102” sq
  • Materials: Aluminum Shaft, Plastic Blade

Why We Chose it

We wanted to include a cheap decent paddle that will allow you to get in the water. So if you have been reading this far and your eyes are popping out of your head looking at the price tags this will be more suitable for you. 

The Abahub will be the heaviest paddle in the lineup. This means you should use this purely as something that will get you into the water. Scenarios that come to mind are lake play, something to include with the paddle board at the cabin or you want a replacement paddle for that Amazon SUP you purchased. 

The blade is 102” sq with some bend to it. So it won’t be the most efficient paddle by any means. Its heavier weight will also be tiring after an hour and a half of straight paddling. I would personally recommend upgrading to something like the Nixy Hybrid paddle and spending a bit extra money if you find yourself paddling more. 

But as a starter paddle, this will do fine. 

Pros

  • Cheapest paddle on the list
  • Works as a solid replacement paddle

Cons

  • Heaviest on the list
  • Not recommended for performance paddling
  • Not the best blade size for smaller paddlers

Choosing the Right SUP Paddle For YOU

Okay, so you’ve seen tons of choices on the internet. Some paddles are $30 some are over $500. How can that be? And if you are a beginner you are probably wondering who in their right mind would pay over $500 for a paddle. 

Let me explain the importance of a paddle in this way:

The paddle is like the tires for an F1 car. They are the connection point between you and the water, much like tires are between the car and the road. If you go with cheap tires, your performance will greatly deteriorate and it will be unpleasant driving a constantly understeering car on the track. And even worse you can have a failure if you were to really cheap out which will leave you down Schitts Creek without a paddle so to say!

Going back to the paddle analogy, a heavier paddle will give you more fatigue over time. This may not matter if you are only on the SUP for an hour or less. But as you start getting to the hour and a half/2-hour mark you will start to feel each stroke bear more wear on your body. Remember in an hour you are doing between 2000 – 3000 strokes per hour so it adds up and each .1 of a lb makes the difference!

Length Helps with Comfort

I like to do the “Hands-Up” Method but at 90 degrees

I’ll get this out of the way now. I cannot tell you specifically what length is best for you because there are so many variables to consider, including activity, stance, etc. So my advice is if this is the first paddle that you are purchasing, you should get an adjustable SUP paddle. This will allow you to experiment with different lengths to what feels comfortable to you. The majority of the paddles I listed here fit that criterion. 

As a starting point, there are 3 methodologies you can use. Here is a good guide that explains it in more depth. 

  • Laird Hamiltons Method: Make the paddle 3-4 inches above your head
  • The Hands-Up Method: This is my personal favorite method. Raise your arm up to a 100-degree angle (Your arm is raised up slightly bent in front of you) with the other holding your paddle. Adjust the paddle handle to where your palm is and try this height for size. I typically like to go longer than normal.
  • The Shaka Method: The shaka involves shaping your hand into a fist with your thumb and pinky fingers sticking out. Put the thumb on top of your head and adjust the paddle to where your pinky is. 

Length will also be dependent on what kind of SUP Activity you are doing. We go through this in more depth in our SUP Paddle Length Sizing Guide. 

Weight Matters More Than You Think

The weight of the paddle is one of the most important factors you have to consider when purchasing a SUP Paddle. In fact, it is one of the main reasons why some SUP paddles are more expensive than others. Weight comes down to a combination of things.

  1. Materials of the Shaft
  2. Materials of the Blade
  3. How Many Pieces the Paddle is

Typically the lighter the paddle is the better the materials are. With carbon fiber usually being the lightest but also the most expensive material. 

For recreational paddling purposes, you don’t NEED the lightest blade ever built. It’s just that lighter paddles are more sought after as you improve your skills and want to paddle longer on the water. 

As a rule of thumb, I typically like a paddle that’s around 2 lb and under for an hour’s paddle. As I paddle longer I start looking into paddles that are about 1.5 lbs and under.

The Price You Pay

The price you will want to pay for a paddle will probably be one of the biggest factors in your decision. Even more so if you are on a tighter budget and just want something to paddle around with. 

The types of materials that go into your SUP blade and shaft along with the research and development that goes into the paddle will be the big determining factors for what you pay. 

What to Look for in a SUP Paddle Shaft

Below are some things to look at in your paddle shaft before making the purchase. 

Shaft Materials Overview

Below are the most common materials for a SUP shaft.

Aluminum: The Heaviest of materials but also one of the most durable. This would be a great paddle for rental outfits for first-timers. It can also be used as a paddle to putter around the lake, ideal for kids, cabins, etc. As soon as you get more serious with paddle boarding you tend to ditch these paddles and go to Fiberglass or Carbon Fiber. These paddles are typically in the $20 – $100 price range

Fiberglass: Known as the happy medium, these paddles are lighter than aluminum and can be just as strong. They are also good paddles to use on SUP trips or touring purposes thanks to their lightweight feel. Fiberglass paddles have the least amount of flex compared to the other two shaft materials. The Paddles are usually in the $75 – $250 price range. 

Carbon Fiber: This is the most expensive shaft material to make and often it shows up in the price tag. But be wary, many companies like to throw the name carbon fiber in the name, when the reality is the shaft is only partially made of carbon on the outside coating. These are the paddles that intermediate to advanced paddle boarders use due to their lighter weight build. They can be used for a variety of different SUP activities such as surfing, touring, and racing purposes. These paddles can go anywhere from $250 all the way to $700 depending on the quality of carbon fiber and the research and development that goes into them. 

Shaft Handle

This is something that’s near and dear to me because for some reason I’ve seemed to have a history of coming across bad handles in lower-quality SUP paddles.

First off, you want a handle that is correctly attached to the shaft. Many lower-quality handles use low-quality glue and come off after a few uses. Avoid these like the plague. As soon as the glue comes off your paddle positioning is compromised. Which means it’s time to get a new paddle. 

In terms of handle varieties there is the power grip, palm handle, and T handle grip. I can’t tell you what’s best as it all depends on the individual and how their hands contour the handle. My advice is go to the local paddling outfitting store and try holding a few paddles to feel which feels best in your hands. 

Adjustment Types

There are a few adjustment types to consider although if the paddle is of decent quality they should do the job. Still, much like the SUP handle I seem to have a history of feeling with faulty adjustment clips. 

My first tidbit is to avoid twisting features that attach to the paddle. I used one on a paddle that came with a Craigslist SUP and it was…. Awful. The twist would lock to the smallest position (I used when starting from my knees) and It would be impossible to unlock it on the water. Which meant I was paddling sitting down/ on my knees the entire time!

– Editors Notes

The two most common adjustment types in today’s SUP paddles are:

Plastic Lever Adjusters: These adjusters are in the handle and flip open which allows the shaft to slide up and down to the correct height.

Cam Level Adjusters: A cam lever mounted on the shaft of the paddle. These are present in both 2 and 3-piece paddles and are usually the most common adjusters you will find. The lever can be tightened with 2 screws which should be checked every once and a while. 

What to Look for in the SUP Blade

The Blade is the point of contact between you and your board so it’s important to understand some of the metrics that come into play.

SUP Blade Materials Overview

This is a Plastic/ Nylon blade

Much like the shaft, the materials of the SUP blade matter just as much. Below is an overview of the different blade materials you will encounter. We go into even further detail in this guide.

Plastic/ Nylon: These are the most common types of blades you will find and are usually best suited to recreational use. Oftentimes these blades are attached to Aluminum or fiberglass paddles. The downside is that these blades will usually feel heavier compared to the other picks below. However, they can go through more wear and tear. An example of a paddle that has a plastic blade is the Abahub 3 Piece Aluminum Paddle.

Plastic/ Fiberglass Hybrid: This is the blade that acts as the best of both worlds. The blade has some lightweight components of fiberglass while keeping the durability of plastic thanks to its coating. But these blades won’t always be better than plastic/ nylon blades. So keep a look out at the weight of the paddle to see if they truly are saving weight on it or using it as a marketing gimmick. 

Fiberglass Blades: These are usually accompanied by a full fiberglass paddle. Fiberglass in general will be lighter in weight compared to plastic or plastic blade hybrids which makes them better for higher-performance paddling activities like touring. An example of a fiberglass blade is the Aqua Bound Malta 2 Piece paddle

Carbon Blades: Usually accompanied with full carbon paddles. These are the most lightweight of the paddle blades but also the ones you have to be most careful with. While these blades are strong, they can scratch or dent if they hit any hard surfaces like rocks or barnacles. An example of a paddle with a carbon blade is the Red Paddle Prime, and Werner Trace paddles. 

Blade Size

The size of the blade will depend a lot on your body composition and what type of paddling style fits you best. 

Bigger blades like 95” sq are for more powerful strokes and people who have a good amount of upper body strength. These paddles are ideal for SUP races or activities that require a lot of power. They also give you a good amount of power in your stroke. 

Medium-sized blades can range from 85” sq to 90” sq and are usually the happy medium. They blend cadence with power to make it a good all-around paddle. These are usually the most common sizes you will see. 

Smaller blades like the Red Paddle Prime can go to 81” sq and up. These blades offer a high degree of cadence and are ideal for touring or longer-day paddles. These paddles are ideal for smaller paddlers or ones who have an endurance background in other sports. 

Blade Shape

As you can see from our selection we have gone for a wide range of blade shapes in our best SUP Paddles list. 

Tear Drop: These blades typically have a wider surface area which usually gives you a more powerful stroke or slower cadence. Paddlers who use these include SUP racers, SUP surfers who need good initial power. 

Rectangular: These blades have a narrower bottom which means less surface area is engaged when compared to the teardrop blade. These blades are a favorite among people who have a higher cadence and want to create more of a rhythm when padlding. 

How Many Pieces? 

5 Piece Paddles are convenient for storage and transportation but have more play

Paddles come in 1, 2, 3, 4, and even 5 pieces depending on how compact you want them to be. Generally the more pieces to the paddle the more weight they will be due to connection systems. 

A 1 piece paddle will give you the advantage of being lightweight and will give you the strongest connection point to the water. The downside to these is that it’s hard to travel with. Which often means they will be the ones that will be sticking out in the inside middle section of your car. 

90% of paddlers will be best served with a 3-piece paddle as they offer the best mix of performance and portability. These are mostly found with inflatable paddle boards and can be collapsed and stored in the ISUP bag. 

Lastly, Find a Paddle that Floats

An extremely underrated factor is finding a paddle that floats. Oftentimes paddles that come with cheaper-made ISUPs come with paddles that don’t float. While it may seem easy to just say “yeah, just don’t loose your paddle” . You can find yourself in scenarios where the paddle comes loose from the deck webbing and in it goes!

The manufacturer will usually state if the paddle is buoyant or not. 

SUP Paddle FAQ’s

Below are some SUP Paddle FAQs I receive from folks looking for a new paddle. 

What Are The Best SUP Paddles?

The Best SUP Paddles for a wide range of different paddlers go as follows:

1. Aqua Bound Malta – (Lightweight 2 Piece Pick)
2. Red Paddle Prime Light Weight SUP Paddle – (Carbon Travel Pick)
3. Werner Vibe – (Fiberglass Touring Pick)
4. Nixy G4 Hybrid Paddle – (Lightweight Fiberglass Pick)
5. Werner Trance 95 – (1 Piece Power Pick)
6. Starboard Lima – (Racing Performance Pick)
7. Abahub 3 Piece Aluminum Paddle – (Budget – Beginners Pick)

What Is Cadence And How Does It Relate To Paddle Boarding?

Paddling Cadence is the stroke rate of the paddler over a certain period of time. If I say a paddle offers a higher cadence I’m referring to the person being able to do more strokes per minute as opposed to a paddle that has a lower cadence and a higher surface area. Oftentimes Cadence is measured in how many strokes you can do in a minute. 

Are Carbon Paddles Worth It?

Carbon Paddles are worth it if you plan on doing some higher-performance paddling such as touring, racing, or surfing. Carbon paddles can be incredibly lightweight which makes a difference over hours of paddling.

How Do You Know A Carbon Paddle Is Indeed A Full Carbon Paddle?

Simply put, the best way is to see what percentage the manufacturer puts for the carbon percentage. If there is no specified percentage then chances are there are cheaper materials in that paddle. 

You will typically see Manufacturers mention something like 30% carbon and 70% fiberglass or 100 % carbon full carbon paddle. 

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Author:
Hey, My name is Derek Lenze and I'm the owner of Inflatable SUP Authority. I've had over 20 years experience with watersports and over 10 years of various paddle boarding experience. My new-found passion is bringing my stand up paddle boaring knowledge in an explainable and actionable way all the while giving you my unbiased takes.

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