Choosing Your Paddle Length

First time stand up paddlers may not think twice about how long their paddle should be. This is a big mistake, but it is understandable. After all, they are envisioning themselves on their board, and out on the water. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, purchase too short of a paddle for your stroke, and your back will be killing you in no time. You will also find it tougher to travel in a straight line.

If your paddle is too long, you are going to have to reach up high to pull the blade out of the water. Your back and shoulders pay the price, and you put unnecessary pressure on your rotator cuff. If halfway through your stroke, your top hand is much higher than your head, your paddle is probably too long.

What you are looking for is that sweet spot where your paddle length perfectly complements your stroke. This allows you to achieve a nice balance between reach and leverage. It also lets you to put your body weight over your stroke for maximum effort and efficiency.

So, How Long Should Your SUP Paddle Be?

Your paddle length is going to come down to personal preference. You need to get on some boards and try different paddle lengths. However, the following is a generally accepted guideline that works for most men and women.

  • Recreational use – paddle length 5 to 8 inches longer than your height
  • Surfing – paddle length 6 to 7 inches longer than your height
  • Cruising flat water – paddle length 8 to 10 inches longer than your height
  • Racing – paddle length 10 to 12 inches longer than your height

Remember that these are just averages. Everyone is different, and though you may be the same height as someone else, your arms and torso length will affect how long of a paddle is going to work properly for you.

Getting a 2nd Opinion… and a 3rd… and a 4th…

Now that you are ready to go purchase your paddle, let’s throw a monkey wrench in your plan. Guess what? Go to 10 different SUP retail sites and blogs and you are going to get 10 different answers to the question, “How long should my SUP paddle be?”

So, what’s the answer? Now that stand up paddleboarding has become so popular, there are plenty of places to rent a board and paddle. This is highly recommended, so you can try different paddle lengths until you find the Goldilocks paddle you are looking for, the one that is “just right”.