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Choosing a Stand Up Paddle

Forrest Wells // November 19, 2016



When choosing a SUP there are a couple things that you will need to take into consideration.  SUP Paddles of course vary in length, material, blade size and shaft configuration.  We will spend some time breaking down some of the topics to help you make an informed descision in order to select the right piece of gear.  Keep in mind, a lot of the the topics such as length are feel based and can vary from person to person.  In short often times there is no right or wrong solution for a paddler.  The best solution is the option that works best for you!
 
First let's talk about some of the general considerations for the paddler and how they will effect your paddle selection. 
 

Blade Shape:

SUP paddles come in a couple of different shapes.  The paddle we carry from Werner are a long rectangular shape to minimize strain on the paddler through out the stroke, allow for incremental power increases depending on blade depth and a higher cadence low impact stroke.

Blade Offset:

 Offset in SUP Paddles refers to the degree the Blade is kicked forward from the shaft.  This offset allows the blade to remain vertical through a larger portion of the stroke.  A vertical blade provides much more power and will help to keep you and your board paddling in a straight line.

"12 Degree blade to shaft offset is optimal for SUP race. Forward propulsion, going fast. The goal of a racer and thus the need from their paddle. Keeping the blade more vertical through the power phase of the stroke, all the way back to the exit at the heals to be more precise, is made possible with the Grand Prix's unique 12 degree offset. Since bracing is not as relevant in race the increased offset is not a concern, especially when you weight out the benefits. (Certainly you will need the occational stabilizing stroke and you can perform those, but let's face it if you're not paddling hard forward you are not keeping up.)" -Werner Paddles

Werner Grand Prix 93

"10 Degree blade to shaft offset is utilized to help the Versatile use paddler excel. For the paddler who does a bit of everything, some touring, surfing, fishing, fitness, the compromise for forward paddling and bracing is 10 degree. A more shallow offset, like the 7 degree we use for our Rip Stick surf paddle, helps flatten the blades contact point with the water during a brace stroke. This allows more stability and confidence. A steeper offset, like the 12 degree we use for our Grand Prix race paddle, helps keep the blade more vertical through the power phase of the stroke. This gives better forward propulsion when looking to go fast or be more efficient. So by splitting the difference, it allows the all-around paddler to feel good in the surf, while having a more efficient stroke when they go on tour." -Werner Paddles

Werner Trance 95 , Werner Thrive , Werner Flow 95 , Werner Zen 95 , Werner Vibe 

"7 Degree Blade to Shaft offset. Perfect for Surfing and whitewater. The ability to brace (use the back face of the blade as a crutch or 3rd leg) is vital in these environments. Paddling through breaking waves or a rapid and to stabilize and change direction when on a wave utilize a brace. Reducing the offset to 7 degrees helps to flatten the blade out and reduces the chance of it diving, giving the paddler more confidence. Now a flatter blade will lift water more during the power phase of the stroke, as opposed to pushing it back and creating forward propulsion. However the shorter, faster strokes needed in surf and whitewater generally never make their way all the way back to the paddler's feet, offsetting that negative. With that we find 7 degree to be perfect for this user group." -Werner Paddles

Blade Size 

Werner SUP paddles are available in three different blade sizes that are a function of paddler stature, paddler strength and fitness and personal prefernce.

As you increase the surface area of your blade you will need to put more "horsepower" behind each stroke.  This usually allows for a lower cadence stroke, less strokes per minute.  Smaller blades shapes are ideal for smaller paddlers or for paddlers who are looking for a configuration that is suited for a high cadence stroke.  More strokes per minute but less energy per stroke.

How Werner naming works as it applies to blade size.  If a paddle has a numeric component to the name then that number represents the size of the blade in square inches.  Those paddles with a numeric value are available in multiple blade sizes.  The paddles without a numeric value only come in one blade size.

Shaft Options:

One Piece shafts are lighter weight and a bit stronger.  Ideal for folks who want a paddle that is tailored for them.

Adjustable shafts are a bit heavier but they offer the flexibility for multiple users or multiple applications.  Werner Family adjustable paddles allow for 16" of adjustment and suited for paddler's ranging in height from 4'10" to 6'2"

Learn more about Adjustable SUP Shafts in the Video below:

Browse Adjustable SUP Paddles

Bent Shafts "Werner Paddles is the innovator of bent shaft in SUP. Bent shaft aligns your wrists in a more ergonomic position to reduce fatigue while grasping the shaft for the confidence of full hand contact. Proper ergonomic hand, wrist and forearm position alleviates stress and strain and the potential for injury. This is a great fit option for those who over grip when racing and surfing, or anyone looking to protect their body. Our design also allows for a longer stroke. With the blade being aligned in front of your hand, each stroke you take the blade gets to the water sooner, lengthening the power phase of your stroke. Size this the same way you would as a traditional straight shaft." -Werner Paddles

Small fit vs Standard Fit. "Werner innovated small fit paddles and in our decades of experience the large majority of female paddlers benefit from this option. Available on our most popular SUP paddles, ladies not can match a Small or Mid-sized blade with a small diameter shaft and innovative small sized grip. Performance starts with the proper fit and you will immediately be able to grasp with a lighter grip for better technique and to eliminate fatigue. To see if Small Fit is best for you, measure your hand size by placing a ruler at the base of your hand (at the joint of your wrist) and measuring to the tip of your middle finger. If you measure smaller than 6.5" we suggest small shaft. Longer, go to our standard shaft. If you are on the line, we suggest you try both at an authorized Werner dealer and see for yourself. Paddlers with shorter, thicker fingers also gravitate to small shaft. More control, more comfort with Small Fit." -Werner Paddles

Learn more about Werner Small Fit paddles in the video below:

Browse Small Fit SUP Paddles

Materials

SUP paddles are broken into a couple of different parts, the blade and the paddle shaft being the most prominent.  The materials that make up your blades and shaft will have a dramatic effect on performance and efficiency.  

Plastic: Durable, Heavy, flexible, Lower Price Point
Fiberglass: Low Swing Weight, Rigid, Moderate/High Price Point
Carbon Fiber: Lowest Swing Weight, Most Rigid, High Price Point

The highest performance paddles with be the lightest and contain just the right amount of flex.  With that being said, if you are a paddler in the surf of the river lightweight is nice but durability and strength should be at the top of the list as those environments provide additional stress on the paddle.

Additionally some manufactures like Werner Paddles, are coring their performance blades with foam.  Foam cored blades add buoyancy there by increasing efficiency and providing paddlers with an advantage in an environment like the river or in the surf where the water is aerated.

Paddle Length

We all know that SUP's and the folks who paddle them come in all different shapes and sizes.  When selecting the proper length for your paddle you need to take a couple things into consideration:
 
a.)Paddler Height
b.)Type of paddling (Flatwater vs Surf or River)
c.)Paddling Style 

*paddling style as it applies to length is more about the cadence your prefer to paddle.  In the more dynamic environments like the river or the surf some folks prefer to use a shorter paddle that will be better suited for a higher stroke rate, thus keeping the blades in the water for more time giving you even more control. 

SUP Paddle Sizing
Touring, Racing, Fitness & Yoga or Recreation Add 10" to your height
Surf or Whitewater Add 8" to your height

Example: For an individual who is 5'10", start with your height in inches (70"). For flatwater paddling, this individual would be best using an 80" paddle, while alternatively, a 78" paddle would be most suitable for more dynamic paddling in the surf.

Conclusion
The point of this discussion was to provide you with some food for thought for the next time you go out for a paddle.  Try and think of some of the things discussed in this short little blurb and know that there is never a black and white, right or wrong configuration when selecting a paddle.  The important thing to remember that a lot of these topics are “feel” based therefore completely subjective and going to change from person to person, so get out there and experiment!  Try longer paddles and try shorter paddles with varying cadences.  Try Bent Shafts, Try Straight Shafts, find out what feels best and works best for you!
 
Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding paddle selection at (360) 297-4659.
 
Forrest Wells
Olympic Outdoor Center

buyers-guide   expert-advice   forrest-wells   paddles   werner  




Forrest Wells
Forrest Wells

Author

Forrest is a BCU 4 star paddler, ACA open water advanced instructor, ACA SUP instructor, Alaska Kayak Guide and has his 200 ton Master's ship license. In addition to keeping the KPS ship headed in the right direction and running efficiently, he is an avid outdoorsman and kayak/SUP racer. He also helps coach water polo, plays a mean guitar and can cook up a tasty oyster on the half-shell.



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