Choosing a paddle to use for SUPing is just as important as choosing the right board for you. Among all other factors to consider, the material of your paddle will be detrimental to your whole stand-up paddleboarding experience.
There are quite a few materials used for SUP paddles these days, especially for the shafts and blades, but the three most popular ones are aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Let’s compare all three to see which material type will suit your SUPing adventures the best.
Choosing a paddle: The right material for you
SUP paddles are not a “one size fits all” type of gear. Choosing a paddle will depend on the situation, i.e, the kind of adventures you’re into; how often you’ll SUP; or if you’re going to share your paddle or not with a few friends or family members—or if you’re planning to have it rented out too.
Aluminum is a kind of lightweight metal. This type of shaft material is used as a more economical alternative to produce more affordable paddles. Because of its light and versatile characteristic, it’s highly recommended for stand-up paddleboard beginners. But, generally, this kind of material is best used by recreational paddlers or as a shared paddle for the family.
Aluminum shafts are typically paired with plastic paddles, but these also go well with polycarbonate, fiberglass, and other polymers type of paddles.
Most, if not all, performance-oriented paddles are integrated with either fiberglass or carbon material for the shafts and blades. Fiberglass is identified as a “go-to” paddle material for when SUP enthusiasts are looking for a paddle that balances performance and cost. It’s more expensive than aluminum but it’s a great economic alternative to carbon fiber—hence, being a perfectly balanced type of paddle.
This type of material is an “excellent lightweight choice” as either a shaft or a blade. Because of its fairly stiff characteristic, a fiberglass blade/shaft makes it very efficient for paddlers to transfer stroke power.
If you’re highly invested in stand-up paddleboarding as a sport or a hobby, then you are more inclined to choose a paddle with a carbon fiber shaft and/or blade. It is often the most expensive paddle in the market or considered a “high-end” product. This is because of its high performance and ultra-lightweight quality—this the lightest and the stiffest material used for paddles, shafts, and blades. The “high-end” ones use carbon fiber as the only material for the whole paddle, while the more affordable ones mix carbon fiber and fiberglass, such as a paddle with a carbon shaft and a fiberglass blade.
Most carbon fiber paddles will come with two options: a fixed-length or an adjustable one. So it’s really for an all-around SUPing adventure. It’s highly recommended for those who are long-distance paddlers.
Carbon fiber is stiffer and lighter than fiberglass, so while the latter is an excellent choice for transferring stroke power, the former is deemed as the best among all other materials. Research shows that this material is stronger than steel but is way more lightweight. Not to mention, it is deemed to be “one of the most corrosion-resistant materials” used in the market right now—and not just for paddles.
When choosing a paddle, you may immediately think the carbon fiber type will suit you best because of its high quality. However, it may not be an economically right choice at the moment, especially when you’re still starting with the sport. You may want to consider renting out different kinds of gear first to test them all out before making any purchases.