When my family and I first started paddle boarding, we just used whatever length paddle board paddles came with the cheap foam boards we bought to learn on. Luckily they were adjustable length SUP paddles, so we could size them to any height we needed. The trouble was we had no idea what size SUP paddle length each of us should use. So I did a ton of research and figured out the correct paddle board paddle height for each of us.
How long should a paddle board paddle be? In general a paddle board paddle’s length should be between 8″ to 10″ taller than the height of the paddler. The ideal SUP paddle length is dependent on a paddler’s arm length, height, how strong they are, the thickness of their paddle board, and finally what type of paddling they plan to do.
Yep, SUP paddle sizing seems complicated. But I’m going to break it down for you—simplify the important task of figuring out your ideal paddle board paddle length. After all, your SUP paddle is how you get your paddle board to go, so we want to get it right.
For the how and why of paddle board paddle length and sizing, read on.
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Benefits of Getting the Right SUP Paddle Length
Figuring out and buying the correct paddle board paddle length is the best place to start your paddle boarding journey. Even your board choice will be less important than the right sized paddle.
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to learn how to create a smooth and efficient paddle board stroke with a paddle that’s the wrong size. Eventually you’ll end up with bad paddling form at best, and at worst you’ll start to dislike the sport.
With the right sized paddle board paddle, you’ll:
- Maintain good balance on your board
- Be able to control and keep the correct paddling posture
- Paddle more efficiently and effectively
- Keep your knees slightly bent with little effort
- Conserve energy and be able to paddle longer and stronger
- More easily learn advanced paddle strokes and maneuvers
With that in mind, let’s get started.
Adjustable vs Fixed Length SUP Paddles
If you’re a beginner, and especially if you’re on a budget, I’d recommend getting an adjustable height SUP paddle. This is for a few reasons.
- Many entry level budget boards come with an adjustable paddle.
- If you’re sharing boards and paddles with family or friends, you can change the SUP paddle’s length to suit each individual paddler.
- Until you paddle a while, you won’t know the exact SUP paddle length that’s right for you.
- An adjustable SUP paddle will let you try out several lengths/heights to see which one feels the best when you paddle.
- And adjustable will let you dial in your ideal SUP paddle length before you go ahead and spend the money on that fancy fixed length paddle.
Yes, adjustable paddles won’t perform like an expensive carbon fiber fixed length paddle will. However, they also won’t break your budget. And if you make a mistake in sizing your SUP paddle length, you can simply adjust it’s length rather than face paying for another paddle.
Don’t worry, once you fall in love with paddle boarding you’ll want to move up to a more precise and better performing paddle board paddle. But that’s part of the joy of learning and then yearning for cooler gear.
Regardless of which route you go in choosing your SUP paddle, let’s make sure you get the length right. It’ll make all the difference.
Paddle Board Paddle Sizing Methods
There are many “common” methods of sizing a SUP paddle. And every “expert” out there has their favorite. Here’s what I’d suggest.
Try out each method of paddle board sizing and find an average or one that “feels” good to you. Then as I said earlier, get an adjustable SUP paddle that has a range of your length measurements. This way you can test out different length SUP paddles and figure out which one’s perfect for you.
Here’s four common SUP sizing methods to get you started.
Quick and Dirty SUP Paddle Sizing Method
There are a couple variations to this method, but they all involve the following steps:
- Stand your paddle straight up and down right in front of your dominant arm (If you’re right-handed in front of your right arm).
- Make sure the blade’s power face is toward you—blade bent forward.
- Reach your hand straight up in the air like you were trying to touch as high as you could while flat-footed.
- Wrap your fingers over the SUP paddle’s rounded handle or “T” grip.
- Depending on who you listen to, your fingers should comfortably wrap over the handle with the top of the paddle right at the joint between your hand and where your fingers start. Or…
- Another popular method is that the top of the “T” or rounded handle will be right at your wrist joint.
Either way will get you pretty close to the correct paddle board paddle length for your height.
Skaka SUP Paddle Sizing Method
The “Shaka” or as I like to call it, “Hang Loose Hawaii” SUP sizing method goes like this:
- Make the hang-loose sign with your hand—thumb and pinky out, your other three fingers closed to your palm.
- Put your thumb on your head.
- Extend your pinky as high as you can up above it.
- The top of the handle on your paddle board paddle should be right at the tip of your pinky.
This method will give you a slightly shorter or longer than precise length, depending on how big your hand is and how long your fingers are. But it’s going to get you close.
Laird Hamilton SUP Paddle Sizing Method
Surf legend Laird Hamilton is considered to be the father of stand up paddle boarding, having pioneered the sport around the year 2000. As I’ve read, he’s a fan of the “Quick and Dirty” method of SUP paddle sizing above. But he also says that you should start with a paddle that’s 3″ to 4″ above your head, then testing by paddling and adjusting up from there.
Now, I tested both of these on myself and the measurements were different by 6″ to 10″, so your mileage may “vary.”
My takeaway from this is exactly what I stated above, you’re going to adjust and go through some trial and error before you find the right paddle board paddle length for you. And all of these “methods” are just close estimations designed to get you in the ballpark of the perfect length paddle for you.
Eyes and Throat Paddle Sizing Method
Another popular method that’s even faster involves standing the paddle up right in front of your face.
The “throat” part of a paddle is right where the blade meets the long shaft. In the “Eyes and Throat” method, the throat of your SUP paddle should be right at eye-level.
In this position you’ll notice that the SUP paddle’s blade is up over your head by around 8-12 inches. And that brings us to the following rules of thumb for SUP paddle length sizing.
Flat/Calm Water (Touring) SUP Paddle Length
Once I started researching SUP paddle length in detail, I realized that all of this information is suggestion and guidelines. Because for flat, calm water paddling some suggest 6″ to 8″ above your head is the “correct” paddle length for flat water, while others say that 8″ to 10″, 8″ to 12″, or 9″ to 10″ is the right range.
I don’t know about you, but that feels like a big range to me and some wide discrepancy. I like averages, so I averaged them to come up with my own suggested “perfect” length SUP paddle.
With rounding, the “correct” SUP paddle length for flat clam water is 8″ to 10″ above your head.
With that in mind, we can move forward and make some pretty accurate estimations. Just keep in mind, the best way to figure out the perfect size SUP paddle for you is to paddle with it.
Surfing Paddle Board Paddle Length
Most surfing paddles are anywhere from 6″ to 8″ shorter than recreational, flatwater, touring paddles. Surf paddles should be shorter for added manueverability and the fact that you’ll be more agressively stroking on the water and leaning more side to side than pure stand up paddling.
All this puts you closer to the surface of the water and thus requires less paddle length. Paddle lengths in the 2″ to 8″ above your head range are great for SUP surfing.
Racing SUP Paddle Length
If you’re planning on SUP racing, you’ll want to get as much power and performance out of a paddle as you can. So in this case you are probably going to want to get a more expensive fixed-length paddle that will give you all the advantage you can get in a SUP race.
Generally, and for those reasons, racing SUP paddle lengths range from 10″ to 14″ above your head.
Longer SUP paddles give you a more powerful and longer stroke for long distance racing, but if you’re going to SUP race in sprint races you’ll want a shorter paddle so you can paddle more aggressively with faster but shorter strokes.
SUP Paddle Size Chart
I’m going to use a number right in the middle of the distance in inches above-your-head number ranges above to keep this SUP paddle size chart simple enough to use.
Keep in mind that any paddle board paddle sizing chart is biased and only a suggestion as a place to start in your search to find the perfect paddle board paddle length for you.
My suggestion always is get an adjustable if you’re a beginner so you can try out some different length settings and figure out what’s the best length paddle for you.
Paddle Board Paddle Length Chart
|Height (ft.in.)||Height (in.)||Height (cm)||Touring (+9″)||Surfing (+5″)||Racing (+12)|
|4′ 1″||49″||124 cm||58″||54″||61″|
|4′ 2″||50″||127 cm||59″||55″||62″|
|4′ 3″||51″||130 cm||60″||56″||63″|
|4′ 4″||52″||132 cm||61″||57″||64″|
|4′ 5″||53″||135 cm||62″||58″||65″|
|4′ 6″||54″||137 cm||63″||59″||66″|
|4′ 7″||55″||140 cm||64″||60″||67″|
|4′ 8″||56″||142 cm||65″||61″||68″|
|4′ 9″||57″||145 cm||66″||62″||69″|
|4′ 10″||58″||147 cm||67″||63″||70″|
|4′ 11″||59″||150 cm||68″||64″||71″|
|5′ 1″||61″||155 cm||70″||66″||73″|
|5′ 2″||62″||157 cm||71″||67″||74″|
|5′ 3″||63″||160 cm||72″||68″||75″|
|5′ 4″||64″||163 cm||73″||69″||76″|
|5′ 5″||65″||165 cm||74″||70″||77″|
|5′ 6″||66″||168 cm||75″||71″||78″|
|5′ 7″||67″||170 cm||76″||72″||79″|
|5′ 8″||68″||173 cm||77″||73″||80″|
|5′ 9″||69″||175 cm||78″||74″||81″|
|5′ 10″||70″||177 cm||79″||75″||82″|
|5′ 11″||71″||180 cm||80″||76″||83″|
|6′ 1″||73″||185 cm||82″||78″||85″|
|6′ 2″||74″||188 cm||83″||79″||86″|
|6′ 3″||75″||190 cm||84″||80″||87″|
|6′ 4″||76″||193 cm||85″||81″||88″|
|6′ 5″||77″||196 cm||86″||82″||89″|
|6′ 6″||78″||198 cm||87″||83″||90″|
|6′ 7″||79″||201 cm||88″||84″||91″|
|6′ 8″||80″||203 cm||89″||85″||92″|
|6′ 9″||81″||206 cm||90″||86″||93″|
|6′ 10″||82″||208 cm||91″||87″||94″|
|6′ 11″||83″||211 cm||92″||88″||95″|