Picking the right SUP paddle for your needs is a science often overlooked. The assumption that ‘all paddles work the same’ couldn’t be further from the truth. Length, weight, blade size, shape and stiffness all come into play, and different conditions call for different setups. Since no two paddlers are the same, personalizing your paddle is critical to maximizing your performance on the water. To help you get it right we caught up with multi-discipline SUP world champion Mo Freitas for some insight. When he’s not traveling to compete, Freitas spends his days at home in Oahu racing, SUP surfing, foiling and downwinding in every condition under the sun. Safe to say he’s an expert on paddle selection, and he’ll be the first to tell you: having the right paddle for your needs is key to success in SUP. Here’s his input on picking the winning SUP paddle for you.
Does one SUP paddle work for all disciplines?
Definitely not, you need to have options if you’re paddling different types of boards in different disciplines. As standup paddleboarding has developed board shapes and sizes have become more diverse and that calls for different paddles or at least different paddle lengths. What works for surfing doesn’t really work for racing and vice versa. Having multiple paddles allows you to accomplish more each session. I don’t leave the house without at least one HYDRO and one SURGE and normally take a few cut to different lengths.
What paddle blade style and length do you recommend for each Standup paddle discipline?
PADDLE CHOICE FOR FLATWATER & LONG-DISTANCE PADDLING
For long-distance and flatwater paddling it’s key to have a paddle that’s both light and powerful in the catch (the beginning of the stroke). For distance I like a smaller blade and a bit more flex; it helps with stamina and also with getting that consistent pace we go for in distance races. In my experience nothing works better than the Hydro. It’s the lightest paddle I’ve ever used, the scooped blade channels water right to the sweet spot so you can go with a smaller blade and reduce fatigue. For longer distances I use the HYDRO M83 with Medium shaft and cut to 76” (I am 5’ 10” / 70” tall).
PADDLE CHOICE FOR DOWNWIND SUP RACING
To catch bumps, you do a lot of high-interval, sprint-style strokes, which works best with a bigger blade. With downwinding the strokes aren’t constant—you paddle hard and fast to catch a bump, then surf, then paddle hard and fast again to catch another—which means you have time to rest between bursts. That allows you to use a big blade and stiffer shaft without burning up your arms. For downwinding I use a shorter & stiffer shaft with the bigger HYDRO L88 blade cut to 74” on regular race boards like the Rogue ALL In. For dugout boards like my Rogue JACKPOT I use a shorter paddle (about 2” less) because you are closer to the water.
PADDLE CHOICE FOR TECHNICAL SUP RACING
Technical races have a lot of sprinting and buoy turns as opposed to a longer, more rhythmic stroke used for distance racing. You want a paddle that is light and fast off the line and for speed in bursts. The HYDRO with a bigger blade works great for this. I use the same paddle for technical racing as for downwinding on my dugout (HYDRO 88 with Stiff shaft and cut to 72”).
PADDLE CHOICE FOR SUP SURFING
In the surf I like a paddle that’s a little rounder. The SURGE blade is a little wider than my race paddle and really helps you spring into waves. When you’re carving a bottom turn it’s good to drag the paddle blade along the water’s surface to guide the turn, balance or pivot. The smoother, rounder curve on the Surge knifes through the water great in turns. The more flexible shaft also helps when surfing. I like shorter paddle for SUP surfing because it allows for quicker, shorter strokes. My go-to surf paddle length for surfing is my exact height—70”. I use my SURGE M82 with Medium shaft and T handle for surfing. The smaller your SUP surf board the shorter your paddle becomes, if you are on a bigger board which sits higher in the water you will want a longer paddle. My Rogue PAYOUT is pretty low volume and I am under the water when standing still so a shorter paddle suits me.
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Words: Mo Freitas / Mike Misselwitz / Black Project
Pics: Beth Price, Sean Greeley & Black Project
Follow Mo on Instagram @_mofreitas