Choosing the Best Beginner SUP Paddle

Best Beginner Stand Up Paddle in 2019

Let’s be clear, choosing the best beginner SUP paddle is no easy task. Some come with pretty graphics and others at ridiculously low price points. Meanwhile, a few brands will even boast that their paddles float (not a praise-worthy achievement). Perhaps you try to clear up the confusion with a Google search of “Best Beginner SUP Paddle,” but you’ll likely be met with a smattering of outdated answers and cheap knock-off paddles that leave much to be desired on the water.That’s why we believe in educating our customers in basic paddle science. Understanding the basic components of paddles is crucial and will help you choose the right fit for you. In this article, we’ll highlight the three major paddle features that beginners should look for and how those will drastically improve your overall paddling experience.

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Heavy vs. Lighter Paddles

While paddles made from aluminum and fiberglass are often cheaper, they’re also much heavier. It’s not uncommon for budget paddles to weigh as much as three or four pounds. It may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that Black Project’s entry-level carbon paddles — OHANA and LAVA — are roughly half that weight, it equates to a massive difference on the water.

First and foremost, heavy paddles slow you down. Pulling that extra weight through the water with every stroke costs you energy and leads to increased muscle fatigue. Tired muscles lead to shorter sessions and worse yet, can cause shoulder injuries.

Learn how to use your paddle to prevent injures.

Throughout the design process of the LAVA, all unnecessary weight was removed to make this one of the lightest SUP paddles available. For example, the 75” LAVA one-piece paddle weighs only 456 grams — just under one pound — approximately 100 grams (or 3.5 oz.) lighter than any other paddle at the same price point and considerably lighter than most. 

Not only will the lighter weight allow you to more easily increase your stroke cadence and improve your form, but you’ll be able to stay on the water for longer periods, with less risk of injury. An easy win-win. 

Bottom Line: Lighter is better. 

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Soft vs. Stiff Paddle Shafts

When you’re first starting out in standup paddling, paddle shafts are probably the last thing you think about. Though believe it or not, they will make a big impact in your overall paddling experience.

Many budget paddles tend to land on the stiffer side, especially the aluminum options. While stiff paddles are great for competitors looking to increase their speed, beginners will find stiff paddle shafts are more difficult to paddle and can cause sore shoulders, back pain and premature fatigue.

Learn about standup paddling’s Rule of Three S’s 

For first-time paddlers and families, our OHANA paddle uses our REFLEX 60 shaft. Made with 60% carbon to offer a softer feel and increased strength thanks to added fiberglass. For those looking for a second-tier paddle, our LAVA paddle comes fitted with our REFLEX 90 shaft, made with 90% carbon to offer a medium flex rating that is ideal for most intermediates and progressing standup paddlers.

Bottom Line: Softer paddle shafts are easier on beginners.

Long vs. Short Paddle Length

Choosing the correct paddle length is very important (and confusing) for beginners. While it may seem like it would be less daunting to wield a shorter paddle, a slightly longer paddle is better for beginners for a couple different reasons.

First, it will enable you to stand more upright in a relaxed stance and lower your stroke cadence. Secondly, the recreational boards that most beginners start out on tend to be wider and thicker, which makes a longer paddle beneficial for reaching the water and fully submerging your blade.

Check out our paddle sizing chart.

However, it’s tough for new paddlers to pinpoint exactly what paddle length they want. Instead, we suggest paddlers experiment with different paddle lengths. That’s why both our OHANA and LAVA paddles offer our no-twist adjustment system. This system allows for easy, on-water adjustment with wide range adjustment ranges with options suitable for paddlers anywhere from from 4’ 8″ to 6’6″(142-198cm). If you do choose to go for a one-piece paddle make sure that you use the Black Project hot glue assembly method so that you can easily shorten over time. Adjustable stand up paddles are recommended for families, clubs and rentals. 

Bottom Line: Start longer, but go with an adjustable paddle.

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Why Choose Black Project for Your First Paddle

At Black Project, we are committed to designing paddles that will increase your love and enjoyment of the sport of standup paddling. No matter if you’re a first-time paddler or a professional racer, we believe the best beginner SUP paddle is one built using the latest technology, at the lowest possible price point.

Do not spend $100 on budget paddle, you will only need to replace quickly when it breaks or when your skills develop. It is more cost effective to spend a little more on a well designed, lightweight and feature packed Black Project paddle. Our OHANA paddle is priced from $200 with our LAVA from $300. By spending a little more you will have a paddle which will be durable and last for multiple seasons. 

Our the design of our entry-level OHANA and mid-priced LAVA paddles include our proprietary Scooped Dihedral blade shaping (as developed for our most expensive paddles) for a stable, smooth and efficient paddle stroke. The blade shaping holds the water securely through the power phase of the stroke. Lateral blade movement is eliminated and the unique toe shaping provides an efficient and smooth release. 

Meanwhile, both blades offer a forgiving 10 degree blade angle, compared to the 8° blade angle we offer on our more high-performance paddles. This allows for a smoother paddle stroke that offers more comfort, especially in rough conditions. 

Remember, learning to paddle should be fun. The wrong paddle can ruin the on-water experience and taint your appreciation of the sport. On the other hand, using the right paddle from the get-go will maximize your enjoyment of the sport and may transform you into a lifelong SUP enthusiast.

Bottom Line: Choose Black Project for your beginner paddle. 


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More SUP Paddle Resources

Learn more about the OHANA paddle, ideal for beginners, intermediates and families. 

Learn more about the LAVA paddle, ideal for intermediates and those looking for a lighter paddle.

The Five Phases of Proper SUP Stroke Technique

5 Steps to Choosing & Customizing Your Paddle

The Catch – Fixing the Most Important Part Of Your Paddle Stroke 

The SUP Racing Parent: A Mom Embracing Challenge With Rewards