What SUP Paddle or SUP Fin is Best Suited To My Skill Level?

Ask any professional standup paddler how they got to their level and you’ll get a similar response—hard work, diligence, and time.

Just as with any other sport, there’s no secret to becoming a better standup paddler. The more you paddle, the more skilled you will become. While it’s certainly helpful to watch helpful SUP tutorial videos and study technique tips from pro paddlers—nothing replaces actual time on the water.

While that initial learning curve can be frustrating, the reward is worth the struggle. Becoming a more skilled paddlers unlocks your ability to effectively use cutting-edge paddles and fins, which in turn, further elevates your overall performance. After surpassing the initial hurdle, your skills as a paddler will grow exponentially.

Fiona Wylde and Arthur Arutkin Standup Paddling

At Black Project, our innovative line of SUP paddles and SUP fins caters to a wide-range of paddlers—from first-timers to World Champions. However, the best fin for an entry-level paddler won’t be the same as for an elite paddler, and vice-versa. Remember, the best SUP gear is the gear that matches your skill level and allows you to reach your full potential.

During our articles and personal recommendations, we talk about four types of paddlers—beginner, intermediate, advanced, and professional. To better understand those classifications and define your individual skill level, in this article we’ve provided an expanded description and gear recommendation for every paddler level.

If you still have any questions, feel free to send us a note, we’re happy to help!

Lara Claydon standup paddling with a Black Project Ohana SUP paddle.

Beginner Standup Paddler

You have just starting your SUP journey and/or are an occasional paddler. You’re typically paddling on round-nosed entry-level boards
and will likely be using an inflatable board.

If tracking and stability are challenging and you’re just happy to make it through a paddle session without falling in the water—you’re likely in this category.

Top tips:

Beginner standup paddlers are advised to use an adjustable paddle with a relaxed feel and mid to lower carbon content (35 – 60% carbon and fiberglass mix). The Pure, Ohana and Grom (for kids and youth) paddles are ideal. These lightweight and durable carbon paddles are easy to use, represent excellent value for money and can be easily shared with the whole family. Having an adjustable paddle will make it easy to experiment with different paddle lengths.


Slater Fleck and Lara Claydon standup paddling with Black Project Lava SUP paddles.

Intermediate Standup Paddler

You have paddled a fair amount and are progressing onto racing and touring-style boards that are narrower and more challenging to paddle than beginner round-nose boards. If you’re SUP surfing, you are still likely on a larger board.

If you can paddle a good distance, but tracking and stability are skills you want to work on, then you’re in this category of paddlers.

Top tips:

If you are an intermediate paddler, now is a good time to start thinking about SUP fins which will enhance your paddling performance in a number of ways. A fin with a bigger surface area and thicker foil will offer enhanced tracking, stability and speed. Our biggest fin, the Ray is an ideal choice. Paddles with a higher carbon content (60-90%) will offer added performance, be lighter and more responsive. It is also now a good time to consider a 1-piece paddle which will be lighter and further enhance your SUP paddling. The Lava or Ohana are great choices which are both available in a range of blade sizes and shaft options. If you are paddling on flat water and are ambitious you could also consider the Hydro TempX paddle. 


Bernd Roediger standup paddling with a Hydro TempoX SUP paddle

Advanced Standup Paddler

You have completed a lot of miles on a standup paddleboard. Perhaps you regularly compete in SUP races, or simply get on the water to train for fitness and fun. Advanced paddlers will be using narrower race boards or smaller SUP surfboards.

If you are confident in your paddling skills, but occasionally still need help with stability or tracking—especially in windy or choppy conditions—you fall into this category. 

Top tips:

As you paddling progresses it is good to experiment by trying a smaller fin, especially on calmer days. Using a smaller fin will challenge you to hone your SUP skills further, but it is always a good idea to keep a bigger fin such as the Ray in your quiver for choppy days. If you are confident with stability and tracking and want more speed consider the Tiger. For paddles you will be looking for more performance, more technology and high or full carbon content (90-100%). For surfing consider the Lava or Surge and for fitness, flat water and racing the Hydro TempoX or Hydro FlowX will suit you well. 


Arthur Arutkin and Seychelle Webster paddling with Black Project Hydro FlowX SUP paddle.

Elite or Professional Standup Paddler

You are an extremely experienced paddler in a range of conditions. You are comfortable on narrow race boards or small SUP surfboards, in any weather conditions. You will likely be racing regularly or surfing more challenging waves. 

Your main focus is increasing your speed for racing and improving the quality of turns for surfing.

Top tips:

As an accomplished paddler, you will be looking for power, speed and cutting edge SUP technology from your paddle. The Hydro FlowX is suited to middle and longer distances while the Hydro SprintX will offer the explosive acceleration, power and high cadence needed for sprint races. Smaller fins like the Tiger, Condor or Sonic will offer more speed and maneuverability. 


Need help choosing a paddle or fin?