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The SUP paddle

The paddle means as much in SUP as the poles in cross-country skiing. It is with the paddle that we primarily drive and maneuver our SUP board. The more efficient and thus more energy-saving we want to paddle, the more important it is that we have a paddle that is adapted to only our specific conditions and often. In SUP we use a so-called single-bladed paddle and the SUP paddle mainly consist of three components that we need to consider; a blade, a shaft and a handle.

Paddle for training and competition

If we are also going to paddle long distances or train and compete seriously in SUP, the choice of paddle is even more important. In order for us to get the most out of our capacity, we need a light and rigid paddle that is adapted to our body length and the distance we train to paddle. SUP paddles with fixed length, completely in carbon fiber are preferred here. Most people who compete and train often have several paddles in different lengths and blade sizes.

Material selection

SUP paddles otherwise come in a variety of materials and designs. The most common materials used for paddles are aluminum, plastic, fiberglass and carbon fiber. Aluminum and plastic are the most durable but heaviest, while carbon fiber is the lightest and stiffest with fiberglass paddles in between. Paddles with aluminum handles and plastic blades are the lowest in price and are what is normally included when we buy an inflatable SUP board, while a really good paddle can be seen as an investment.

Models

Paddles for inflatable SUP boards are often divisible and also have adjustable length. The most common are 3-part paddles as these can be taken apart to fit in the associated backpack, but there are also 5-part paddles. If there are several of us who will use the same paddle, one with an adjustable length is recommended. Then everyone in the family can use it.

Weight

Weight is also important. During distance training in SUP, we take between 2 500–3 500 paddle strokes per hour and if it then sends more than half a kilo between different SUP paddles, we soon realize the importance of weight. How stiff the paddle is is also very important. A rigid paddle allows us to get more out of the power we create, while a softer paddle can feel more gentle on the body.

The right paddle for the right board

For SUP for purely recreational purposes, basically any paddle works to begin with, while the feeling of paddling with a light and rigid SUP paddle in carbon fiber must be experienced. If we invest in a hard composite board for training and competition, our recommendation is to also get an equivalent paddle, as these reinforce the effects of each other.

The length of the SUP paddle

Regarding the length of the SUP paddle, our recommendation is to start with a paddle that is a maximum of about 10 cm above your body length. As we become more accustomed, we can gradually shorten the paddle all the way down to about 15 cm below our body length for an even more powerful paddle stroke.

SUP paddle blade 

Theoretically, a paddle stroke in SUP works so that we first put the paddle blade in the water in front of us and then we pull the board towards the paddle blade. Very simply explained, this means that if the blade is too small for the power we generate, the paddle blade will move backwards at a higher speed than the board and thus we get a paddle stroke that costs more energy than the speed it creates. 

Grip

One way to prevent this is to either take more paddle strokes per minute (SPM) or to use a blade with a larger area. The blade will then "grip" better in the water, which then the board can respond to. Thereby the board moves faster towards the blade than vice versa. The disadvantage of a larger paddle blade is that it requires more strength and probably reduces the number of paddle strokes we have time to take per minute. A larger blade also increases the weight of the SUP paddle and therefore there are also a number of blades with different shapes that compensate for this. 

Blade size 

The blade of an SUP paddle is often measured in square inches (in2) or square centimeters (cm2). Which size is optimal for us is completely individual, but for us to have something to start from, we could say a "normal-sized" blade for an adult man is usually around 80-95 in2 and for a woman of about 75- 90 in2. If we are unfamiliar SUP paddlers and weigh relatively little, we can start with a smaller blade, while if we weigh more, we can choose a larger one. Well-trained and experienced SUP paddlers can of course use much larger blades than that. 

Frequency 

When we paddle SUP, we use different gears just like in cross-country skiing, for example. We pure recreational paddling where we only paddle around and look at the surroundings, we normally take between 20-30 paddle strokes per minute. If we paddle a slightly longer distance, we usually take between 30-40 paddle strokes per minute and if we compete in distance, we are usually in what we call gear three, the distance gear, and there the frequency is between 40-60 paddle strokes per minute. 

Different frequency for different SUP-boards

Which paddling frequency suits us best depends largely on our body constitution. If we weigh relatively little, a higher frequency can be more efficient and if we weigh more, a lower frequency can be more favorable. The same goes for the type of board we paddle. A hard composite board with a planing hull can have a better effect of a higher frequency, while a board with a displacement hull requires more powerful paddle strokes and thereby a lower frequency. We also see that all types of inflatable boards benefit from paddling with a slightly higher frequency, if we strive to increase our speed.

Flex

An SUP paddle with stiffer blades also provides a better power transmission, but for an inexperienced SUP paddler it can feel a little hard against the body at first. A blade with more flex can thus feel gentler before we build up basic joint stability and strength for SUP. This becomes extra important if we have previously had problems with our shoulders, for example. Here we can also choose a smaller blade for purely rehabilitation purposes.

Safe SUP

The single most important safety feature in SUP is a so-called leash. Your SUP board is your primary buoyancy aid and the leash means that you always have your board close to you on the water. An inflatable SUP board is caught extra easily by the wind and makes the board drift away quickly if you happen to fall in. A spiral-shaped and elastic leash, so-called coil is preferable if you are not going to surf with the board in breaking waves. Then a straight model for surfing is a better alternative.

Leash

With a spiral-shaped leash that is attached to the board in front of the standing surface and under one knee, you avoid stepping on it and it also risks dragging in the water while paddling. The leash is your lifeline, so always check that it is complete and working. Therefore, feel free to change the leash every year to be safe.

Fin for SUP

In addition to the board and the paddle, the third most important part of our equipment is the fin. A SUP fin is mainly there to strengthen the board's characteristics and to help us stay on course and to be able to steer the board in waves and wind. The fin is especially important for inflatable SUP boards as it is much more difficult to use the edges of an inflatable board to steer with. With a little practice, we can paddle a hard SUP board without fins, which is also an effective way to learn foot control.

Fin angle

The angle or slope of the SUP fin, the so-called "rake" is also very important. With more inclination, the risk of seagrass etcetera getting stuck when we paddle decreases, while a more upright fin instead provides increased lateral stability.

Correct SUP fin

For more serious training and competition, there are lots of fins with different properties. What determines the function of a SUP fin is, among other things, its surface, material, depth, base length, angle (rake), flex and foil. It is important here that the fin is adapted to our own SUP board and the conditions we are to paddle in. The paddling technique we use also plays a role here. With the wrong type of fin, there is a great risk of losing the built-in properties of the SUP board.

Care and storage of our SUP board

Regardless of whether we have an inflatable or a hard SUP board, it lasts longer and retains its glide better if we wash it with fresh water and detergent after a long period of use. We should also avoid storing the board in strong sunlight as the UV radiation causes the material to age and fade faster.

The air valve of the inflatable SUP board

To minimize wear on the air valve, it is good if we regularly clean it from dirt and sand etching. When releasing the air from our inflatable SUP board, it is a good idea to press the valve down gently at the beginning until the pressure has decreased. For long-term storage, a dark and relatively cool place with an even temperature is preferable. It is also good if the board is completely dry when we put it away. This reduces the risk of mold or other coatings forming on the board until we use it again.

Hard SUP boards

Even a hard SUP board retains its function longer if it is not out in the sun for too long. If we still need to have the board lying in the sun for several hours, it is good if we then open the valve screw. This reduces the pressure in the board when the air inside the board is heated.

Pressure

The same applies if, for example, we are to fly with a hard SUP board or at times when the pressure conditions can vary greatly. However, we must not forget to screw in the valve screw again before use as otherwise there is a risk that we get water into the board.

Self-regulating valve

All hard SUP boards from Kona have a so-called GoreTex valve that is self-regulating regarding overpressure and then we do not have to think about this. If we store our board in a case, it is good if we also leave a gap to release moisture and condensation.

Clothes according to weather (and water)

SUP is an activity and form of training that we can do all year round. As long as there is no ice, we can SUP. Slowly gliding effortless on calm water in snowfall is something meditative and peaceful that we can warmly recommend.

Winter SUP

What we need to be able to safely SUP in minus degrees is a relatively thin and elastic wet or dry suit, a pair of thicker wet shoes (> 6mm) in neoprene, a beanie and a pair of thin gloves or mittens that can withstand wet. What we should keep in mind is that a wet suit keeps the heat even in the water while a thin dry suit for SUP does not. Here it is instead the clothes under the suit that insulate.

Wetsuit for SUP

As there are not so many specific wetsuits for SUP on the market yet, we have seen that thin wetsuits (<4mm) for wave surfing without a fixed hood are preferable. A thin wetsuit can also be reinforced with a thin windproof vest or jacket.

Like a glove

Even when it comes to gloves for SUP, there are not many specific variants on the market yet. Because we want to get the best possible grip and feel of the SUP paddle, gloves for other types of paddling are therefore preferable. These also last longer than, for example, gloves for wave surfing. Here it is important not to choose a glove or mitten that is not too thick. Neoprene gloves with a thickness of between 0.5 and 3 mm keep the heat in most conditions.

Feet first

One of the best things about SUP is that we stand and paddle barefoot. This is precisely a large part of the unique and revolutionary training effects that SUP contributes to. Standing barefoot on the board means that we keep our balance better and open our entire mobility.

Barefoot

The dilemma is that if you, like us, live and paddle in Sweden, then it may not always be fully functional to be barefoot, especially not during the winter. In SUP, the feet are probably the most important thing not to freeze over and then we also need some form of clothing.

Wetsuit boots

The most important thing here is that the foot must be able to move just as if we were barefoot and that the sole is not too thick. A too thick sole means that we lose contact with our SUP board, which hampers control and our balance. Our experience is that wetsuit boots for wave surfing are also what currently work best. For mid-winter conditions and early spring, 6-8mm thick shoes are recommended, while in the autumn you can often manage with 3-5mm.

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