Dave Chun, founder of Kialoa Paddles shares some wisdom about the right equipment for the three disciplines of stand up paddling.
The sport of stand up paddling (SUP) has been growing fast and as more people have been introduced to it more forms of the sport emerge. It can be competitive, recreational or exercise but it should always be fun. Having the correct paddle for whichever type of paddling you decide to do will help you maximize your performance and enjoyment. The three most popular forms of SUP are surfing, racing and fitness. Discover which you might enjoy most, find a paddle that suits you, and get out on the water.
Paddles used for surfing should be small. Surfers need quick short bursts of speed to catch waves, and small blades excel at this. Resistance is greatest on the surfboard when it is not moving, a common situation while waiting for a set. A small blade will allow for a high stroke rate and get the surfboard up to speed more quickly.
The higher stroke rate facilitated by the smaller blade, also aides in balancing and maneuvering in the rough conditions associated with surfing. Performance surfboards are also getting smaller and less buoyant. Because these surfboards sink deeper in the water, they are inherently slower when paddling. As a general rule, the slower the watercraft, the smaller the blade. Good choices in the Kialoa line-up are the Methane, good for most surfers, or the Shaka Pu’u, if you are a big strong paddler like Mel Pu’u.
SUP race paddles should be chosen based on the length of the race, type of board, and fitness and strength of the athlete. In very short sprint races, a larger blade may be of benefit. Less paddle slip will occur with each paddle stroke, which in theory should translate into a more efficient transfer of energy. However, this must be balanced with fatigue. Race boards are faster than a pure surfboard, so this should allow for a larger blade.
The most important factor in choosing a distance paddle is the physical condition of the athlete. Strong fit paddlers have greater potential for high hull speeds and can use larger blades. A good choice for long events and most mortals is the Methane. For general use by a fit experienced paddler, the Shaka Pu’u is excellent. (The Shaka Pu’u is the paddle that was used by Chuck Patterson, to win the $10,000. first place prize in the 2008 Rainbow Sandal “Battle of the Paddle”). For an aggressive downwind racer who is able to link swell after swell and prefers a larger blade, the Nalu can be a good choice.
Water conditions (the board moves fastest when it is flat on the water and not bouncing up and down), wind direction, the conditioning of the athlete, and type of surfboard, are all “moving targets” when trying to pick the optimum blade. Just keep in mind; if you are moving more quickly, you can use a larger blade, if you are moving more slowly, you need a smaller blade.
SUP Surfing and Racing are both great fitness activities, but there are a number of SUP paddlers who do not use their boards to surf or race. Fitness paddlers generally use boards which cross over from surfing. Because of this, we recommend that paddlers use equipment similar to that used in surfing; with the first choice for most paddlers being the Methane for women, and the Shaka Pu’u being a good choice if you are stronger and/or more fit.
Thanks to Dave for always being willing to share his insights and knolwedge to increase performance and raise the bar of stand up paddling. For more about Kialoa visit www.kialoa.com.