April 21, 2013
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

Crown Paddle Grips: The Funky Looking SUP Handle That May Just Make You Paddle Faster

Crown SUP paddle handlesIf you take your SUP racing seriously and love to experiment, you’re going to wanna try one of these new paddle handles…

I’ve been playing around with this funky looking thing for the past three or four months and it’s definitely something different. It’s called the “Crown Paddle Grip” (formerly known as “Steller Grips”) and it’s one of the most innovative, but also one of the strangest looking pieces of SUP equipment you’ll ever see.

There’s been a thousand variations on the SUP handle over the past ten years, but the differences have always been extremely subtle; all handles pretty much look the same. So the first thing you notice about Crown Paddle Grips are just how different they are. They look more like shovel handles than SUP handles…

(that’s actually the nickname my local training group gave to my paddle… The Shovel)

But how do Crown Paddle Grips perform? Are they any good, or just a novelty? And most important of all: Will you paddle faster if you buy one?

The short answer is: Maybe.

Crown Paddle Grips SUP handles

The long answer is that it really depends…

I like this thing, and so do some of the paddlers I’ve shown it to. But not everybody does. I think it’s one of those new ideas you’ll either love or hate. And that’s a good thing.

Crown Paddle Grips are the work of Peter Spain, a paddler and photographer from Lake Tahoe (if you’ve ever seen Tahoe SUP race photos on this site, chances are they came from Peter).

The design of the Grips is pretty straight forward: Instead of only being able to rest your hand on top, like a traditional SUP handle, you can wrap your hand all the way around the handle. You can also mix things up by putting your fingers through the middle and holding onto the lower part of the handle, which can give you even more leverage.

They’re available in either moulded plastic (tough and cheap, but heavy…) or the pure carbon version, which I’ve been using. It’s strong yet light as a feather, adding practically nothing to the weight of your paddle.

Crown Paddle Grips attach to your paddle shaft a little differently than most handles though; it basically wraps over the top (so it’s female-male, instead of the usual male-female). This gives it a lot more strength and makes it super easy to assemble, but it also leaves you with one problem: Your shaft has to be the right width, otherwise the handle will be too loose.

These things have been designed to fit an original Quickblade shaft, which has pretty much become the standard width for stand up pddles. However many brands (including Quickblade themselves) are now coming out with narrower and narrower shafts. I attached my Crown Grip to Quickblade paddle that had a tapered shaft, which was far too narrow to apply the grip normally. So to make it work, I had to add an extra insert of carbon in between the grip and the shaft in order to make it fit.

But that’s a minor detail. Most paddles are the traditional width, and even if yours isn’t, it’s not hard to make the Crown Paddle Grip fit properly.

So more importantly; what’s it like to paddle with one of these?

Very strange at first…

Immediately you’ll feel like you’ve got more power in each stroke, especially if you’re using the “fingers through the handle” grip. But the Crown Paddle Grip SUP handles definitely take some getting used to, as you’d expect from something so different. It’ll slightly change your stroke, plus there’s also the fact that you can hold this thing in about five different ways, which is both a plus and a minus (it’s versatile, but the different holds add to the learning curve).

So while there’s a good chance you’ll go faster once you’re used to it, you’ll probably feel slower the first few times you paddle with one of these. You really should give it a week or so before making up your mind.

I gave it several weeks… so after a few months of switching between a regular handle and the Crown Paddle Grip handle, I decided I like it, but that I prefer it for some types of paddling more than others.

I find myself using “The Shovel” more so in sprints and over shorter distances, while I often switch back to a traditional handle for long distance paddles. Though I do also take it on downwinders, where you often use short-sharp sprints to catch the runners, as opposed to the non-stop technique you’d use in a flat water distance race.

But that’s just me.

Crown SUP handlesAnother cool part is the different ways you can use the Crown Grips SUP handle. You can see in the pics below there’s at least four or five different ways to hold this thing while you’re paddling. You can rest your hand on top, similar to how you’d use a traditional paddle handle, you can put your fingers through the middle or you can use a combination of both.

I prefer the “fingers through” hold, though I think it could be even better if all four fingers fit through.

It’s definitely more versatile than a regular handle, though again, whether that’s a good or bad thing will really depend on the individual paddler.

But if you’re looking for a bit of an edge I think it’s definitely worth trying out. You’re not going to magically start winning races, but you might get that extra 1%, which could turn into a few higher places on the results sheet.

Some people are going to absolutely love the Crown Paddle Grips, while some will hate it. That’s just the kind of invention it is; it’s different, it’s unique and it’s unlike anything else out there, so it’s sure to polarise opinions. I like it, and just for the novel innovation alone it’s worth giving a try.

It’s also very cool to watch the sport of SUP racing developing so fast, and seeing all these new, experimental pieces of equipment hitting the market. You’d think we’d be getting close to the perfect board/paddle/handle combination, but it seems we’ve only just scratched the surface of design…

So if you’re keen to try the Crown Paddle Grips for yourself, head on over to the official website or give them a look in on Facebook for more info.