March 8, 2013
by Steve West

Steve West On The Importance Of The Paddle

Boss Man’s note: Another great piece from Steve West, author of the excellent new SUP book “Stand Up Paddle: A Paddler’s Guide”. Steve is one of the most respected authors in the paddling world, so we’re stoked that he’s sharing some excerpts and summaries out of A Paddler’s Guide here on each week.

Today Steve chats about what is, in some ways, the most important piece of equipment you’ll ever own: your paddle. There are some great insights as always, so check out the latest instalment below and then pick up a copy of the “Bible of SUP” if you haven’t already. You’ll love it. And while you’re waiting for the book to arrive in the mail, go take a look at all the previous guest posts by Steve West as well. You’ll be a better (and smarter) paddler if you do.

Steve West Stand Up Paddle

The Paddle

‘The singular most important item you will own as part of your acknowledgement of the sport as a paddle-board sport, is your paddle, to which end it should add to your experience of the sport, never limit it. As the quiver of arrows is to the archer, so too the paddler should aim to possess a quiver of paddles for varying boards and purposes.’

My last offering from Stand Up Paddle – A Paddlers Guide, turned attention toward the paddle, but importantly it’s significance. This section sets the scene for what should be every performance paddlers primary equipment concern and indeed even every novice’s and every instructor’s, being as the act of paddling, is the primary underlying bio-mechanical foundation of the sport.

‘A man feels at home with a paddle in his hand, as natural and indigenous as with a bow or a spear. When he swings through the stroke and moves forward, he sets in motion long forgotten reflexes, stirs up ancient sensations deep within his subconscious.’ Sigurd Olson.

SUP paddles. . . I make no apology for stating there should be, ‘no such thing as a novice paddle’, it is a myth of biblical proportion, the end product of which is more often than not, a fraud and a fake, which hinders, impedes and sabotages the very core foundations of all that is spoken of learning. Novice and expert alike, require the best possible paddle design in order to have any chance of executing sound, efficient, injury free paddling technique together with all other associated benefits.

‘Ownership of an expensive, quality paddle is not a right of passage into the realms of being an advanced paddler, they are available to all comers of any standard and are in every sense, easier to use than the lifeless, heavy, industrial dross, which more often than not, end up in the hands of the novice as the result of sound advice.’

The SUP paddleThe simple fact of the matter remains, being that the paddle is your primary means of propulsion, it has the capacity to injure, limit your physical abilities, reduce your endurance, paddling enjoyment, your craft’s performance . . . many retailers tend to ensure the bulk of their customer’s money is spent on their new board, giving only secondary consideration to the paddle, to the extent that it takes on an almost optional extra persona, far from being portrayed as a vital component . . . and wherever you see, ‘Free paddle with every board’, you can rest assured, here’s a retailer who perceives the paddle as a secondary consideration, an optional extra, a rudimentary accessory, a necessary evil, which because of its cost, may hinder the end-user in buying a board (or least a more expensive board over the cheaper option) and you can bet your rotator-cuff that this ‘free’ paddle will possess all the subtle refinements of a meat-axe, reinforcing the sellers conviction, the paddle is the least important item?

A paddler, novice or otherwise, who fails to place importance on the virtues of a good paddle (or be taught this consideration) need consider what in part, makes for a good paddler, the answer to which is surely a good paddle and the way in which the paddler uses it. The craft you are in, or on, has no relationship with regards to your paddling ability as such.

With regards to price point versus performance with specific comparison between board and paddle, there is by and large, a gaping trench between the two. Comparatively, an expensive board, rarely amounts to being twice the board in terms of performance in relation to its cheaper counterpart. Yet, a paddle perhaps twice or more the cost of an inferior paddle, more often than not, exceeds twice the level of build quality, performance, resale value, improved enjoyment, reduced fatigue, added time on the water, design merits and ergonomics. The added cost is justified and not a complex equation to fathom.