Knowing how to hold a SUP paddle is crucial for getting the most our of your board, stroke, and stance. Below, we dissect the anatomy of the paddle itself, optimal blade direction, grip, and hand position. We’ll show you how to put more power in your stroke so you can paddle faster, further, and have more fun on the water! It’s not just your posture and balance that affect your ride as a paddler. Your understanding of how to use your paddle and taking advantage of its key characteristics are crucial.

How to Assemble Your Paddle [Video Tutorial]

Before you dive into the post, this video covers all things paddle! It details he parts of your SUP paddle and how to put it together correctly as well as how to size your paddle so it fits you perfectly. Last, it explain how to hold the paddle to get powerful and efficient stroke. Give it a watch, read the article to understand the technique and then come back to the video for reference before you hit the water!

The Power of Paddle Holders

Woman standing on beach with her Thurso Surf Paddle attached to her Waterwalker 126 with paddle holders

Thurso Surf SUPs can hold a paddle on and off the water with their built-in paddle holders!

You’re not the only one who can hold your paddle… Let your board do the work! The paddle holders found on every full-sized Thurso Surf SUP make it easy to hang onto your paddle on land or on the water. It’s great for keeping your hands free while getting down to the water and keeping your paddle secure but accessible when you’re out floating on your next paddle picnic or yoga session!

Parts of a Stand Up Paddle Boarding Paddle

Paddles come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, you can find 1-piece, 2-piece, and 3-piece paddles. The reason paddles often come in multiple pieces is because it makes them easier to pack and transport. But, regardless of how many pieces the paddle is made out of, there are a few key parts of a stand up paddle boarding paddle that remain consistent throughout most designs. These are the sections that you’ll hear referred to by most SUP instructors and experienced paddle boarders. It’s pretty straightforward but it helps to know exactly what someone’s talking about when looking for instructions on how to hold a SUP paddle. Furthermore, it will help you better understand the mechanics of stand up paddle boarding. This in turn can help you fine tune and improve your overall paddling strokes and time out on the water.

  • T-Bar Grip – T-shaped ergonomic top of the paddle designed to fit comfortably in your hand.
  • Paddle Shaft – The long cylindrical part of the paddle where the other hand is placed.
  • Throat – Where the shaft meets the blade and begins to widen out.
  • Blade – The flat, wide part of the paddle.
  • Tip – The end of the blade.
Graphic shows the different parts of a stand up paddle board paddle

Basic parts of the SUP Paddle.

Clever Design Features

You won’t find these features on all paddles but they’re worth seeking out when deciding which SUP paddle to choose.

The scale seen on the shaft below the T-bar allows users to accurately adjust their paddle to their desired length. After you’ve found your ideal length (learn how to do this here), just remember the numbers and you won’t have to guess again. Then you’ll be able to resize your paddle to exactly where you want it, simply by adjusting it to your number even while you’re out on the water.

Moving down the shaft are the two dual lock pin and clasp mechanisms. They offer fast and easy assembly with a reassuring snap and click and they ensure sure your blade is doubly secured to your paddle. You can even attach a second blade to convert your SUP paddle into a double bladed kayak paddle. That way if you grab a kayak seat you’re good to go. No need to buy an entirely new paddle.

To make it easy to identify, we put our logo on the front face of the blade. You should be able to see the graphics facing you as you paddle and instantly know it’s facing the right direction.

  • Scale – Adjust the paddle to your desired length.
  • Dual Lock Pin & Clasp – Spring ball and lock mechanism for quick and easy assembly. Locking clasp doubly secures your blade.
  • Front Face of Paddle Blade – Easily identify the front face of the paddle blade with our logo graphic.

SUP Paddle Direction: Blade Angle Explained

As seen in the graphic of the SUP paddle, the blade does not descend straight down from the shaft. Instead it’s at an angle. The reason it’s at an angle is that it helps to push the water down giving you thrust. That in turn pushes your board up (creating less friction on the water) while driving you forward. However, to take advantage of you SUP paddle’s design you have to hold your paddle correctly.

Graphic shows how the blade of a SUP paddle is at an angle

You can easily identify the front face of the blade by the recognizable graphic. If you can see it as you paddle, you’ll know you’re holding the paddle correctly.

To hold your blade properly is quite simple, but it’s fundamental. It’s important to master this key technique. Holding the paddle backwards or incorrectly makes the engineering behind the paddle’s design work against you. Instead, it should be driving you forward fast. Make sure the paddle blade angles away from you. When you’re holding your paddle perfectly vertical and can see the face of the blade, the tip of the blade should be tilted (at an angle) away from your body. At the start of your stroke a correct blade angle will push the nose of your board up and out of the water. As you lean forward into the power phase of your stroke, the blade will be perpendicular to the sea floor to drive you forward fast. Please see image for clarification.

Graphic shows how to hold a SUP paddle in the right direction

The paddle blade angle should tilt away from you when held correctly.

Gripping Your SUP Paddle Handle and Shaft

Gripping your paddle correctly will help you improve your stroke. It allows you to paddle further, faster, and more comfortably. And that of course means having more fun! You want one hand on the top of the paddle. It’s called the top grip or sometimes referred to as the T bar because of its shape. The other hand should then be used to grip the shaft. Make sure it’s at least a shoulder width apart from your other hand on the top. If your hands are too close together you lose power in your stroke. Whereas, a shoulder width or wider grip gives you the torque you need to pull yourself through the water efficiently. Give it a try yourself next time you’re on the water to get a feel for it. Stack your hands together so they’re too close at the top, then widen your grip so one hand is almost at your paddle blade. Right away, you’ll feel a huge difference in how easy (or difficult) it is to pull yourself through the water.

Graphic explaining how to hold a SUP paddle with perfect grip

An easy way to make sure your hands aren’t too close or too far apart.

Getting Your Hands in the Perfect Position

With one hand on the top grip and the other on the shaft, raise the paddle over your head. Imagine you’re trying to make the letter ‘Y’ with your hands. Now bring the paddle down to rest on the top of your head. Position your hands so that your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. With one hand on the top grip and that elbow at a 90 degree angle, slide the other hand along the shaft until it’s at a 90 degree angle too.

The hand that grips the shaft should be the same as the side you’re paddling on. When paddling on the left, your left hand is on the shaft.

RELATED: How to Size Your SUP Paddle

Man on SUP shows how to hold SUP paddle for a good, powerful stroke

The hand that grips the shaft should be the same as the side you’re paddling on. When paddling on the left, your left hand is on the shaft.

Which Hand Goes On The T-bar Grip And Which Goes On The Shaft?

Which hand goes on top and which hand is placed on the shaft of your SUP paddle depends on which side of the board you are paddling on. Your outside arm (lower placement) should hold the shaft. Your inside arm (upper placement) should grip the top.
So, if you’re paddling on your left, hold the shaft with your left hand and grip the top with your right hand. If you’re paddling on the right, hold the shaft with your right hand and grip the top with your left hand.

See the image above for clarification of what it looks like when you’re paddling on the left. Simply reverse your hand positions to paddle on your right. Experiment yourself while you’re out paddling and you’ll quickly understand why.

Family walking along beach with father carrying Thurso Surf Max multi-purpose SUP with paddle attached

Time to grab your SUP paddle and board and head out to the water with an improved ‘grasp’ of things.

Holding The Paddle Correctly Puts More Power In Your Stroke

With the correct grip and proper technique you’re taking advantage of your paddle’s design. That translates into a far more powerful stroke. A stronger stroke gives you more power and control as you paddle. And those improvements aren’t only beneficial to experienced paddlers or SUP racers. They’re great for everyone, even the recreational paddler because it improves your overall experience on the water. With proper technique you’ll find yourself less tired overall, it’ll be easier to paddle into waves when you’re surfing, and be more fun because of the added control.

RELATED: The Best Paddleboard Stroke For Beginners

Now that you know how to hold your SUP paddle properly, your overall efficiency on the water will improve. And THAT makes your SUP experience all the more enjoyable. It’s human nature to doubt how much these minute adjustments make, but if you don’t believe us get out there and give it a try for your own validation purposes. You’ll quickly realise having your hands in the correct position make a huge difference. In no time, finding the correct grip will be effortless and you can concentrate on the most important part of paddle boarding … having fun!

Now it’s time to put what you learned to the test. Get out there and give it a try yourself!

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About the Author: Matt G.

Matt Gelgota is a traveler and all around digital marketing guy. His greatest adventure to date was the Mongol Rally, a 10,000 mile unsupported on and off-road saga from Sweden to Mongolia. He has visited more than 50 countries and has been paddling a Thurso Surf Expedition since 2018. Since then he’s had a chance to paddle board in Nepal, Thailand, Japan, and the US. When he’s not on the road he divides his time between Tokyo and Atlanta, Georgia.

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