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The ABCs of PFDs and SUP Paddles

June 27, 2017
PFDs, SUP paddles
ShutterstockStay safe with properly fit PFDs and the right length of SUP paddles.

Beside a board, there are two critical items you’ll need for stand-up paddleboarding: a paddle and a PFD. From there, the accessories are endless.

  • A paddle should be 8 to 12 inches longer than you are tall. A longer paddle provides more power and control in rough conditions but requires more effort. A shorter paddle increases maneuverability—a plus for beginners and for surfing.
  • Paddle blades come in a multitude of designs, but it’s the surface area that matters most: A bigger blade displaces more water per stroke. Some blades are tilted at an angle from the shaft to improve efficiency.
  • Paddles vary widely in price, from $75 for a perfectly serviceable aluminum model to $300-plus for a lightweight, carbon-fiber option. Fiberglass versions typically go for $100 to $200. Higher-end models might be lighter in weight, adjustable in length, and able to break down for easier transport.
  • Always wear a PFD when paddling, just as you would in a canoe or a kayak. Proper fit is crucial. Check out AMC’s PFD fit tips.
  • Optional accessories include a leash that connects your ankle to your board; a wetsuit for cold water; a board bag for storage, transport, and protection; and a deck bag for bringing gear with you.

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.