How to Hold a Paddle Board Paddle

How to hold a Paddle for Paddleboard

How to Hold a Paddle Board Paddle

Given that the word paddle is right in the name of the sport (stand up paddle boarding), you need to know how to properly hold one to have a successful day on the water. Understanding how to hold a SUP paddle with the proper technique maximizes every stroke and minimizes the amount of effort needed to get around.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about holding a paddle, including the different parts of a SUP paddle, how to adjust it for your height, and more.

Let’s begin.

SUP paddle anatomy

From top to bottom, here are the different parts of a SUP paddle:

T-bar grip

The t-bar grip, also referred to as the t-grip or top grip, is the topmost section of the paddle. It’s typically made of plastic in a T-shape that works as a handle while in use. The plastic molding is designed in a way that works for both right-handed and left-handed people so there’s no such thing as a left-handed or right-handed SUP paddle. All SUP paddles and universal for paddle boarders of right-handed or left-handed dominance.


The scale portion of the paddle is the adjustable section between the top grip and the shaft. This is the section that you use to adjust the paddle to your height. It usually includes a tightening and fastening feature that allows you to lock the paddle into place once you’ve made the required length adjustment for your height and paddling intensity. Inflatable paddle boards will come with an adjustable paddle but many solid SUPs will not. 


The shaft is the longest part of the paddle. It can be broken down into three sections: Upper, middle, and lower. The upper shaft is attached to the adjustable scale. For collapsible paddles, the middle shaft typically includes a dual lock pin and clasp feature that allows you to lock the paddle in place when in use and collapse it into two sections when you’re done on the water and storing it away. The bottom shaft connects to the throat.


The throat of the paddle connects the shaft and the paddle blade. The throat typically has a slight hinge called a kickback angle that offsets the angle of the blade.  So, instead of the paddle being completely straight from top to bottom, the hinge of the throat angles the paddle forward slightly for performance purposes.

Paddle blade

The blade is the last part of the paddle at the bottom end. SUP paddle blades come in different shapes such as teardrop or rectangular and are typically angled with a slight scoop backwards. This unique design helps paddlers use minimal energy to start a stroke as the blade enters the water. It creates less drag during the stroke and provides more speed and more power for less effort. 

Parts of a SUP Paddle

How do I set up my SUP paddle?

Setting up your collapsible SUP paddle is easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Connect both parts of the paddle using the dual lock pin and clasp feature at the middle of the shaft.

  2. Align both pieces to be in line with each other. Line up the push pin on one part with the hole on the other.

  3. Push the pin inwards as you slide the top shaft into the bottom shaft. 

  4. Once the pin pops through the hole, it’s locked in and you’re that much closer to beginning your paddle adventure!

How long should my SUP paddle be?

Getting your SUP paddle setup to the right paddle length is an essential step in making your day on the water more enjoyable. If your SUP paddle is too long, you’ll have to work harder to paddle and get momentum. If your paddle is too short, you’ll have to lean over awkwardly to paddle which will also compromise your balance.

Here’s how to correctly size your SUP paddle:

  1. Stand beside your paddle with the blade touching the ground beside you.

  2. Reach one arm as high up into the sky as is comfortable for your shoulder mobility. (Ideally straight up if possible.)

  3. Bend your wrist to make a 90-degree angle.

  4. This is the optimal height for your SUP paddle.

Many paddle board paddles (including Maddle paddles) come with height markings on the inside of the adjustable scale portion of the paddle. These markings make it easy to see the best paddle length for you based on your height.

How to hold a SUP paddle

Step 1. Hold the paddle upright

The first step to holding a paddle board paddle is to ensure that it is upright. This is an obvious step but one that can’t go without mentioning. To do this, ensure that the handle is on the top and the blade of the paddle is on the bottom.

Step 2. Make sure it’s facing the right direction

To hold a paddle board paddle so it’s facing the right direction, first, check to see that the blade angle is angled forward (away from you) and the scoop of the blade is coming back towards you. (When it comes to the slight scoop of the blade, think of your paddle as a spoon. You’ll want to hold it in a way that allows you to push (scoop) water from ahead of you to behind you.) 

Most SUP paddle handles will have a certain feel in your hand that feels like the right grip versus the wrong grip. Although it can be subtle, you should be able to tell by the handle whether you’re holding the paddle in the right direction or not.

Step 3. Place your dominant hand on the top

Your dominant hand goes on top of the paddle. To create the proper hand position, your fingers will wrap over the top of the handle while your thumb wraps underneath and rests at the intersection of the T (if you’re right-handed, that means your thumb will be on the left side of the paddle handle and if you’re left-handed, that means that your thumb will be on the right side of the paddle handle). Maintain a light grip around the handle as you use the paddle.

Step 4. Place your non-dominant hand in the center of the shaft

Use your non-dominant hand to grip the middle of the paddle shaft. If you’re using your left hand, your fingers will wrap around the left side of the paddle shaft and your thumb will wrap around the right side. If you’re using your right hand, your fingers will wrap around the right side of the paddle shaft and your thumb will wrap around the left side.

Which way do you hold a paddle board paddle?

The proper way to hold a paddleboard paddle is to have the paddle blade perpendicular to the board and the paddle handle perpendicular to your body. Think of it in terms of 90 degrees. The paddle blade should create a 90-degree angle between it and the board and the paddle handle should create a 90-degree angle between it and your body.

How do you know if your paddle is backwards?

You’ll know your paddle is backwards if the blade kickback is angled back towards you and the scoop of the blade is facing away from you. Most paddle handles also have a slight variation in the grip that will feel a bit off when you’re holding it the wrong way.

What is the proper way to paddle?

The proper way to paddle is to stand straight on the board, face forward, engage your core, lean forward as you dip the blade into the water, and make sure the blade goes into the water fully.

There are many different paddle strokes you can use when paddle boarding including the cross bow stroke, draw stroke, and sweep stroke. For the sake of this article, we’ll keep it simple and give you a basic understanding of how to paddle correctly.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the proper way to paddle:

  1. Stand straight on your board with your feet shoulder-width apart facing forward and knees slightly bent. 

  2. Ensure your hand positions are correct (gripping the handle with your dominant hand and the shaft with your non-dominant hand).

  3. Keeping both hands on the paddle and a slight bend in both elbows, lean forward slightly and dip the paddle blade into the water. Make sure the entire blade gets submerged in the water.

  4. Tighten your core muscles as you use your non-dominant hand on the paddle shaft to pull the paddle back towards you and your dominant hand on the paddle handle to push the paddle down and back. 

  5. Once your shaft hand is at your hip, start to pull the blade up and out of the water and reach forward with the blade again to repeat the motion. 

To paddle backwards, simply use the same motion as listed above but in reverse. Once you dip the blade in, focus on pushing the water away from you using the strength of the hand on the paddle shaft. You don’t have to change the direction you’re holding the paddle in order to paddle backward. Maintain the same hand positions and grip as you would in a forward stroke as you perform your reverse stroke.

Master your paddle boarding paddle skills with Maddle

Now that you know how to properly hold a SUP paddle, you can practice your skills on the water with Maddle. Our paddle boards are perfect for anyone getting started in the sport and you won’t need to compromise on style for price with us. 

Check out our full collection of paddle boards that come complete with a backpack, pump, leash, patch kit, removable fin, and collapsible and adjustable paddle.

Camille Brodeur

Driven by the intersection of lifestyle and fitness, Camille's mission is to inspire others to integrate elements of beauty and aesthetic into their outdoor activities. Her depth of experience in the paddle boarding world allows her to inform and motivate others to get out on the water in the safest and most fun ways possible. Whether it be through her work at Maddle or elsewhere, Camille continuously strives to expand the public consciousness surrounding SUPs.


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