What is the Best Material for a SUP Paddle
Carbon fiber is the best material for a SUP paddle. Stiff, strong and very light, this material has the properties that paddle makers want.
WHAT IS CARBON FIBER
Carbon fiber also known as graphite fiber is a polymer. It’s made of thin, strong crystalline filaments of carbon that is used to strengthen material. Carbon fiber can be thinner than a strand of human hair and gets its strength when twisted together like yarn. Then it can be woven together to form cloth and if needed to take a permanent shape, carbon fiber can be laid over a mold and coated in resin or plastic.
It’s five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff. This gives it an incredibly low weight to strength ratio.
THE TYPE OF CARBON FIBER USED IN SUP PADDLES
Carbon fiber SUP paddles are made by laying and pressing carbon fiber fabric over a mold then coating it in resin.
One of the differentiating factors of carbon fiber SUP paddles is the grade of fabric used. The two most common grades of carbon fabric used in paddles are 3K and 12K. 3K means there are 3000 carbon filaments in a strand (tow). 12K means that there are 12,000 carbon filaments in a strand.
3K carbon fiber is the workhorse of carbon fibers. It's light, relatively stiff, and has a higher elongation to failure and better strength than 6K, 9K or 12K. 3K fabric has a smaller bundle of fibers, which means thinner fabric and filament wound tubes can be produced.
12K carbon fiber is cheaper than the others. Many brands use this fabric to keep their costs low. 12K is easier and cheaper to produce as it only takes 1 layer instead of three. 12K fibers are not always preferred, as they have a big and robust look. By definition, the larger the weave, the stiffer and heavier it is. 12K carbon fiber has higher tensile strength than 3K fabric but is less flexible.
The best carbon fiber SUP paddles use 3K fabric.
BENEFITS OF CARBON FIBER PADDLES
Many SUP paddle options exist. Prices range from as little as $40 to more than $400. Most of the price variation is due to the materials used to build the paddles.
Paddles made from aluminum and plastic are inexpensive but they are also heavy. The lighter and stronger the SUP paddle, the more expensive it will be. That’s why, carbon fiber SUP paddles are the most expensive in the marketplace. They have the best strength to weight ratio of all paddles, and as a paddler, that’s what you want.
A carbon fiber paddle lessens the loss of energy transfer during the stroke. The strength of carbon fiber will let your paddle handle the power of the waves and tides without breaking.
Most importantly, the lightness of carbon fiber, is the greatest benefit to paddlers. Paddlers will take hundreds if not thousands of strokes during a paddle session. A lightweight paddle makes paddling easier and extends the strength and range of the paddler. A carbon fiber paddle weighs about 2 lbs or 900 grams. Cheaper paddles made from inferior materials are heavier by pounds, not grams. A paddle that weighs two pounds heavier doesn’t seem like much, but after 100 strokes, the difference is noticeable.
There is no doubt that the best choice for a SUP paddle is carbon fiber. Yes, it costs more, but the benefits greatly outweigh the costs.
The Wappa Blog
Written by Wappa's founder Layne Pennell, the blog's aim is to educate and share his love of stand up paddle boarding with anyone interested in SUP.
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