If you look in my garage right now, you’ll see several paddles, but essentially it comes down to two main paddles, one for surfing and one for ocean/flat water paddling. Paddle choice is just as personal as board choice, and you should feel just as particular about it.
The basic criteria I use when selecting a paddle is the paddle blade size and the flex/stiffness of the paddle. My SUP surfing paddle blade area is wide, to displace more volume per stroke. While my ocean/flat water paddle blade has a tall narrow blade. This is to increase my stroke rate, something you’ll care more about as you get better and faster. For surfing my paddle length (measurement top to bottom) is only 4 inches taller than me. I spend a lot of time in my surfing stance, that keeps me low towards the water and therefore I do not need a tall paddle. For flat water/ocean paddling, since my board keeps me only 2 inches above the waterline, my primary paddle is 8 inches taller than me.
Don’t underestimate the important details when you choose your paddle, a lot of people get obsessive about their board and then choose a paddle that doesn’t serve them equally well.
Read about the rest of my quiver at this REI blog post.
See you on the water!