SUP paddle direction convex/cocave?

Hello - I’m brand new to SUP and read blogs and watched YouTube videos prior to my first adventures.

I purchased a kayak/SUP paddle combo from Amazon and the pieces only connect one way. In “kayak mode” you have the 2 paddles attached to each end of the pole. To convert to “SUP mode” simply remove one paddle and replace it with a post and handle.

What I found is that the orientation of the handle and the paddle makes it so my paddle enters the water with the concave side hitting the water first (scooping it like you would if kayaking). But all the SUP tutorials I watched before explained most beginners make the mistake of thinking this is the correct method. When in fact you want to the convex side entering the water first. This allows your full stroke to propel you forward, rather than the tail end of it push water up.

Researching similar combo paddle products on Amazon I found that other models were also oriented in the same fashion (ie not what I saw in tutorials). Now I know Amazon is maybe not the best marketplace for quality equipment - but I am a beginner and not quite ready to invest in a $200+ paddle.


  • Is there really a right and wrong way to orient the paddle or is just a matter or preference?

  • Am I only encountering this issue because I’m using the kayak/SUP combo models? I would have thought they’d done their research as all that’s needed is to reverse the orientation of the handle.

I’ve already been out a few times and can get by with the scoop method. Still zigging and zagging quite a bit but feeling some improvement each time.

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One would scoop ice cream with the concave side scooping up the ice cream. To scoop water and make the board move, you would also use the concave side.

That all said, if this is a low end SUP, who knows how they designed it. Usually the SUP blades are not that concave, but instead have a bend so the blade is not in line with the shaft. Kayak paddles would not have this, and because yours is made to be both a kayak paddle and a SUP paddle, not sure hat they did.


Here is a link from REI that says differently - or at least that’s how I would interpret it.

I would say my paddle is clearly facing the wrong way based on what is described in this section of the video.

Maybe you align with my first bullet point - no right or wrong way - matter of preference?

Yes, a SUP paddle is supposed to be canted, and you put the non-scoop side toward the water. In terms of not spending big bucks I would recommend buying a used paddle for each sport.

I think many manufacturers nowadays actually have no clue. I would only trust good brand name manufacturers who have been in the business a while.

Paddles are really important. Worth looking for a good used one.

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@wallst234 Can you show us a picture of the paddle you have?

Part of the problem is that a dedicated SUP paddle and a dedicated kayak paddle have much different designs, and as such, much different ways you use them. You have some sort of hybrid between the two.

Looking at the REI video, you can see that the blade is not in line with the shaft. DoggyPaddler calls this cant, which is probably a good term. As the REI video says, you have it angled toward the front of the board.

Concave and convex usually refer to blade shape, not blade orientation with shaft. Kayak paddles do generally have noticeable concave/convex-ness. And you do keep the concave side facing backwards, as if you were scooping ice cream. But kayak paddle blades will be in line with the shaft.

There is a bit of concave/convex to the SUP paddle blade, but that usually isn’t as obvious, The bend/cant/angle is much more obvious.

So you have some sort of paddle made to do both. One use you’d want it canted back with a flatter blade. The other you’d want it straight (no cant), but with a more concave blade. The question is what did they do to make a hybrid of these two relatively different design needs? Hard to answer your question without knowing how they designed it.

It’s not the way you might think. I have this discussion with my kids all the time… because they want to hold it more like a kayak paddle. As others have noted, a multitasker rarely is very good at any one task; kayak paddles are not the same as SUP paddles any more than a rake is a like a shovel. They both have shafts, that’s about it.

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The problem is that there is no truly right way to use one end of a kayak paddle to propel a paddleboard. The manufacturer picked the compromise which gives you the most “bite” on the water, at the cost of efficiency at the end of the stroke. perhaps more importantly, this is also the orientation likely to look most correct to an individual not actively researching paddle mechanics. The bottom line is, if you are serious enough about SUP-ing to worry about the correct blade angle, you probably need an SUP paddle

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I’d agree the paddles are not the same. But having gone to the local store to do a comparison, one face of the combo paddle clearly matches better with a dedicated SUP paddle than the other side (I don’t even think it’s debatable - at least when using my combo set as reference).

Not every SUP paddle is shaped/curved the same way either. But they all follow the same principle of sharpest angle/largest curve faces forward.

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As a long time canoe racer and SUP paddler, there is only one way to use a SUP paddle, and that is the way the guy in the picture is showing it.
It is called a bent shaft paddle and is the exact same thing as a bent shaft canoe paddle like Zeveral makes.
If you use it backwards you are wasting energy scooping up water as the paddle reaches the side of your SUP.
Next time you see a canoe racer or a SUP racer paddling watch them and you’ll understand what I am saying

Jack L

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As several people have mentioned a cheap kayak paddle is not a good paddle for SUP paddling. If you are mostly doing flat water, rivers and no surfing, I would suggest investing $180 in an entry level SUP paddle that is practically indestructable and adjustable so others can use it. It will last for ever and you can use it as a spare or loaner paddle if you get to the stage where you want a decent carbon paddle.

The Werner Vibe has 10 degrees of offset and you paddle it so the dihedral spine on the blade and offset of the blade are pointing forward, it’s a little bit heavy but I use mine for paddling large SUPs or when friends borrow one of my boards.