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The Best Adjustable SUP Paddle

Left to right: Vibe  Insanity  Zen 95  Original AP  Performer CF and the Alloy.
By Valentine Cullen ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Thursday
What's the best adjustable SUP paddle for stand up paddleboards? We tested seven top rated products in our quest to find out. We cruised casually on calm days and aggressively on windy days on lakes and rivers. We tested in the sun, wind and rain. Each contender was scored on its performance, how easy it was to adjust, how compact it was and what kind of locking mechanism it had and how easy (or not easy) it was to use. Keep reading to see how all the contenders fared in our side-by-side comparisons.

Best Overall Adjustable SUP Paddle


KIALOA Insanity Fiberglass Adjustable


Insanity
Top Pick Award

$189.95
at Amazon
See It

The Editors' Choice award-winning KIALOA Insanity Fiberglass Adjustable is a great lightweight adjustable option. It's not the lightest product we tested but it does have a nice light comfortable weight. The rounded teardrop shape of the polypropylene fiberglass blade provides clean water impact and efficient energy distribution that makes it easy to paddle with. The carbon wrapped shaft has a nice soft flex. The combination of the light blade and easy-on-your body shaft provides a high performance feel that promotes both quick and leisurely cadences. The blade dihedral moves water well with minimal effort.

Read full review: KIALOA Insanity Fiberglass Adjustable

Best Bang for the Buck


Bullet Proof Surf Alloy


Bullet Proof Surf Alloy
Best Buy Award

$80 List
List Price
See It

The Best Buy award-winning Bullet Proof Surf Alloy is a rugged product with a tough nylon blade and the largest amount of height adjustment of all the products we tested. The adjustment range of most models we tested is 16" but the Alloy has three extra inches of adjustment distance for a total of 19" of range. This is great if you have a large family or lots of friends you plan on loaning your paddle to who have a wide range of heights. The Alloy has an aluminum shaft and a snap clip collar clamp adjustment / locking mechanism also know as the TwinPin system (see above). The Alloy is a the most budget friendly SUP paddle we tested, but it is a bit heavy.

Read full review: Bullet Proof Surf Alloy

up to 5 products
Score Product Price Weight Blade Material Blade Dimensions
87
KIALOA Insanity Fiberglass Adjustable $219
Top Pick Award
1 lb 9 oz / 25 oz fiberglass polypropylene fiberlite 16.5" x 8"
85
Werner Zen 95 $259
1 lb 8 oz / 24 oz premium fiberglass 18.75" x 7"
82
Werner Vibe $139
1 lb 15 oz / 31 oz Fiberglass Reinforced - Injection Molded Nylon 19" x 7.25"
80
BIC SUP Performer CF W $230
1 lb 14 oz / 30 oz fiberglass 17.5" x 7.25"
76
Bullet Proof Surf Alloy $80
Best Buy Award
2 lbs 1 oz / 33 oz nylon composite 17" x 8.5"
71
BIC SUP Original AP $90
2 lbs 7 oz / 39 oz polycarbonate 18" x 7"

Selecting the Right Product


Before you start shopping for a SUP paddle you must first decide what size paddle you're looking for. As a general rule of thumb, if you are going to use it for surfing or in whitewater you should add 4" to 8" to your height and if you're going to be touring, paddling for fitness or yoga, you should add 6" to 10" to your height to determine the right length.

See here on the KIALOA website for things to consider when determining a more exact size paddle length. Things such as posture, paddling style, shoulder and arm size, strength, board size and average water conditions can be important factors.

Each paddle has two faces; a power face and a non-power face. The power face is the scooped side of the blade that does the pulling. It should be facing your body when you are paddling. If the blade has an arc, the most rounded part of the arc should be facing away from your legs. If the blade has a dihedral groove, the pointiest part of the groove should be facing your legs.

The non-power face of the blade or the back face is the side of the paddle that faces away from you and does the pushing and powers the reverse stroke. It is also the least pointy side of a blade that has a dihedral groove and the most rounded part of the blade if it has an arc shape.

The way to properly hold a SUP paddle with the powerface in the correct position is basically the opposite of how you would normally hold and use a canoe or kayak paddle.

Sides of the blade.
Sides of the blade.

Paddle Shafts


Paddle shafts can be constructed from different materials. The following are examples of the most common and the three different types that we tested.
Original AP on the top (aluminum shaft)  Vibe in the middle (fiberglass shaft) and the Performer CF on the bottom (carbon shaft).
Original AP on the top (aluminum shaft), Vibe in the middle (fiberglass shaft) and the Performer CF on the bottom (carbon shaft).

Carbon

Performer CF
Both the BIC SUP Performer CF W and the Werner Zen 95 have carbon shafts and they are sleek, comfortable and smooth.

Fiberglass


The photograph on the right shows the handles
The handles of the Fiji on the left and the Vibe on the right.
and the tops of the shafts of the Werner Vibe on the right and the Werner Fiji on the left. Both paddle shafts are fiberglass.

Aluminum

We like that the Original AP's adjustment holes have measurements.
Both the BIC SUP Original AP and the Bullet Proof Surf Alloy have aluminum shafts. They feel and sound like metal and get both hot and cold easily.

Straight

Straight shaft paddle selection we tested.

A straight shaft SUP paddle can be adjustable or non-adjustable (a.k.a. "fixed"). All of the paddles we tested have straight adjustable shafts and can separate into two pieces.

Bent

Blue represents a bent shaft and the grey represents a straight shaft paddle.
A bend in the shaft adds a leverage point to increase comfort (especially in the wrist), control and cadence.

Travel

Diagram demonstrating the three pieces of a travel SUP paddle.
A travel paddle breaks down into three smaller pieces than does a performance adjustable model.

Paddle Blades


Left to right: Alloy  Performer CF  Original AP  Zen 95  Insanity  Vibe.
Left to right: Alloy, Performer CF, Original AP, Zen 95, Insanity, Vibe.

Material


The three types of blade construction materials that we tested are fiberglass, nylon and polycarbonate. Carbon fiber is also a common blade material.

Blades left to right: fiberglass Zen 95  nylon Vibe  polycarbonate Original AP.
Blades left to right: fiberglass Zen 95, nylon Vibe, polycarbonate Original AP.

The Insanity on the left and the Performer CF on the right. Both blades are fiberglass but the Insanity blade is much lighter.
The Insanity on the left and the Performer CF on the right. Both blades are fiberglass but the Insanity blade is much lighter.

Size


Blades generally come in a large ( ~ 91 sq in.) or small (~ 83 sq in.)
Werner Vibe and Fiji paddles. The Vibe is on the left and the Fiji is on the right.
size and either a teardrop or rectangular blade shape. The Werner website states that the long rectangular blade design has a more gentle catch that is easier on the body. This photograph on the right shows the Werner Vibe on the left with a rectangular blade and the Werner Fiji (now discontinued) with a teardrop shaped blade on the right.

The Bullet Proof Surf Alloy and the KIALOA Insanity Fiberglass Adjustable have teardrop shaped blades and the Werner Zen 95 and the Werner Vibe have long rectangular blades.

Offset


You might hear or read about something called the
blade-to-shaft offset. This keeps the blade in a vertical position and in the power position longer, which increases paddling efficiency. The angle to which the blade is offset can vary between manufacturers.

Left to right: The Alloy and the Original AP  Insanity  Vibe and the Performer CF  Zen 95.
Left to right: The Alloy and the Original AP, Insanity, Vibe and the Performer CF, Zen 95.

Dihedral


A blade dihedral is the vertical ridge running down the length
Diagram showing a blade dihedral. It is the vertical ridge running down the length of the blade on the power face.
of the blade on the power face. It forces the water off of the blade evenly for more smooth paddling.

Of the SUP paddles we tested, the KIALOA Insanity Adjustable, the Werner Vibe and the Zen 95 have the most prominent dihedrals and the BIC blades have the least.

Left to right: Vibe  Zen 95  Insanity and the Performer CF. The CF does not have a blade dihedral at all.
Left to right: Vibe, Zen 95, Insanity and the Performer CF. The CF does not have a blade dihedral at all.

Analysis and Test Results


The chart below displays the combined scores from each individual metric.


Ease of adjustment


The Werner Zen 95 was the easiest of all the paddles to adjust. It has a series of six adjustment holes that a stainless steel button slips into. Unlike the Insanity, Performer CF and the Vibe, the Zen 95 does not have adjustment measurements printed on the handle end of the shaft. That means you have to test out the different adjustment hole length differences and then remember or mark which one works best for you. This buttonhole adjustment system Werner calls "performance adjustable" and it is simple, easy to use and the stainless steel button falls into the adjustment holes softly but securely. We liked that the button didn't snap into the holes abruptly because systems like that can be known to pinch skin. We also like that the handle is automatically aligned with the blade once the adjustment has been made. We would have given the Zen 95 a higher score in this metric if the adjustment range had been longer. Though the adjustment system on the Zen 95 is the easiest of all the products we tested, it also has the shortest length range of 7.5" versus the average 16".

Left to right: Zen 95  Insanity  Performer CF  Vibe  Original AP  Alloy
Left to right: Zen 95, Insanity, Performer CF, Vibe, Original AP, Alloy

The Werner Vibe, Editors' Choice award-winning Insanity and the Performer CF all have the same adjustment system and adjustment range of 16". This system operates by lifting a lever located in the handle that releases tension and allows the handle end of the shaft to be moved to create a longer or shorter distance. All three models have markings on them to allow for ease of adjustment to different paddler heights. We are particularly fond of the markings on the Insanity and the Vibe because they are marked with inches on the left and feet and inches on the right. They even have the left side labeled "Paddle Length" and the right side, "Paddler Height".

The adjustment system measurements of the Performer CF on the left and the Vibe on the right. The Performer CF uses inches on the left and centimeters on the right and the Vibe uses inches on the left and feet and inches on the right. The Vibe even marks the left side "Paddle Length" and the right side  "Paddler Height". The Insanity has the same markings as the Vibe.
The adjustment system measurements of the Performer CF on the left and the Vibe on the right. The Performer CF uses inches on the left and centimeters on the right and the Vibe uses inches on the left and feet and inches on the right. The Vibe even marks the left side "Paddle Length" and the right side, "Paddler Height". The Insanity has the same markings as the Vibe.

The BIC SUP Original AP and the Bullet Proof Surf Alloy were the least easy to adjust of all the products we tested. They have a TwinPin collar clamp push pin adjustment system. The TwinPin system operates by pushing out a "C" shaped collar clamp that releases an attached stainless steel pin from its adjustment hole and allows the handle end of the shaft to be adjusted up or down. When you've reached your desired length you push the clamp back in towards the shaft and the pin goes into the nearest hole. This system is more difficult than the others tested because it is hard to see the hole that the pin is going into and you have to sort of feel your way around with the pin until it finds the right spot to engage.

TwinPin collar clamp push pin adjustment system.
TwinPin collar clamp push pin adjustment system.

Compactability


The BIC SUP Original AP earned the highest score in this metric because it is the most compact contender we tested. With both ends of the shaft (blade and handle) attached this product measures 59.5" when adjusted to its shortest setting. With both pieces of the paddle taken apart the blade half of the shaft measures 56.5" and the handle end measures 24".

The measuring tape in this photograph is opened to 68".
The measuring tape in this photograph is opened to 68".

The Best Buy award winning Bullet Proof Surf Alloy is the next most compact product we tested so it also earned a high score as well. Its shortest setting assembled measures 65" and with both pieces disassembled the long end/blade end of the shaft measures 60" and the short/ handle end of the shaft measures 31.5".

Next, in order of compactability are the Zen 95, Performer CF, Vibe and Insanity. These products all recieved the same score because they have very similar smallest length ranges and compact size with the two pieces of the paddle taken apart. The Zen 95's smallest length range is 70" and the individual pieces measure 64.5" and 21". The Performer CF's shortest height is 67" assembled and the individual pieces measure 64.5" and 24". The Vibe's shortest setting is 68" assembled and the two pieces separate equal 65" and 24". The Insanity's measurements are 70" assembled and 67.5" / 24" disassembled.

Locking Mechanism


There were three different types of locking mechanisms that came with the paddles that we tested. The LeverLock (a.k.a. Family Adjustable), the TwinPin and the Performance adjustable.

Left to right the handles of the Vibe  Insanity  Zen 95  Original AP  Performer CF and the Alloy.
Left to right the handles of the Vibe, Insanity, Zen 95, Original AP, Performer CF and the Alloy.

Though the adjustment systems of the Vibe, Insanity and the Performer CF are all basically the same, KIALOA and BIC SUP call it the "LeverLock" and Werner calls it the "Family Adjustable" system. The adjustment lever is in the handle and when it is flipped up it releases the tension of the handle end of the shaft inside the blade end. The handle end can then be moved up or down to the desired paddler height.

The LeverLock a.k.a. Family Adjustable locking mechanism. Found on the Vibe  Insanity and Performer CF.
The LeverLock a.k.a. Family Adjustable locking mechanism. Found on the Vibe, Insanity and Performer CF.

The Performer CF uses inches on the left and centimeters on the right and the Vibe uses inches on the left and feet and inches on the right. The Vibe even marks the left side "Paddle Length" and the right side, "Paddler Height." The Insanity has the same markings as the Vibe.

TwinPin collar clamp push pin adjustment system is found on the Bullet Proof Surf Alloy and the BIC SUP Original AP of the products that we tested. This snap clip collar clamp locking mechanism/ adjustment system adjusts the length of the shaft by pulling the plastic clip out, away from the shaft, which disengages a stainless steel peg from the adjustment hole. The handle end of the shaft is now ready to pull up or down to your desired paddler height. Once adjusted, push the plastic clip back in which snaps the peg back into one of the adjustment holes. The collar clamp of the Alloy tilts up a bit, which makes it easier to see inside and line up the stainless steel peg more accurately than the Original AP system, which does not allow the plastic clip to tilt.

BP Surf Alloy's adjustment system is unique in that it doesn't just open  it opens and tilts back so you can see inside  enabling you to see exactly where the pin is going.
BP Surf Alloy's adjustment system is unique in that it doesn't just open, it opens and tilts back so you can see inside, enabling you to see exactly where the pin is going.

On most similar adjustment systems the clip does not tilt out, which can make it harder to line up the stainless steel peg with the adjustment hole. This can cause scratching on the paint of the shaft as you move it around a bit in order to line up the peg and hole before you snap the clamp back into place.

The locking mechanism found on the Werner Zen 95 and the Werner Fiji (which we also tested but is now discontinued) is called the Performance Adjustment system.

The Performance Adjustment locking mechanism is simple. The only moving part is a stainless steel button on the handle end of the shaft. In order to adjust the height, press in the button and slide the handle end of the shaft up or down to adjust it to different paddler heights. This system has six adjustment holes that measure 1.5" apart for a total distance of 8". The button on the Werner products that we tested slides easily into the adjustment spots without a harsh click and no finger pinching. Once in the adjustment hole, the stainless steel button stays secure and doesn't accidentally slip out. This simple locking mechanism/adjustment system helps keep the weight of the paddle light.

Zen 95
Zen 95

Performance


The highest performing product out of the selection that we tested is the KIALOA Insanity Fiberglass Adjustable. It is lightweight has a soft flex in the shaft, is comfortable to handle and paddle, slices through water easily and efficiently and is surprisingly efficient at moving water.

The differences between the shorter and rounder blade of the Insanity on the left and the longer more rectangular blade of the Zen 95 on the right.
The differences between the shorter and rounder blade of the Insanity on the left and the longer more rectangular blade of the Zen 95 on the right.

Even though the Zen 95 is a more expensive and lighter option, we didn't think it performed as well. Notice the differences between the shorter and rounder blade of the Insanity on the left and the longer more rectangular blade of the Zen 95 on the right (photo above). Notice especially the middle image where even though the bottom of the blades are lined up, there is a significant difference of where the blades actually begin. Our testers felt strongly that the wider, shorter blade on the Insanity was much more efficient at moving water and required less effort. Although the blade on the Zen 95 does slice into the water surface clean and smooth, it just doesn't push a SUP forward as effortlessly.

The Werner Vibe did move water easily and recieved the next highest score in performance. Though its blade is a similar shape as the Zen 95 and they have similar blade to shaft offset angles, it pushed more water. The difference between these two doesn't have to do with the width or the length of the blade but the instead it is the thickness of the material and the curve of the blade. The Vibe's blade is nylon and feels thicker and sturdier when paddling. It also has a dihedral down the full length of the blade and a much more significant curve to it.

Front to back: Zen 95  Vibe  Insanity  Performer CF  Original AP and the Alloy.
Front to back: Zen 95, Vibe, Insanity, Performer CF, Original AP and the Alloy.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Bullet Proof Surf Alloy recieved a higher score in performance than we expected, especially since it is the least expensive product tested. Its large wide blade just scoops water and moves it efficiently. It performs great on the back paddle as well. This SUP paddle is a bit heavy, but the blade is the most durable we tested.

The BIC SUP Performer CF W and the BIC SUP Original AP recieved the lowest scores in performance. The shaft of the Performer CF is nice and comfortable and has a bit of flex to it, but the blade does not. It is straight, dihedral-less and curveless and has a small blade-to-shaft offset angle. Paddling with this product feels a bit like paddling through soup.

The reason the Original AP recieved a low score in performance might be due to the fact that it has no flex in the shaft, barely any dihedral on the blade and because it is just so dang heavy.

Weight


The contenders we tested have weights that vary from 24 oz to 39 oz.

The weight specs are as follows, from the lightest model to the heaviest:

The different paddle weights and construction materials.
The different paddle weights and construction materials.

As you can see, fiberglass blades and carbon shafts are much lighter than nylon blades and aluminum shafts. In our testing we did find nylon blades to be very durable.

Getting ready to test the extremely lightweight Zen 95.
Getting ready to test the extremely lightweight Zen 95.

Best for Specific Applications


The KIALOA Insanity Fiberglass Adjustable is an awesome all-around SUP paddle that we love. It won't tire you out too quickly and it's easy to adjust. The dihedral blade slices through water easily and smoothly and whether you are pushing for a quick cadence or leisurely paddling a more relaxed one, you'll love the slight flex of the fiberglass carbon wrapped shaft that is easy on the body.

The Werner Vibe is a great all-around paddle as well. It's light, easy to adjust and paddling with it is very comfortable. It has a nice range of adjustment and the nylon blade is extremely durable.

The Bullet Proof Surf Alloy we recommend for those needing a product that can adjust to a wide range of paddler heights and can take a beating. It's also easy on the pocketbook.

The Werner Zen 95 is very easy to adjust and super light. We know the specs say that it is just one ounce lighter than the Insanity, but it feels lighter than that. It just feels crazy light when you pick it up and when you're paddling. But, it might take a couple extra strokes to get where you are going as it didn't score very well in performance. The handle on this paddle is really comfortable.



Conclusion


Bottom to top: Alloy  Performer CF  Original AP  Zen 95  Insanity  Vibe.
Bottom to top: Alloy, Performer CF, Original AP, Zen 95, Insanity, Vibe.
Purchasing an adjustable SUP paddle can be overwhelming, especially if you've never purchased or owned one before. We hope the above information and the analysis from our side-by-side testing will help you make a more informed decision and assist you in getting the product that is right for your particular needs. If you're still having difficulty deciding, check out our Buying Advice article as well.

Valentine Cullen
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