Standup paddling is a new sport, so until just recently all of the paddles have been handmade. On the handmade, handcrafted or custom end of the spectrum, the price varies because of time and materials. Carbon fiber blades will cost more than wood, etc.
Custom paddles are beautiful, expensive (approx. $300.00 to $500.00) and if they are made using modern engineering and materials (either natural or not) and purchased to perform in particular conditions, there is nothing better.
That said, a custom paddle may not be right for you. For beginners that can't justify an expensive paddle an aluminum shaft plastic blade paddle will do. If you can only buy only one paddle to share with a family of paddlers or a pack of kids, you will need an aluminum adjustable-shaft paddle. It will hold up to abuse and you can change the shaft length to suit the height of the paddler at hand. It will also be quite a bit cheaper (less than $100.00 for a fixed shaft or no more than $120.00 for an adjustable shaft).
Here's some paddle guidelines:
- Stand up paddle shaft length is determined by your height and your conditions. The rule of thumb is about 8" to 10" more than your height.
- Surf conditions - a shorter length can be easier because the water is active and changes height and the surfer is often crouched down.
- Flat water conditions - the longer length is easier so you can stand straighter & get more leverage.
- The strongest force on the paddle is when you are pulling it through the water. A carbon fiber blade keeps it's shape under the stress and is much lighter. That means you can paddle longer and faster.
- SUP paddle shafts are made out of: carbon fiber (the lightest/strongest), bamboo or aluminum.
- Buy a Paddle Bag. Over time it'll save you a lot of wear and tear and uv damage.