A while ago, I got a Tower Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard (read more about it here) and I totally love it. The fact that it’s inflatable means that I can take with me on charters and other trips — the board, pump and 3-piece paddle together weigh less than 50 pounds and are sized to fit into a duffel that meets airline size regulations.
There’s just one problem — I bought my board used and the previous owner hadn’t done basic maintenance on the aluminum paddle. He’d used it exclusively in salt water, and the aluminum-to-aluminum joint was corroded and frozen together. Note that this is NOT a problem from the manufacturer — it is strictly a failure to perform proper maintenance and to be fair to the previous owner, he had told us about the problem when we bought the board.
We tried to get the pieces apart. First I and then Dave worked on it with vinegar, Lime Away, WD-40 and other things to no avail. We finally decided that it was better to leave it as is for a spare as we were afraid of totally destroying it in trying to get it apart.
I bought a new one for travel. Since we’re starting fresh, it’ll be simple to maintain and avoid any future problems.
So you’re sitting there and wondering what maintenance there is on a paddle. That’s exactly it! There’s not much. After using it, take the paddle apart, rinse it off in fresh water and wipe it down where one section slides into the other. Store the parts separately. That’s all.
Taking it apart and storing apart is important so that the pieces won’t freeze together. Rinsing in fresh water removes salt and stops the corrosion. Wiping the joint will take care of any sand particles — sand in the joint will also cause it to bind and make it hard to push together and pull apart. The joint has very tight tolerances so that the paddle is very stiff in use — but that means that sand and even salt particles can make it bind.
My question was then if I should use some sort of lubricant or anti-seize on the joint. And from everything I read on the internet, the answer is an emphatic NO. Tower says just to rinse with water. It seems that most lubricants will attract dirt and particularly sand and thus will create more problems than it solves.
One final thing — should you ever end up like me and need a replacement paddle, read reviews carefully. I found several online that appeared virtually identical to the one I got from Tower and costing about a third less. The reviews, however, were full of stories of paddles that broke after only a few uses, ones that were wobbly and ones where the length adjustment failed. If I’m going to the effort of taking this with me on a vacation (and paying the baggage fee for an extra bag!), I want to be able to use it. If the paddle breaks on my vacation, I’ll be out of luck.
While Tower’s 3-piece aluminum travel paddle doesn’t cost anywhere near what a carbon fiber one does, it still isn’t cheap. But I’ve learned that cheap can be expensive in the long run. If I want to take the SUP with me, it’s worth it to get a paddle that’s unlikely to have a problem.
2020 UPDATE: Should you need a new paddle, here’s a 3-piece one from Amazon that’s a little more budget-friendly: