Whitewater Paddle Guide
Shopping for a new whitewater paddle can be a bit overwhelming. There are many manufacturers, each offering a variety of styles and options. However, there are a few general guidelines you can use to narrow down your selections and help ensure that you get a paddle that will work well for your body size, paddling ability and preferred style of kayaking.
Perhaps the most relevant factor in deciding what paddle to get is your physical size. In general, smaller paddlers will want to get a paddle with a smaller blade face, a shorter overall length and possibly a smaller shaft diameter. Larger folks can go the other way, and might opt for larger blades, a longer length and a standard shaft.
Most whitewater paddles are offered in lengths from around 190cm to about 205cm. Again, smaller paddlers will want to lean towards the shorter end of the range, and taller boaters can consider the longer end. However, the type of boating you’ll primarily be doing will help refine this decision. People who are interested mostly in running rivers and creeks will benefit from a slightly longer paddle due to the extra leverage and force that the extra length will help to generate. Paddlers who are mostly interested in surfing, hole riding and other freestyle activities should consider going with a shorter paddle because it is quicker and easier to transition from a stroke or brace on one side to a stroke or brace on the other. Of course, it is important to remember that while it’s easier to generate a faster stroke rate when the paddle is shorter, the power generated by any one stroke won’t be as great as with a longer paddle.
One final consideration, people who are paddling an inflatable kayak will want to try to get a paddle on the longer end of the spectrum (possibly going as long as 210cm or even 220cm) because the width of the boat will be more difficult to manage if the paddle is too short.
Werner’s wide selection of blade designs can be separated into three main types: Pro Foam Core, Performance Carbon and Premium Glass. The Pro Foam Core style represents the current leading edge of Werner’s intensive research and development program. The design features a foam core surrounded by a carbon fiber and Kevlar weave, with a double Dynel edge. There are two blades in this line the Double Diamond and the Sho-Gun. While the Double Diamond has already proven itself on creeks and rivers all over the world, its powerful down-tilted blades are most at home in a freestyle environment.
For river-running, Werner has given the Sho-Gun a more balanced shape that provides even power throughout the stroke. Both of these blades are available with any of the four shaft options: standard straight, standard Neutral Bent Shaft, small diameter straight and small diameter Neutral Bent Shaft. The bent shafts are constructed with a carbon fiber weave, while the straight shaft options are both fiberglass.
The Performance Carbon line features five different blades. The Side Kick, Player, and Twist are three sizes of the same essential design, with down-tilted blades for power and optimal positioning during freestyle routines. The Powerhouse and the mid size Sherpa offer a precision-balanced stroke for the river-running and creeking crowds. All of the blades in this line are available in any of the four shaft options listed above. The bent shafts are constructed with a carbon fiber weave, while the straight shaft options are both fiberglass.
The Side Kick/Player/Twist series and the Powerhouse/Sherpa series are also available in Werner’s Premium Glass line. The blade names and designs are identical to the choices in the Performance Carbon line, with the only difference being in the material used in the manufacturing process. As with the designs previously listed, the Premium Glass blades are available in any of the four shaft options. All four of these options are constructed of a fiberglass weave.
Fiberglass and carbon fiber have similar weights, but carbon fiber is stiffer while fiberglass flexes a bit. The carbon bent shaft option is however much lighter weight than the fiberglass bent shaft. The choice between the two will be a matter of personal preference. If you want as much power and crisp responsiveness as you can get, try a carbon fiber shaft. If you prefer a “whippy” response and a gentle flex that is less stressful on your wrists, elbows and shoulders, fiberglass blades and shaft will treat you well. No matter what your preferences are, though, be confident that Werner makes the right one for your needs.