Werner Paddles - My Choice

Paddle choice is hugely personal. I'm not a coach. I have no special knowledge of how to pick a paddle.
For that, I'd recommend listening to the How To Pick A Paddle Podcast on this page. Oh, and check out the comments at the end - there are some helpful contributions. (Arguably more helpful than mine!)

I've been using various Werner paddles for three years, and I'm fairly clear what works for me and Liz. And it's not what we first assumed.

I was recently asked about this by someone who'd been on the five star training with me and who'd borrowed my Shuna's. I believe he found my reply helpful, so I thought I'd post it here in case you do too.

In the interests of full disclosure - I've had two 'free' paddles from Werner in exchange for lots of photos. I've also bought four paddles from them at discount.

So - where to begin with the Werner range? This is how I broke it down in my e-mail to my friend.

Shaft - Carbon, no question. The fibreglass shafts (or whatever the other type is made of) is just way too heavy. Personally, I like cranked.

Blade material - Three choices, fibreglass (orangy red) or carbon or carbon with foam core. The carbon are lovely, and the foam core is amazing when rolling (like a paddle float!) but both types of carbon are much stiffer than glass.

I have a dodgy shoulder, so for longer trips, I've switched my main paddles away from the carbon to the glass because I feel these put less strain on my shoulder. Liz still uses the carbon foam core as do many other people with no ill effects.

Blade size - this is where we should get into names - but I'm going to ignore them, as they change depending upon whether they're carbon foam core or glass. Think Small, Medium and Large.

The small are for low angle paddling and are what Mick and Patrick used in part on the Faroes trip - 'Athena'.

For most sea kayakers it's a choice of Large or Medium. We bought one of each for the six weeks we spent kayaking the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail but use them in entirely the opposite way to which I expected!

We thought I'd use Large most and switch to Medium when tired. We don't.

The Medium are, by a long way, the most useful size for us for day paddling. They simply work. The miles slip by, the strain is not too great, and the support is there when needed.

That said, the Large are absolutely superb when practicing strokes, or in the case of a coach, demonstrating strokes, as they give so much effect.

In a big sea they're very reassuring as they give so much support when bracing.

So for slightly unexpected reasons, we really like having one pair of each. But if I had to pick one set it would be the Medium. So depending upon the material that's:

Shuna (fibreglass)
Shuna Carbon (carbon)
Cycprus (carbon foam core)

I ought to be clear, none of this is official Werner policy. Neither has this been 'approved' by their marketing department - it would be much slicker if it had!

These conclusions are not even the product of extensive, comparative testing by someone who has paddled for years. This is just my personal thoughts and experience, taken from an e-mail which I sent to a friend who'd borrowed my Shunas and liked them.

If you find this useful - great.


Steve G said...

You say carbon blades are stiffer tha glass - what's the effect of that when paddling? (Just got a apir of carbon-shaft glass-paddle Shunas for my wife, and wondering what I should have...)


Simon said...

I'm no expert, and only an average paddler of limied experience (although I write a lot!), so take my comments in that context.

The stiffness of the carbon blades is great. They feel as if they grip the water. The 'catch' of your stroke seems to grab onto the sea, and your rotation pulls the kayak past that point. It's exactly as you'd want for an efficient forward stroke.

But old sods like me, with one dodgy shoulder, can find they're pulling too much weight. I think... This is very subjective, touchy-feely stuff.

The glass blades have more flex to them, and so they seem to spill a little more water after the catch. Perhaps this makes them less efficent at grabbing water? But they also seem to put less strain on my shoulder.

Liz doesn't like the glass blades as much as the carbon as they are slightly heavier and, she feels, less efficient. When my shoulder is having a bad day, or when I'm doing a longer trip, I prefer the glass.

You really only discover what works best for you several weeks after buying!

If that hasn't answered your question, please come back to me.

Douglas Wilcox said...

Simon, one problem with paddles is that I think your body wears into them. I have been using Lendal Kintik wings for so long that I don't even think about them, they are truly extensions of my arms.

This summer I have been testing three top of the range carbon foam core paddles in different sizes from a different manufacturer and have done about 300km with them. As soon as I started using them I got tendonitis in my right elbow and an old climbing injury in my left shoulder started to hurt. They were so expensive, light and shiny that I should have loved them.

Last weekend we did 44km in the Solway and a good part of it was battering up Kirkudbright Bay against an ebb spring tide of 5km/hr. It was a real work out. I had gone back to using the cranked kinetik wings and guess what? Not an ache nor a twinge.

I have decided that comparing paddles after you have got used to a set, is very very difficult. Like you, a friend really rates his Shunas but I can't use them for more than 5 minutes before my right elbow plays up.

There is a huge anatomic variation in the way our shoulders and elbows are put together, so I don't think that there is a single product that will suit everyone. For example, my friend with the Shunas borrowed my Kinetik Wings and after 20 minutes had so much neck pain, he had to stop and vomit!

If you are lucky enough to find a set of paddles that suit your anatomy and paddling style, don't let them go and never be tempted to change!


Anonymous said...

Simon - the stiffness of the carbon blade is essential in 'gripping' the water - everyone knows how awful flexy plastic bakdes feel, at the other end of the spectrum. Any give/flexiness - i.e. to take the pressure off your shoulders, joints etc - should come from the shaft. Also your paddling technique is animportant factor in taking the pressure off your limbs.

Anyway, I posted because I've been trying to get hold of SystemX for nearly a month by email without a reply - how are you contacting them?

Simon said...

Douglas and Anonymous

I'm learning a huge amount here, and I did stress I was no expert, so I'm pleased I posted!

But I'm sorry, I haven't contacted System X for months. All I have are the contact details on their website, which I suspect you already know.


Simon said...

Oh - and Douglas... absolutely superb to know you're back on the water.

Anonymous said...

Mmm.. I do Like those Werners.
I even tried a pair of Powerhouse paddles on the river on saturday and didnt want to give them back. Simon, you've converted me to Werner from Lendal.

Like Douglas I was a big fan of the Lendal Kinetic wings- and I paddled with them for over 4 years ...then last year going round Rubha Reidh in tricky conditions they felt a bit inadequate (or was that me?) I switched to my Regular Lendal splits and sold the wings after the trip.
I would agree with you Douglas, those other expensive unnamed paddles that you are testing at the moment dont feel very nice to me either. They even look like someone has used cheap Homebase plumbing parts for the central spigot.
It is all about personal preference I guess and the more companies making paddles the better. Tony

Rowland Woollven said...

From one old sod with a dodgy shoulder to another old sod with a dodgy shoulder - Simon, you really DO need to have a try of a decent greenland paddle... :-)))

Anonymous said...

Sorry, 'anonymous' who asked for contact details was me - Mark R

gnarlydog said...

Simon (and others),
do you have any problems with the split joiner wearing and developing a wobble between the two halves?

I had two Werners replaced under warranty from wear and I don't really paddle that much.
I have a Cyprus, a Shuna, an Athena and a Camano that I have given up on (and other Euro style paddles) and these days I use a Western Red cedar Aleut or a carbon Greenland paddle.

Simon said...

Hi gnarlydog

Between us, Liz and I have had seven sets of Werner paddles, some with the old style joint and some with the new.

Not once have we experienced a joint problem. Sounds like a specific bad-batch problem, but I'd pleased to hear Werner replaced them under warranty. As they should!