- By Kyle Smith
- Paddler size 5’9″
- 197cm regular shaft
“Well mate, do you think we should bring a breakdown?”
“…Naw. It’s a short run.”
The next thing I know, I’m C-1ing down the Arahura Gorge in New Zealand with half a carbon fiber paddle in my hands. Somewhere amid side-surfing in the 3rd consecutive hole in a row within a minute, I thought to myself, “Damn. There is a perfectly good Werner Powerhouse 4 piece paddle in the back of the van at takeout right now. Why am I such an idiot?”
This was one of a handful of times that I have needed a break down. Luckily, it was the first time I didn’t have one when the situation arose, and lucky for me, I once thought C-1 duckying was the evolution of water sports… Maybe that was a pipe dream, but at least I had some prior background.
Breakdown paddles should really be called “break-outs,” because typically they only come out of the bag to bail us out when our regular go-to has seen an untimely “break down.”
I have personally used and carried a few break-outs, including the Werner Powerhouse 4 piece throughout the past few years. The Powerhouse has served me well, acting as a saving grace for myself as well as others in committing gorges, wilderness runs, and in the event of simple forgetfulness on those rare dawn patrol missions when the rig is packed prior to drinking that first cup of coffee.
An issue with 4 piece paddles, is that there are a lot of parts for something that is supposed to (A) be one solid piece and (B) handle a lot of torque and impact. The Werner Powerhouse 4 piece is solid once assembled. With little to no wiggle in the joints after clicking them into place, the paddle assures confidence, which is a nice feeling after taking part in an event that just shattered your method of propulsion just moments prior.
CONSTRUCTION: The Werner Powerhouse 4 piece is made up of 2 formidably sized blades (Werner’s largest) and 2 lengths of fiberglass shaft. Each piece contains either a small spring button mechanism(male) or socket(female) insert. Both blades have “joiners” that insert into the shaft, which is how regular one piece paddles are constructed, except they use epoxy to affix the 2 together. This is how Werner keeps each piece solidly connected with little wasted movement = no wasted paddling energy.
STORAGE: Kayak Tetris…one of my favorite topics. I like to electrical tape/strap my 4 piece together, both fiberglass shaft pieces sandwiched between the blades. This keeps the paddle organized and easy to throw from boat to boat as one piece. Some people separate and store pieces apart for the sake of utilizing each cubic centimeter of the boat during multi-days. I have done a 9 day long mission using the conglomerate method and still managed to fit everything in. There’s more than one way to skin a cat though.
If you paddle a lot, you should consider keeping the 4 piece in something padded, like a bag, to prevent wear & tear on blades and connecting points, which will inevitably wear against the boat and allow for wiggle in the paddle = lost paddling energy.
For regular Powerhouse paddlers, the fact that Werner makes the paddle in breakout versions means that even if that 1 piece brakes, is stuffed in a sieve somewhere underwater, or is just making it’s way into the decorum of a beaver’s home, you still have that same trusty paddle as backup. And, if you custom order, Werner will set the angle to your specs. I prefer 19 degrees on the dot.
TRAVEL: I have had plenty of friends take only a Werner 2 or 4 piece abroad for ease of travel and piece of mind due to durability. It can go right into your bag for the flight/ bus ride.
One of my favorite characteristics of fiber glass shafts is the flex. When loading the blade up on a boof stroke or back of a wave, the entire shaft has a spring like action that unloads and gives just a little more kick coming off the lip of a drop. The joiner in the middle of a 4 piece makes that spring a bit stiffer.
LESS OPTIONS: For those out there that prefer a small shaft (innuendos aside), the Werner 4 piece only comes in a regular diameter.
COST: At $299.95 this is an expensive piece of gear for something that one would hope not to use regularly. With that said, this could literally be a one time purchase due to the fact that break-outs don’t get used often and avoid the daily beatings that we put on our go-to paddles. Like they say “you never regret quality” and like car insurance, you hate paying for it but your thankful you have it when you crash and burn. Even if you never personally use it, your buddies might = plenty of karma points/free drinks for you post paddle. Mine has almost paid for itself in pints.
I am a longtime believer in the Werner Powerhouse construction. The blade design gives paddlers heaps of purchase on the water and fiberglass typically chips away slowly instead of catastrophically melting down like carbon blades when they finally fail. Fiberglass shafts, though not as light as carbon fiber, are strong and forgiving due to the flex they offer. I am a mediocre hand paddler at best and have a mediocre hand roll at that. So it’s nice to know I have a bombproof 4 piece version of my preferred paddle lurking behind my back band… Waiting for the right moment to…BREAK OUT when things have gone awry. The Werner Powerhouse 4 piece is an essential piece of the kit if you paddle anything other than roadside. Cheers.