Werner Legend 99 Review – By Tyler Harris

If you’re having SUP paddle problems, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems, but my Werner Legend ain’t one!

Perhaps you don’t appreciate the Jay-Z parody, so I’ll rephrase: If you are a SUP’er and aren’t 100% stoked on your current paddle, consider the Werner Legend 99. Read-on to hear my personal “legend of the Legend.

Once upon a time… (in August, 2015) the local Werner rep placed a demo in my paws. Although initially excited, I had no clue that this paddle would have such a positive impact. It quickly become my favorite, replaced other paddles in my quiver AND most importantly – directly increased my paddling stoke!

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A day trip through Westwater Canyon via SUP is a great test of a paddle’s versatility with approximately 5 miles of whitewater and 12 miles of flat water, oftentimes with a strong desert headwind. Being a committing gorge, it’s especially comforting to have a durable paddle. Photo Credit: http://riverdrifters.net

Werner designed this paddle to offer ultimate performance for whitewater SUP. This is certainly a tall order and I feel they fully achieved this goal. However, I will go a step beyond to say that the Werner Legend 99 is a solid choice for anyone looking for a high-performance paddle, which excels in a variety of conditions in and beyond river rapids.

Let’s take a closer look at my top 3 favorite characteristics: durability, performance and versatility.

Durability:
From grip-to-tip, Werner’s choice in materials and bomber construction make the Werner Legend 99 a worthy whitewater adversary.

Shaft – “100% carbon material, built to whitewater specs.” This statement looks pretty on paper, but is this shaft truly durable?

Absolutely! One quickly realizes the strength with a simple ground flex test, powerful forward stroke or especially with a hard brace. Confidence in the shaft strength is reinforced after surviving repetitive “wipe-out tests”… my favorite version being the hockey style ‘cross-check’ onto the board! Lastly, after flexing and stressing this shaft over time, you’ll be happily surprised that it will retain it’s energetic, predictable snap.

Furthermore, the custom shaft options (small fit, break-down and adjustable), do not compromise strength. I really trust the Werner Legend 99, because it achieves all these things: no slop at break-down points, full strength even at maximum length adjustment and a positive locking mechanism for these functions.

Blade – Throat. Like Wu-Tang reminds us: “Protect ya neck!” The blade-to-shaft connection is a classic weak point on paddles. The throat on the Legend is so bomb-proof, one forgets that it could ever be an issue.

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Advanced moves, like cross-strokes, are easier with Werner’s legendary blade shape. Credit: http://riverdrifters.net/

Shape“Rubbing is river running.” Indeed. But, the more you can avoid contacting rocks with your blade, the better. The long, narrow shape aids longevity by helping avoid impact in two ways:

  1. Being narrow and having a straight sides allows one to place the blade directly next to rocks and into narrow slots. This helps avoid hits to the side, including clanking against the board.
  2. Having a non-tapered, flat-edged tip gives maximum purchase with minimal blade submerged. This helps avoid hits to the bottom in shallows.

Material – Carbon fiber with extra thick Dynel® edging is Werner’s classic recipe for providing incredible impact and abrasion protection for the precious foam core. Although I still cringe each time the beautiful featherweight blade dings a rock, I am continually thrilled that it comes out unscathed.

Disclaimer  – The Werner Legend 99 is as tough as possible for its performance level, but it’s still necessary to exercise some care. Carbon blades are simply not the most durable option. If you want the toughest set-up for whitewater, consider the Session or Stinger.

Performance:
Building a durable paddle for whitewater is a commendable accomplishment in itself. Building a durable paddle, that also performs at a top level, creates a legend!

Shaft – Indexing. Oval indexing on the shaft and Werner’s ergonomic palm grip provide eyes-free orientation for your hands and enable excellent blade control. These simple features allow one to: switch paddling sides quicker, find your hand position after crashes sooner and set more precise blade angles.

Lightweight – Weight savings means less junk in the trunk, and therefore, more gas in the tank!

Flex – Besides balancing the fine line between durability and weight, Werner gets huge kudos for creating the perfect flex profile. Snappy. Powerful. Even. Predictable. Friendly on the joints. It’s been said that the elastic energy released from a hard stroke of the Legend 99 is only rivaled by the “one-inch punch” from Kung Fu legend, Bruce Lee!

Blade – Creating a high-performance paddle for whitewater means it must excel in all paddle strokes: forward, reverse, sweeps, draws, braces and all variations in between. The blade on the Legend 99 improves proficiency of all these strokes, thus improving a paddler’s stoke and style!

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Testing out the Legend 99 on Westwater Canyon. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. – Credit: http://riverdrifters.net/

Purchase in the right places – “99” in the name refers to the 99 inch2 blade surface area. For Werner’s current line-up, this is big-time surface area, which means big purchase. Since I usually prefer a smaller blade size, however, I was initially worried that the  Werner Legend 99 would be too much to handle. Yet, the crafty blade shape once again comes into play by offering a softer feel and what I call the “choose your own adventure” benefit.

Choose your own adventure – If you need big purchase – dig deep and submerge the whole blade. For medium pressure, go halfsies. And if you only need a little purchase, you can play ‘just the tip’. This is possible with all paddles, but most effective with the  Legend’s shape.

  • A slender rectangle gives you more length (ie more ‘adventures’ to chose from)
  • A full-width, flat-edged tip allows for maximum width at initial immersion
  • Parallel sides offer a consistent change in purchase at varying blade depths. I like how taking a max-depth stroke encourages good posture when you need it most: hands lowered (protects shoulders), forward leaning (engages core) and knees bent (lower, more stable position).

Side Profile – Offset: Luckily for hacks like me, Werner designed the Legend 99 with a low offset angle of only 7*. This is conducive to a higher cadence and easier control. The catch is clean and the release especially easy. The blade is less likely to get hung-up and feels more ergonomic when surfing and bracing.

Side Profile – Dihedral: The perfect amount of dihedral makes the Werner Legend 99’s stroke as smooth as butter, yet without the flutter. A dash of spooniness gives a little extra power. But, the chefs at Werner took good care not to spoil the soup here. Keeping the profile shape fairly flat with blended transitions eliminates  nervousness when there is water moving across the blade, like when using ruder strokes during a surf or gliding draw strokes when entering/exiting eddies.

Blade Shape – Once again, I want to revisit the awesomeness of the long rectangular shape, this time on the topic of control. I love the feeling of control I have with this paddle – it feels like an extension of my arms. Less: trip-ups, hang-ups, clanking the board, diving blade angles, etc. Advanced techniques, like cross-strokes and feathering, are greatly improved by this factor.

Performance Core –  If you’ve read this far, you’re probably already familiar with the benefits of Werner’s foam core blades. More water displacement, while maintaining a light weight, means increased buoyancy. This increases the effectiveness of every stroke and brace. Even at the most slicey blade angles, I still feel a slight bit of positive buoyancy which is oftentimes enough brace to keep me balanced.  Or, to put it simply for my hip-hop headz out there – foam core provides more pop for your propulsion, more beef for your brace and more BOUNCE to the ounce!

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High fives all around. – Credit: http://riverdrifters.net/

All these performance characteristics combine to increase one’s paddling pleasure. I grin every time I grab a Werner Legend 99 because it makes me feel like a SUP ninja! Using this paddle has literally took my overall paddling to a higher level. Pulling-off hero braces and having more efficient strokes has kept me on my board, upright and in control. This has meant less time in the drink and more time learning new tricks and techniques, all the while with the symptoms of stoke evident in my smile!

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Stoked to be paddling the Legend 99! Credit: http://riverdrifters.net/

Versatility:
Is your single paddle lacking performance across disciplines, or do you have too many paddles in your quiver? I’d recommend the Werner Legend 99 to anyone looking for versatility. If you are now asking yourself “Why would Tyler recommend this whitewater paddle for anything outside of river rapids?” Then, my answer will be “WHY NOT!?

Why not have a durable paddle?  Even for non-moving water, having tough gear is like insurance. Like that hypothetical time at the lake house when your bonehead nephew borrowed YOUR expensive paddle, then threw it on the rocky shore.

Why not bring the Legend into the ocean?  Powerful strokes and braces for paddling-out and catching waves, plus a comfortable surfing feel will make you the legend of the lineup.

Why not have a powerful paddle?  Would you rather paddle for less time, less distance and at a slower rate? I didn’t think so.

Why not make it easy?  If it’s easier to control, it’s gonna be more fun and improve your skills. This is a benefit for beginners, pros and all skill levels in between. Take advantage of this and progress your paddling.

Why not take advantage of options? Small shaft for small folks. One-piece fixed length for those who know exactly what they want. Two-piece adjustable for a huge size range and three-piece adjustable for travel and transport. These options customize to your needs and add versatility.

Naturally, choosing a paddle for its specific intended use will provide the best performance. If your SUP paddling is homogenous across disciplines, or if you are lucky enough to afford to have a big quiver of paddles, I’d match these paddles with your chosen activity/activities:

As mentioned, if the most durable blade is your jam, check the Session or Stinger. Lastly, if you need an affordable paddle with great value, look to the Thrive or Vibe.
But if I had only one paddle choice, it would definitely be the Legend 99. So how about you – why not try one for yourself? The only things you have to lose are a few outdated paddles from your quiver.
So, let the legend be told: forged inside the fires of Mt Index, Werner has created a master paddle… “one paddle to rule them all!

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Banging out some miles on the Colorado. The Legend has a buttery soft stroke in the flats, and power in the whitewater. For that reason, we consider it to be the best whitewater SUP paddle we’ve ever used.-Photo: Rex Nelson

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