I’m an intermediate kayaker who can paddle most Class IV rapids and some IV-plus or V-minus in a pinch. I learned to kayak in Nepal at 51 years of age and had about 70 days of on-the-water experience when some friends said “Let’s go paddle the Tsarap Chu and the Zanskar. And Bob, bring a good paddle that fits you!” I had been using a 194 cm. Werner Powerhouse which was a fine paddle but too short for me (I’m a bit over 6 feet 1 inch tall). For somebody of my level, taking on these rivers in an eight-day self-supported expedition in the “Grand Canyon of Asia” was a serious big-water proposition and I decided that I needed to dial my gear up. The Werner Paddles Sho-gun seemed like the clear choice for me as I wanted an elite big-water paddle with a large blade and maximum paddle power. I bought the 200 cm. model and headed off to Zanskar in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in northern India.
Video: The first day and a half on the Tsarap Chu River includes seven box canyons
I should qualify what I write below by saying that I don’t feel like I have enough experience or knowledge of paddling to comment authoritatively on what the Werner Paddles Sho-gun is like to the extent that stronger or more experienced paddlers might be able to. It’s also worth noting that the trip was a self-support expedition with loaded boats which certainly compromised my paddling ability compared to the empty-boat paddling that I had done previously.
In the heart of the second box canyon on the Tsarap Chu
I really liked the Sho-gun. It was by far the best paddle that I have ever paddled with. Paddling was smooth and the paddle felt light in the water. Paddle flutter was a non-issue. Although the paddle itself weighs just slightly more than the comparably sized Powerhouse, the swing weight of the Sho-gun felt like it was less than the Powerhouse, presumably due to the blades being lighter in the water. My paddling power was improved with the Werner Paddles Sho-gun although it was still not up to the level of my more experienced team members. The added buoyancy of the blades of the Sho-gun was notable and this helped both in paddling and also in executing my roll in the squirrely water on the trip, as I tipped a couple of times in eddy-line water, couldn’t get into the tuck position due to the boils and swirlies and ended up having to roll with my paddle pointed straight down at the river bed—not a roll that I had executed very effectively in the past, but I pulled it off with the Sho-gun. I was able to do a back deck roll more consistently than previously although whether that was due to the Sho-gun is an open question. My teammates kidded me a lot about the Sho-gun and its foam core and kept saying that I was one paddle-puncture away from having to use the plastic split paddles we were carrying but I certainly didn’t feel like I was paddling with a fragile paddle—the Sho-gun felt quite durable.
Video: The biggest white water on our trip was in the last 40 kilometers of the Tsarap Chu just before it merged with the Stod River to form the Zanskar River.I didn’t note any cons regarding the Werner Sho-gun other than its hefty price tag—but honestly, $300 for a paddle of this quality seems to me to be money well spent.I believe in spending what it takes to get good equipment and for me the Sho-gun was well worth it. A kayaker had died on the Tsarap Chu the week prior to our put-in and having the paddle power to get around a hole can be the difference between life and death on rivers like the Tsarap and the Zanskar. It seems clear to me like a good paddle can save your life in certain circumstances.
I’m sold on the Werner Paddles Sho-gun as a premier big-water paddle. It got me down the rivers and back home in one piece. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
HUGE thanks to Bob McPherson for reviewing the Werner Paddles Sho-gun on his expedition in Asia. When we heard that he was planning a trip on the Zanskar, we thought it would be great to get some real world feedback from a solid paddler like Bob, on a big water trip. If you want to see more highlights of Bob's adventures in Nepal, India, etc - check out his Youtube page: