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: