I’ve been using Werner Paddles since I started boating, so this review is not going to be about their quality or durability. The paddles speak for themselves in that manner and I don’t feel like beating a dead horse. (If you need further proof, look at what 90% of the pro’s use as their paddle of choice. Get your head out of your a** and buy a Werner).
This review is going to be about my switch from a standard diameter shaft to a small diameter shaft. (It is also relatively analytical, so skip to the end if you want the short and sweet version)
I noticed while looking at some of my GoPro videos that, during my forward strokes, my top hand was consistently breaking the center plane of the boat. What I mean by that is, if you look at the picture below, my top (left) hand is a 6-8 inches to the right of the middle of the boat.
In a perfect forward stroke, the top hand should never break the center plane of the boat. Since kayaks are getting wider you can allow yourself some margin of error, but certainly not 6-8 inches. I feel that there is no reason to not strive for the perfect stroke, even though it will never happen.
My reasoning for why I was doing this is, since I paddle a straight shaft (wouldn’t be an issue with a bent shaft), is that I was unconsciously moving my hand placement on the paddle closer together than it should be, to allow my ring and pinky finger to have a little more purchase on the paddle when reaching for a stroke. By moving my hands slightly together, with every stroke, my top hand was breaking the center plane by x amount, then having to travel that distance (x) back across the center plane of the boat to plant the next stroke.
Marshall reaches for a boof in Slideways on the Big South.
My theory is that, now that I have a small shaft paddle, my ring and pinky finger are able to get more purchase on the paddle shaft. This is because my hands are at the correct (read: wider) position.
This small change should definitely put you on the podium of the North Fork Championship within a year.
Short and Sweet:
In my opinion, Werner has proven themselves to be the leading whitewater paddle manufacturer. The question is not whether to buy a Werner paddle or not, but rather which one to buy. If you are looking to switch up a part of your paddling that you probably haven’t given much thought to, try a small shaft. You won’t regret it.