About a year ago I made a post ranting about the Saltwood Reggie I got at Savanah Canoe and Kayak. For whatever reason I stopped using it for a while and went back to my Werner Cyprus and Ikelos, but I recently switched back to the Saltwood and I regret that I stopped using it for a while. I think I was lured by the light weight of the Werners, but the attributes of the Saltwood more than make up for any slight weight penalty. The greater weight may even be a benefit on a very windy day.
A quick disclaimer—excuse me if I sound overly enthusiastic about this blade, but I just have been really impressed with it and it has helped me with my paddling which I will explain in a moment. When I find a product that impresses me I like to share my thoughts. I also am not necessarily getting rid of my Werners, but think I am going to be using them a lot less in favor of the Saltwood.
The obvious attributes of this paddle are the flex, the unique ergonomic grip shape, the great indexing, and high bouyancy of the blade. These all give the paddle a really nice and unique feel, but I have found some other attributes of the paddle that I think are pretty unique.
First is that (as strange as it may seem) I find that this paddle actually helps me to paddle better. My stroke form is better with this paddle and I am not sure why, but I will take a stab at it. For whatever reason it causes me to reach farther forward with my stroke and get a good blade plant prior to beginning my stroke. I think that the ergonomics of the shaft encourage this for whatever reason—it has a very unique shape and fairly substantial width. I know that may sound strange, but I find it to be true. Or perhaps it could be that the buoyancy of the blade helps me to get a better blade exit which may set me up better for a far reaching catch on the opposite side. Additionally I think I get a better catch due to the indexing which allows me to ensure that the blade is completely square to the water to provide maximum purchase.
Next, I find that the blade has a different catch than that of the Ikelos or Cyprus that I am used to paddling. The full power of the catch seems to “build” as with a Greenland paddle. At first this may seem like a disadvantage, but I find it to be an advantage for a couple of reasons. First, I find that the “sweet spot” of the power stroke hits a couple of inches farther back which is where you have more power than when you are fully extended. Second and perhaps more significantly I find that this encourages me not to want to pull the paddle hard and fast at the beginning of the stroke. This helps to ensure the blade is fully immersed before applying power to provide a better catch, and it also prevents “ripping” the paddle through the water where you trap air on the surface of the blade and reduce the paddles purchase on the water. Last, I just find it encourages a smoother stroke that allows me to harness more power from each stroke I take.
Another thing I like about this paddle is how easy it is to roll with. I like to roll a lot and am a perfectionist so I like my form to be as perfect as possible. Whenever I feel like my form is getting slightly less than perfect with my Werner paddle I have switched over to the Saltwood which helps me to fine tune my roll again. The buoyancy and shape of this blade makes for a perfect sweep roll and helps to retrain the muscle memory to execute this maneuver with perfect form.
Last is that I found that you are right about the power of this blade in a stern rudder. I was out surfing some wind waves this weekend and used the Saltwood. I found that the backside of the blade really did offer a lot of power for a stern rudder, and the indexing of the blade helped to ensure the blade was inserted squarely into the water. A good strong rudder / stern pry is an asset in the surf where I am really looking forward to trying this paddle. Since I have had it I have only used it for flat water, but I really think it is going to excel in the surf zone given super buoyancy. I think that it is also going to help relieve some of my tendonitis given the shaft flexes a bit and given the ergonomic shape and larger diameter of the shaft which may allow a slightly looser grip.
In all fairness I do need to provide a comparison to my Werners since they do some things better. The Werners are obviously lighter, they are much stiffer and provide more immediate and higher power, they also slice through the water a little more smoothly which I feel makes them better for strokes like the side slip and sculling draw. On the bow rudder it is a bit of a tossup. I think the smoother slicing blade action of the Werner helps with this stroke and with blending it with other strokes, but the Saltwood plants in the water like a fence post allowing you to really edge hard to the outside and “hang” off the paddle for support which allows you to make a really nice, sharp turn. So both designs have their attributes, but for most paddling I think the Saltwood is preferable for me. Additionally I still need a split paddle to put on my deck as a spare so the Werners fill that role at a minimum.
I am very tempted to buy another Saltwater for whitewater use—probably a Habit; although I do have some concerns about the blade durability in a rocky river. Not sure if anyone has any feedback they can offer on this. I currently have a Werner Sho-Gun.