Touring paddle for Necky Chatham 16?

-- Last Updated: Apr-25-16 5:00 PM EST --

Hey, long-lost Pnet family! It's been quite a while since I've posted in here. So, I apologize profusely for the length of my first “come-back” post!

About a year and a half ago, I was asking you all for advice on what to do over the winter when my local waterways were frozen. The vast majority of you recommended taking a winter rolling class in a pool. Which I did! Took a whitewater class and ended up getting hooked! Have spent the past year+ exclusively in a Jackson Fun Runner 70 having a grand ol’ time. With as much fun as that has been, I have come to miss the zen of quiet, relaxing, long-distance flatwater paddling. Also, given my location (Chicagoland), there isn’t much whitewater to be had anywhere near here. Whenever I want to get out on the water, it requires a minimum of a one-hour drive for a simple, short Class I/II whitewater park up to a 5-hour drive for any real whitewater. Also, it requires me to be gone from my wife and daughters for a minimum of one whole day up an entire weekend depending on where I go. Given those restrictions, I just can’t get out on the water as frequently as I would like.

I live only 5 minutes from the Fox River (not whitewater; slow-moving flatwater). And while it’s true that I *could* just paddle my WW boat on the flatwater, it’s a total PITA. Prior to getting into WW paddling, I used to go out on the Fox early every weekend and get in a good 2-3 hour paddle before heading home and spending the rest of my day having fun with my family. That was my exercise, my relaxation, my get-out-in-nature, and my zen. I have been longing to get back to that.

Since long-distance flatwater paddling on my local river will be my primary water sport, I’ve decided to give up my WW boat and move into a touring kayak. Unfortunately, discretionary funds and garage space limit me to keeping only one kayak in my “fleet.” Otherwise, I would keep my WW boat for those infrequent opportunities. This past weekend, I picked up a used but good condition Necky Chatham 16 from a local outfitter, and will soon be listing my WW boat with accessories on Craigslist or BoaterTalk. I spent about 3 hours on the river Sunday in my new-to-me boat and loved it! I have to perform a little maintenance on the foam bulkheads and the hatch rims to get her in perfect condition, but nothing too bad.

My problem is trying to choose a paddle for my new boat. Before getting into WW, I used to have a 220cm Werner Camano paddle that I loved. However, once I made the switch to WW, I used my REI member benefits to trade that paddle in for a 197cm Werner Sherpa WW paddle. That’s what I used this past Sunday morning in my Necky. The Chatham is narrower than my WW boat, so I didn’t think using a shorter paddle would be that big of a deal. However, I was pretty exhausted by the end of my journey. The short paddle just takes too much work to keep up my pace in the Chatham.

After that experience, I’ve decided to include the Werner Sherpa in my WW package when I list it on CL and get a new touring paddle for my Necky. My goal is to spend several hours at a time paddling longer distances on flatwater rivers and lakes. Towards that goal, I really want to look at performance touring paddles, like the Werner Camano I used to have. The main thing that is keeping me from simply pulling the trigger on another Camano is the fact that I am very much intrigued/interested in Greenland paddles, too. Especially now that I have a kayak for which a GP could actually be useful. Since I want to buy a quality paddle for my Necky, I will not be able to afford both a Camano (or similar) Euro-style paddle *and* a GP. So, I’m stuck in this mental battle over which style paddle to pour my limited funds into.

Prior to my WW escapades, I had two other paddles for my rec boat that I currently still own. One is a cheap-o two-piece aluminum shaft paddle with fiberglass blades that I had purchased as a back-up to my Camano. I think it is either a Carlisle or Carson or some sort of brand/model like that. Don’t remember off the top of my head. The other is a hand-carved GP. At the time, I had gotten all OCD about paddles and decided to try my hand at carving my own GP. Being my one and only attempt at making a GP, it is of poor quality and the final measurements didn’t come out to the original specifications. I had fun using my homemade GP, but it wasn’t very efficient trying to paddle a big, fat rec boat with it.

The next time I take my Necky out on the river (hopefully this weekend), I plan to take both the Euro paddle and my crappy homemade GP and give them each a try to see if I prefer one style over the other. In the meantime, I would love to hear some words of wisdom and sage advice from the Pnet community. If you could purchase only one quality paddle to use with a 16' touring kayak on flatwater, would you prefer a Euro-style or a GP? Why? Thanks!

Maybe just a bit short…

– Last Updated: Apr-26-16 7:36 AM EST –

High angle takes a shorter blade, but even with that most who fit into a Chatham 16 OK are likely want more like between 205 and 210 cm for a paddle length. Even 210 is long by some people's standards these days, but 220 (oops, had a typo on that) has drifted into the realm of often being felt to be too long.

It wasn't when I started, and many people paddled many happy miles in 220 - 230 length paddles. So it still comes down to doing what works for you.


– Last Updated: Apr-25-16 3:42 PM EST –

Yup, I don't have my own Chatham but I use my friend's often when I visit. Both he and I use a 205 Cyprus. We are high-angled paddlers though. Obviously if you were trying to do a slow-and-low paddle with a 196 that would be difficult.

Shorter is better?
Didn’t realize the recommended lengths were getting shorter and shorter. I was thinking I should probably look at a 220cm paddle.When I had my Camano, it was a 230cm, but I was also paddling a wide rec boat at the time. So, it seemed like a perfect length.

The thing is, since I’ve spent the past year+ WW kayaking, I’ve gotten used to extremely high-angle paddling with a short paddle. However, I’m thinking I’d like to switch back to a more leisurely, comfortable low-angle style.

– Last Updated: Apr-25-16 4:44 PM EST –

There's no real "right" answer here. If for some reason you wanted to paddle your 22" Chatham with a 250cm paddle, you certainly CAN do that. The overall trend seems to be shorter and shorter, and I know that I prefer shorter which is why I use a 205 - I don't like low-angle paddling. Just feels weird to me. I once took a class with a 4-star that used her WW 196 as her touring paddle also, so you certainly wouldn't be the first - but if you don't like the way it feels, don't go that route, and 192 does seem fairly short to me. My gut is telling me you might enjoy a 210 or 215 Shuna/Cyprus (budget permitting).

Can you demo any paddles or borrow one from a friend? You might be surprised at what you like and don't like. The bottom line is get what feels good for you, but try things before you buy.

Oops, just realized I fat-finger my original post. My WW paddle is 197 cm not 192 cm (edited original post to correct). Still pretty short for long-distance flatwater paddling, though.

Think I’ll just wait until after I get back on the water this weekend to try my other two paddles before I go any further down this road. While the two examples of the touring vs. GP paddles I have are both crappy, I’m hoping I can at least glean some data about which style I may be leaning towards.

$.02. It’s your trip
I’m not a fan of the Camano blade shape and prefer Epic Mid tour and WernerShuna blade shapes. It’s not the blade, it’s how you use it.