Using a touring paddle for whitewater?

-- Last Updated: Jan-21-15 5:22 PM EST --

I'm getting into WW kayaking and plan to purchase my first WW boat in the very near future. My question in this post is what should I do with my current paddle? I have a 230cm Werner Camano straight-shaft paddle with carbon shaft and fiberglass blades. I have loved this paddle for all my rec boating, but it is my understanding that this will not be an ideal paddle for WW. It is too long, the blades are too small for WW, and they are shaped for low-angle paddling.

My question is can I get away with paddling WW with the Werner Camano for the time being, or should I definitely get a new WW-specific paddle with my new WW boat? Obviously, I'd prefer a WW paddle, and I'm hoping that maybe I can do an even trade with my Camano for a comparable WW paddle. Any thoughts on what a comparable WW paddle would be to the Camano?

WW paddle
Depends on the boat and the water. A 230 is a long paddle, on a very short WW boat you’ll just go in circles.

Bill H.

WW boats…

– Last Updated: Jan-21-15 5:31 PM EST –

At the moment, it looks like I'm coming down between a LL Remix 69 and a JK Fun Runner 70, both river runners. I'm leaning towards the Remix 69, though. I have an appointment this Sunday to demo both boats at a pool session.

As for the water, I'm only a beginner, so I won't be getting into anything heavy for a while.

Sure you can use it for whitewater
but it is really long for that purpose and the smaller blades won’t give you as much support for bracing.

Used to be that most folks were using paddles around 200-202 cm range for whitewater. Nowadays most have gone shorter say around 196 cm or so. The degree of offset has also gotten a lot less for most. Although I still use a paddle with 80 degrees of offset, it is becoming uncommon to see whitewater paddles with more than 45 degrees of offset these days, and 15-30 degrees of offset is pretty common.

I would probably get a new paddle. To paddle whitewater you will want to develop skills that are reflex and develop muscle memory for them, rolling and bracing for example. It is probably better to do that with a paddle that will more closely resemble that which you will wind up with.

Whitewater paddlers often cycle through gear. So-called bent shaft or crank shaft paddles have become very common and a lot of whitewater paddlers have an old straight shaft paddle in the garage or basement that you might be able to pick up cheap.

Unless you get sore wrists from a straight shaft paddle there is really no great advantage to those bent shaft paddles. They are more expensive and limit your hand spread. The shafts are also inherently weaker for the same material and weight. And if you ever have to grab another paddle that someone let go of in a rapid and paddle holding both in your hands at the same time, it is difficult if one or both are bent shafts.

get a used, shorter paddle
It’ll be an uphill climb to learn with the paddle you have. Get a basic, more apt paddle to make learning ww more pleasant. And faster. Though you could get extra roll practice when an overly long paddle crabs on you…

I agree - get a new paddle.
You will handicap yourself with that paddle. It will hold you back and make things really hard and weird.

Thanks for all the advice…
Okay, definitely sounds like I should start looking for a new WW-specific paddle. I’m hoping the outfitter I’m demoing with on Sunday will be open to a trade, or at least a decent trade credit for my Werner Camano.

Anyone have any opinions on a decent WW paddle that I should look for? Brands, models, etc.?

First WW paddle
For your first WW paddle the Werner Sherpa will be good for you. I would stay away from the Powerhouse as it is a bigger blade than what suites your body type (taking the guess that you are on the smaller size since you demoed a 69). It is the price equivalent of your Camano and will take you from beginner to class V if you have it long enough.

I’m 6’ and 175lbs. That puts me right in the middle of the Remix 69’s ideal weight range (130-240).

Werner, AT, Aqua Bound
Werner and Adventure Technology seem to be dominating the market where I paddle. Aqua Bound is known for making a tough paddle at a decent price point.

Hard to suggest a model. The more expensive models typically use higher tech materials to lighten the weight so it depends on how much you want to spend. Be prepared for sticker shock. If you shop for a high end, carbon shaft, carbon blade, crank shaft model it can set you back as much as a boat used to.

I wouldn’t sweat the model or blade size too much. All whitewater paddles will have a much bigger blade than your touring paddle. If you have a choice, pick an intermediate blade size. You also have to pick the degree of offset. Thirty degree offset seems to be becoming a sort of standard and it does allow you to maintain a fixed grip without using a control hand if you wish.

I wouldn’t spend a fortune for a top end model right off the bat. You might find that you want a different degree of offset, or if you buy a straight shaft paddle and your wrists start bothering you, you may decide to go with a crank shaft. Be aware that whitewater paddles get lost with some frequency. If you buy an all black paddle, but some colored vinyl tape on the blades. Black paddles can be very difficult to see in the water if you let go of one in a rapid.

I’m going to take the position
of getting a cheapo ww paddle to start with. Like a werner rio- plastic blades. My reasoning has nothing to do with performance or ease of learning. I’ve just seen a lot new paddlers lose a new paddle in the first year or two of boating. This might be different in other places but that’s what I’ve seen.

Remix is a good choice
Some other good all round river runners are the Wave Sport Diesel, the Dagger Mamba and the Jackson Zen.

I also
agree. Get a WW paddle. Sherpa is a good choice, but if budget is a concern & you want to keep your touring paddle, look at an Accent Rage WW paddle-Fiberglass shaft. About $130 retail. I used one for years. Pretty light, strong, and easy on the hands. Length of paddle will depend on your height, arm length. I use a 196 mm at 6’ tall running LL Remix, Stomper. Any good outfitter / store personnel can help you select length. No need to break the bank on a paddle if you’re just starting out. You can always upgrade later.

I need to get a paddle like that

Showing my obvious newb status here…
But don’t folks use paddle leashes in WW? Or does that present more of a possible entrapment/entanglement concern than in rec/tour/sea kayaking?

brain not working
Yeah now that it’s not 2 am and my brain is working correctly. For some reason I was reading 69 as 59…damn insomnia.

Either way I would go with the Sherpa. I have sold a lot of them over the years to people with a similar build and in that boat.

death trap
Leave that to the rec/touring crowd. You can usually pick yours up down river.

Paddle costs…
Yeah, I’ve noticed that the higher-end WW paddles can get pretty pricey. Going with carbon and a bent shaft seems to really jack up the price (as well as name recognition). Sticking with a straight shaft and fiberglass keeps the prices around what I paid for my Werner Camano. From what I’ve read so far, it sounds like the only benefit to bent shafts are that they keep your hands in a more neutral/natural position. But other than that, bent shafts are weaker, heavier, and significantly restrict hand placement compared to a straight-shaft paddle of the same material. Is this true?

Got it…
I figured that must be the reason. From the extreme WW videos I’ve been watching, I can see that being a real danger!

Other river runners…
I was also interested in the JK Zen, but the outfitter I’m demoing with on Sunday does not have any in stock for me to test.

I thought the Mamba was more of a creek boat? There’s a listing on my local Craigslist for a 2007 Mamba 8.5 for $550 and a 2008 Wave Sport Habitat 74 for $450. Both are in great condition as they have only been paddled on lakes, never WW. Those are good prices on used boats in good condition, I think. The only thing keeping me from pouncing on one of them is that they are creekers and I want a river runner. Also, they are older, and I don’t know anything about the outfitting in those model years. I have read that recent models of most boats have decent outfitting.

However, I am keeping them in mind because the price may be too good for me to pass up. It will all depend on my demo on Sunday. If I don’t like either boat I’m testing (doubtful, as I’ve read nothing but good things about the Remix), or if the price is too high, I may be tempted by the low price of the used creekers. At least one of them should be a decent intro to WW boat even if it isn’t what I really want.