Using a touring paddle for whitewater?

Bent shaft vs. straight
I would say the only differences are heavier, more expensive and limited hand positions. They are not any weaker than a straight shaft. The biggest benefit they have is the ergonomics.

yes, pretty much true
The main benefit of a crank shaft kayak paddle is it allows you to keep your wrists a little more naturally aligned. This is helpful for those who develop finger numbness, wrist pain, or other carpal tunnel type symptoms when using a straight shaft paddle. But if you don’t have those types of issues when using a straight shaft paddle, the crank shaft will not be of great benefit.

The crank shaft paddle pretty much predetermines your hand positions on the shaft. Some people like that as it allows them to keep their hands in fixed position and help index the blades when they can’t see the shaft well, as when rolling. Other paddlers like to be able to adjust their hand positions on the shaft, to slide a blade outboard a bit when rolling, bracing or sweeping. A crank shaft paddle doesn’t work well for that.

I suspect a lot of people who don’t really need them are using crank shaft paddles because they “look cool” or because they see certain top end kayakers using them.

Don’t use a paddle leash in whitewater.

Straight for me…
I haven’t had any problems using a straight shaft so far. So, I guess I’ll stick with that (cheaper, too!). Also, for whatever reason, I’ve always preferred an unfeathered paddle, too. I tried different feathering positions on my Werner Camano, but always ended up going back to an unfeathered position or 15° offset, at most. Feathering just always felt awkward to me.


– Last Updated: Jan-22-15 10:55 AM EST –

Keep in mind that the vast majority of WW paddles that you find on a store shelf or used will be single piece and have at least a 30 degree offset. If you haven't spent a lot of hours paddling 0 degree offset, you might want to start acclimating to a 30-45 degree feather. Otherwise, you may need to special order.

Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. Always open to change!

I wouldn’t let that stop me,
Yes there are design differences between river runners and creekers, but either category will work pretty interchangeably. There are some very good paddlers who prefer to use a river runner to creek in and others that will use a creeker to run rivers. By marketing different boats for different uses, you encourage more people to buy more than one boat, which is the manufacturers’goal.

In short, you can learn in either style of boat. I would probably give the nod to the river runners for their comparative ease in rolling. That being said, if I was paying out of my own pocket I’d go with one of those used options.

I own a Werner Camano, and I would not
use it for whitewater even to ransom the lives of my grandchildren.

I do use my ww paddles for touring, high angle style.

A basic ww paddle is not expensive, and will work far better than a low angle sea kayak paddle like the Camano.

Used boats
Of the two boats you mentioned the Habitat would be a good choice for your size, the Mamba is too big(the Mamba 8.0 or 8.1 would fit you).

If it were me I would buy a used boat and put the money saved towards a good paddle. If you don’t lose it you will probably change boats long before you change paddles, I’ve been using the same paddle for 15 years with numerous different boats.

Based on the information you have given I would suggest a Werner Sherpa 197cm in fibreglass and 0 feather.

WOW. 15 years with the same ww paddle? I have a buddy of mine that broke 3 in one season. (Gnarly class IV-V) As far as feathered vs non feathered. To each his own, but I found that with the fast technical turns in WW, I do not have to make hand adjustments with feathered blades. But that’s just me. I will reiterate that a $100-$200 WW paddle will serve you well until you lose it down river, or break it when it gets wedged. I think I would cry if I lost / broke a $450 paddle. That’s why I don’t buy the expensive ones.

Class IV
I paddle class IV but am careful with stroke placement and had been paddling many years before I bought a Werner. The blades are worn down quite a bit but it hasn’t broken. I learnt to paddle on very rocky rivers and it probably made me more careful.

I use a 60 degree feather as that was standard back then, my suggestion of zero degrees was based on the poster currently using zero degrees and many paddlers now favoring unfeathered.

Put some really bright colored duct
tape on the handle, it doesn’t take much to make it show up.

This way, especially if it is a neutral color, the people going back downstream to find the paddle have an easier time of spotting it.

I’ve gone 18 years on a Mitchell slalom
canoe paddle. You have to develop a style where you don’t abuse your stick.

lost and broken paddles

– Last Updated: Jan-24-15 8:07 AM EST –

I have paddles more than 15 years old that I am still using. I have, however, lost 2 paddles on the water and broken one.

Once when I was "paddle dragging" a bit at the top of a rapid trying to choose my line, the blade of my canoe paddle must have caught in an underwater rock sieve and the paddle was very abruptly snatched out of my hands never to be seen again. I lost a nice Silver Creek kayak paddle in similar fashion when I went to set up for a roll and I felt the blade catch and jam in an underwater rock crevice. I let go to avoid breaking it and unfortunately it did not surface, or at least I never saw it do so.

I also had a canoe paddle break on the water. This was a fairly decent Harmony paddle, the shaft of which snapped in half about a foot below the grip while I was side surfing. I did not catch the blade on a rock or the bottom, the force of the brace was just too much for it.

Quality paddles don't break too often these days but I have seen a bunch do so over the years. And it is always possible to lose a paddle in whitewater.

Lost Paddles
One of my paddling friends lost the same paddle three times and had it returned each time before he lost it permanently.

The most amazing time was when he swam on the Arahura in New Zealand. A local found the paddle by the river mouth and showed it to a work colleague who paddled and recognized it as a valuable paddle. He placed a message on Boatertalk which was seen by an American C1 Paddler who had been on the trip. He emailed the owner in Australia who had a friend bring it back when he visited New Zealand.

I like a stick I can abuse
and not feel bad about it. I know I paddle with pieces of junk (own 3 werner rios I bought used and an assortment of carlisle canoe paddles, some of which I found) and I realize a good paddle makes a difference and ups your performance. Yet I resist upgrading. Why? Cause I beat the heck out of my junky paddles and never feel bad about it. They get used as walking sticks in rough terrain, or for wading. They get loaned out to others. They get thrown up on shore while scrambling out of the boat and despite all my abuse they seem to be holding up just fine. As I move toward flatwater paddling I’ll be more likely to upgrade my paddle quality and thus improve my efficacy. Right now, durability is my priority. It could be worse, I could be using a Norse battle ax. That’s a weapon and a paddle all in one.

Still don’t have a paddle…
But at least I know what boat I’ll be using it with once I get one. I came home from my demo tonight with a used Jackson Fun Runner 70. Can’t wait to get it to class tomorrow night!

Dilemma Resolved!!!
Took care of my paddle issue in a most-agreeable fashion. I had purchased my Werner Camano in late September 2014 from REI. During that transaction, I also paid up to become an REI member. I guess I never read the member benefits pamphlet they gave me because I did not know that REI members have up to one year to return or exchange gear they purchase while a member.

So, last night I took my Werner Camano paddle back to REI (not the original REI location where I purchased the paddle), and they gladly exchanged it for a new WW paddle. Since they don’t carry WW paddles, but are a Werner dealer, they can special order the paddle I want.

I will be getting the Werner Sherpa 197cm one-piece paddle with the standard straight shaft and unfeathered blades. Since I want an unfeathered paddle, this will actually be a custom order from Werner rather than just a special order from REI’s distributor. It will add 5 extra business days to the order plus shipping, but I will be getting exactly what I want. Besides, it’s not like I will be getting out onto moving water anytime soon with all the rivers frozen over. And they have WW paddles for me to use at my WW class in the meantime.

Thank you everyone for all your advice, recommendations, opinions, et al!

Well nuts.
I have a carbon Werner WW paddle that I never use and I was all set to trade you straight up for the Camano. Oh well, I already use a Camano on my big boat and I don’t live anywhere near Chicago.