20 Questions: Werner Paddles

BLISTER: Carbon vs Fiberglass blades. What are the differences?

Danny: There are rumors out there about differences in durability between the two materials. We want to be as honest as we can though, and honestly, I have to say that with our carbon sherpa vs a fiberglass sherpa, the only advantage you are going to get with carbon construction is weight. And frankly, the weight difference is pretty minimal.

People will call us and ask, “Why would I spend $50 more to save one ounce?” You know, it’s up to you man! Some people, especially in the touring world, are going to pay for every single half ounce they can save. For whitewater paddlers, a good example of a place where carbon makes sense is the Grand Canyon. It’s the 250-mile trip of a lifetime, so why not have the lightest paddle you can get? As far as flex, durability, and impact resistance, our testing says there is no difference.

BLISTER: What is the philosophy behind foam core designs like the Stikine and the Shogun?

Danny: I look back and think about folks like the Backlund family, the Silvercreek family, or the Mitchells. They were using wood, and that buoyant feel of wood drew a lot of people to those paddles. Our answer for buoyant blades are core designs like the Stikine and the Shogun. The buoyancy of those blades sits higher on the water and helps with all sorts of things from bracing to rolling. We know that a roll isn’t going to work if the blade submerses, so buoyancy is really nice for whitewater.

In SUP and touring, the buoyancy helps more for the release at the end of the stroke. The tradeoff, though, is that just because these buoyant designs are our best paddling paddles doesn’t mean they are our strongest paddles.

People will unfortunately get the wrong idea that our most expensive paddle must also be our strongest paddle. From an impact resistance perspective, you won’t get the same durability from a core product that you’ll get from a laminate product. We’ve had a few team paddlers who we’ve just had to cut off from Stikines because they broke too many of them. If you want the best paddling performance, then go for the Stikine. But if you want bulletproof, go for a laminate. And to take it a step further, I’d say buy fiberglass laminate. If you’re a strong boater, then you won’t care about that extra ounce, and you can save $50 to spend on other gear.

BLISTER: Werner really emphasizes the idea of  “reliability,” but that doesn’t mean that your paddles don’t break. What does reliability mean to you?

Danny: We strive to provide realistic expectations.  “Stronger than…”, “Will not break…”, “Will not wear…”. These are statements that marketing people—who often are not paddlers—make up to give consumers false expectations. Rock wins 100% of the time. Paddles will break when we hit things hard, and they wear down over time when they are dragged over rocks.

We will continue to build quality goods and try to create realistic expectations—to educate paddlers about what is possible and what is hyperbole. Reliability means that you know what your paddle can take, and that it shouldn’t break under normal circumstances.

BLISTER: What is your personal favorite paddle to use, and why?

Danny: Wow, tough one. I fish the least, but I enjoy it. I SUP race, surf, and paddle white water equally. But my true passion, even if I do not get to do it as much as I like, is coastal play. Performance sea kayaks in waves, rock gardens and caves–I love it. My paddle for that is an Ikelos, 205cm bent shaft. If it gets too crazy, like Oregon coast crazy, I’ll put that under the deck for my paddle out and switch to a Shogun, 203cm bent shaft.

BLISTER: We’ll leave it at the for now. But please feel free to leave your own paddle questions in the comments section below, and we’ll do our best to answer them.

(Danny also answered some questions for us about dihedral designs and different blade shapes, so look for that info in our upcoming Paddles 101 piece.)

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