Friday, June 29, 2012

Double Diamond Paddle Review by Tristan Oluper

Welcome, Guest Blogger, Tristan Oluper from Western Canoeing and Kayaking.

Six years ago the blades of my first Werner Double Diamond drove me towards “The Brierley’s”, a classic playhole on Alberta’s North Saskatchewan River, see below.
First year of boating at the Brierley’s: Picture by: Dave Hagel
Since then I have not used a kayak paddle more frequently than a 194 cm Werner Double Diamond bent shaft. The DD (double diamond) has accompanied me on a road trip from Quebec to Mexico and brought me down classics like the Ottawa, Gauley and Mexico’s waterfall wonderland, Micos, not to mention many others. I used the DD during guiding stints for two seasons on the Rio Futaleufu in Chile and a season on the Mighty Zambezi in Zambia. The DD even helped me down some exploratory runs in BC last year after a mishap with my creeking paddle. Look around http://fraservalleywhitewater.com/ for those stories.
First Impressions
Since my brain long ago defragmented first impressions, what I can tell you now is I still love how the paddle performs. I am always impressed at how efficiently the blade enters and exits the water. I find this helps improve stroke rate, making catching/staying on waves easier. Furthermore, the efficiency of the blade entering and exiting the water makes moves like spinning, cartwheeling and other advanced moves easier/smoother as well. Exactly what I look for in a play-blade.
Bent Shaft
Using a bent shaft is a huge bonus during a day of playboating. I find the ergonomic bend helps maintain strength throughout long play sessions and reduces wrist, elbow and shoulder fatigue. What does this mean? It means more time on the water, and becoming a better paddler of course.
One thing that can take “a getting use to” is not with the DD blade itself, but is hand placement when changing paddle lengths. I prefer a longer paddle for creekboating and I find when moving to a 197 cm bent shaft over my 194 cm, even though it is only 3 cm, my hand placement just doesn’t feel natural. However, there could be a variety of reasons for this. To start, I have used a 194 cm bent shaft for over 500 days on the water and naturally my hands may migrate to an “off” position on the longer paddle. When talking to other paddlers who have switched sizes in bent shaft paddles (who do not use Werner) they share the same thoughts about the hand placement feeling unnatural. Nevertheless, I recommend checking out the Werner fit guide: http://www.wernerpaddles.com/fit_guide/ or heading down to a Werner dealer, grab a few paddles, and find which feels right.
Blade Size
The mid-sized blades of the DD provide enough pull to get you back on the wave but are small enough that they do not feel to grabby during surfs, especially in holes. I find large blades can catch too much water and lead to the paddle getting in the way when doing moves, not with the DD. Another thing I like is if you find yourself survival surfing in an uncomfortably large hole, these blades don’t give feeling that limbs are about to be detached from the body, always a nice bonus.
Final Thoughts
Futaleufu Chile Photo by: Lynn McLachlan
 The double diamond will always have a spot in my repertoire and without a doubt will be the paddle I use most. Whether you need a paddle specifically for playboating or you can only afford one blade that does it all check out the double diamond, you will be happy with it. Happy paddles. –Tristan-

Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin