**Mike did up this great post on his blog and we thought it was too good not to re-post here!
I can appreciate the ease of having one paddle that "does it all". The problem with that is usually a paddle that "does it all" comes along with a number of compromises in performance. Most paddle companies have a few different models with end-use, cost and durability in mind. Werner Paddles has been making paddles for a long time and they have a pretty good idea of how to make paddles to handle different environments.
Racing: Werner GrandPrix M1000 - 81"
This is Werner's race specific paddle. It is full carbon and extremely light to allow for a faster stroke rate and less fatigue over time. I tend to prefer a faster stroke rate and I really like the longer, narrow blade rather than the wider teardrop shape. I am noticing a lot more companies coming out with this narrow shape for 2013 so there must be something to it.
Werner also makes this paddle in the bent shaft. I have started using the bent shaft for training paddles this fall and am looking forward to using it for some longer distance races. The bent shaft gives a noticeable increase in forward reach but does take some getting used to especially if you have been paddling straight shaft for some time.
Surf: Werner Nitro - 79"
In the surf I use a paddle that is 2" shorter than my race paddle. This allows me to paddle comfortably in a surf stance when I am crouched low to catch waves. The shorter paddle also allows me to use a high cadence stroke for quick acceleration. Surfing can put a lot of stress on the paddle so it is important to use a good strong paddle that you can rely on. When I'm surfing I pull harder to catch waves than any other paddle or race. For this reason I like to use a smaller blade to reduce the risk of injury.
Whitewater: Werner Stinger - 78"
The newest SUP Paddle from Werner. This paddle is truly purpose built and performs its duties very well. The Stinger has a very unique blade shape that is perfect for whitewater. The narrow tip of the blade allows for a lighter stroke and a soft catch. The blade gets larger towards the shaft of the paddle to give the paddler more surface area for bracing and power when needed. The reverse teardrop shape lets you decide how much blade goes into the water. The rounded tip of the blade is also great for moving the paddle around under the water. A lot of whitewater strokes like draws, rudders and braces keep the paddle in the water in transition.
I understand that it doesn't make sense for everyone to go out and buy 3 or 4 different paddles but it does make sense to choose a paddle that is designed for what you do most. Make sure you pick a paddle that feels good in your hands and that you trust. I always recommend paddlers spend a little bit extra on their paddle. It can be the most important piece of equipment you use so take the time to pick a quality paddle that is right for you.