Smaller Shaft For Efficient Strokes

CKS Squad Favorites, Gear, Kayaking, Paddles
Ty Skoe

I’ve been using Werner Paddles since I started boating, so this review is not going to be about their quality or durability. The paddles speak for themselves in that manner and I don’t feel like beating a dead horse. (If you need further proof, look at what 90% of the pro’s use as their paddle of choice. Get your head out of your a** and buy a Werner).

This review is going to be about my switch from a standard diameter shaft to a small diameter shaft. (It is also relatively analytical, so skip to the end if you want the short and sweet version)

I noticed while looking at some of my GoPro videos that, during my forward strokes, my top hand was consistently breaking the center plane of the boat. What I mean by that is, if you look at the picture below, my top (left) hand is a 6-8 inches to the right of the middle of the boat.


In a perfect forward stroke, the top hand should never break the center plane of the boat. Since kayaks are getting wider you can allow yourself some margin of error, but certainly not 6-8 inches. I feel that there is no reason to not strive for the perfect stroke, even though it will never happen.

My reasoning for why I was doing this is, since I paddle a straight shaft (wouldn’t be an issue with a bent shaft), is that I was unconsciously moving my hand placement on the paddle closer together than it should be, to allow my ring and pinky finger to have a little more purchase on the paddle when reaching for a stroke. By moving my hands slightly together, with every stroke, my top hand was breaking the center plane by x amount,  then having to travel that distance (x) back across the center plane of the boat to plant the next stroke.

Marshall reaches for a boof in Slideways on the Big South.

My theory is that, now that I have a small shaft paddle, my ring and pinky finger are able to get more purchase on the paddle shaft. This is because my hands are at the correct (read: wider) position.

This small change should definitely put you on the podium of the North Fork Championship within a year.

Short and Sweet:

In my opinion, Werner has proven themselves to be the leading whitewater paddle manufacturer. The question is not whether to buy a Werner paddle or not, but rather which one to buy. If you are looking to switch up a part of your paddling that you probably haven’t given much thought to, try a small shaft. You won’t regret it.


Words by Marshall McQuillen

2 thoughts on “Smaller Shaft For Efficient Strokes

  1. Dave Stanton

    Hey Ty, thanks for the info on paddle shaft diameter. I have an unrelated question that maybe you can weigh in on, since you are about my size (i’m 5′ 10″, 165 lbs.) AND just paddled Pine Creek and the Numbers this weekend. I’m coming back to paddling after 15 years and can see the Ark as my go-to river. i’m looking at the Mamba Creeker 8.1 or 8.6. I know I fit the spec of the 8.1, but expect to run some beefier flows next spring. Do think the 8.6 is a better bet or will it feel tank-like?

    I actually just missed out on buying the CKS demo Mamba 8.1 which got me to thinking…

    I’ve read the pro’s and cons, just trying to gather some personal opinions.

    Any feedback would be GREATLY appreciated and hope to see you on the river!

    1. Hunter

      Dave, You have likely gotten a boat by now but just in case…I have not paddled the Mamba 8.1, but I have owned an 8.6 for about a year now. I am about 155 lbs and 5’10”. I went with the larger version after talking to a friend of similar size who owned the 8.1. I use a Pure for smaller-volume creeking, but I wanted a bigger, faster boat with edges for Idaho bigwater, overnighters and for higher-volume river-creeking here in California. The 8.6 boat feels bulbous and is incredibly wide and deep. Plan to put a bit of effort into outfitting a big boat to a smaller person. I put an extra seat pad in so that my elbows did not hit the sides when paddling. I velcroed some foam blocks to the hull under my knees which greatly improved my edge control. If you want to zip around, catch eddies and feel snug in your boat on day trips then I would lean towards the smaller 8.1. If you want to blast down river in a tank and occasionally do an overnighter, get the 8.6.

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