Whitewater Wednesday.  IR’s John Weld, eulogizes his Shogun.

From the gang at Werner Paddles, happy Whitewater Wednesday to you.  Today, we have an awesome piece to share from co-founder/owner of Immersion Research, John Weld.  For many of you younger paddlers out there, you may know of  the IR history for an always innovating product line.  But often times, those that were once in the forefront become the brains behind the business side, the design side, and move into the shadows to allow the new blood do the promotions in the field.   You can say this about John, now happier to spend time on the water with his wife and kids, humble to talk of exploits of the past.  But make no mistake, those that know the John Weld of years past, know of his talent and accomplishments as a boater.  

 

So for him to take the time to write this eulogy of his Werner Paddle's Shogun meant a lot to us.  (To say it again, it truly does John.) This is someone who has founded his business on quality control and reliability.  For him to speak so highly of our paddle is a true honor.  But this is beyond an endorsement.  It was also refreshing to read something written with such meaning, in an English language that we sadly see less of in today's whitewater world.  A language since replaced by the broken, abbreviated tone in which we text to one another.    Below is a photo of John (foreground, bottom right) forging up stream on the Peruvian Amazon, circa 2005.  Enjoy his piece. 

I started kayaking in 1978, so I can say I have used my fair share of paddles. Starting out with flat bladed 90 degree plastic and aluminum Mohawks, I moved on to shovel-weight Norses, and as I took paddling more seriously I accepted the general wisdom of the time that all decent and respectable east coast paddlers should use wood. Preferably a Backlund if you can figure out how to get Keith to make you one. While wood certainly had its charms, I finally switched to composites, willing to trade reliability and aesthetics for the lightweight feel and improved blade design that a glass or carbon paddle offers. That change initiated a long love-hate relationship with my paddles, the hate stemming exclusively from the fact that composites broke. Regularly. If it was a big day on the river, I would still pull out the Backlund because I knew that at least it wouldn't crack, leaving me stranded on the river bank 10 miles from the nearest road. When I did take my composite paddle, I made sure I or someone in the party had a take-apart. 

 

All this time, there was Werner. At first, they were a 'west coast thing' to us bratty kids from the east, and then they slowly became ubiquitous. Almost too obvious a choice for serious whitewater paddlers- indeed, I had never even thought of buying a Werner. This changed in 2004 when I broke yet another blade in the middle of a class V run in West Virginia. The indomitable Daniel DeLavergne set me straight after that. "Stop F@#$ing around. Get a Sho-Gun. It's the best paddle ever made". So I did. At the time, the design was new enough that Daniel was specifically talking about the blade shape (durability was not in question yet)  and he was right. It was, in my humble opinion, the best paddle shape in the world for running rivers. 

 

Well, that paddle finally broke after I did a vicious upstream pry onto a submerged rock- but here's the thing. That happened on October 7, 2016,  12 years after I bought it. And to be sure-I broke that paddle- the paddle did not break itself. 

 

During that time, I used that paddle about 1000 times in locations all over the world and in all kinds of whitewater. Its been carelessly lashed to roof racks, thrown into truck beds, stuffed into float planes, buried in motorized dugout canoes. The paddle was there when I took my first kid on the river when he was 2, and it was with me just 3 weeks ago when that same kid- now 11- ran the Cheat canyon with me in his own kayak. And lest you think I was being easy with my Sho-Gun, think again: I attained the entire lower Yough with that paddle at least 4 times, which is perhaps one of the most punishing things you can do to a paddle (and your friends)

 

It's also worth mentioning that during the same time I cycled through about 7 different boats, and as many PFD's and Helmets. Sometimes because they wore out, sometimes because I was ready for something new.  Never once, though, did I consider changing up paddles. When asked what paddle to get, my answer was always simple:  Stop F@#$ing around. Get a Sho-Gun. Its the best paddle ever made. 

 

So here's the thing. Whitewater is a tough business. I know this first hand. Whitewater paddlers are brutal on their gear and the expectations are high, sometimes insanely high. And manufacturers have to deliver on these expectations day after day, year after year with resources that are commiserate to the size of the sport (limited). As a result, kayak gear companies come and go, get bought up, go out of business. But then there are some that make it for the long haul because they are doing things exactly right. Sure, Werner has been around forever, and they're everywhere. Its easy sometimes to think that they're "too obvious a choice" - as I once thought. But the reality is making great paddles that last a more than a couple of hard seasons is really, truly next to impossible. Making great paddles that last over a decade, however, is nothing short of miraculous. And Werner has been doing exactly that forever. Thats why they're still killing it, and thats why you should just buy a Werner. 

 

So this ends the eulogy for my beloved Sho-Gun. We had a hell of a ride. May you rest in peace, or as close to peace as you can find hanging on the wall of my kids' bedroom. With this letter, I'm attaching my order for a 204 bent shaft carbon Odachi. Left hand control, please, because thats what happens when you learn on flat Mohawks with 90 degree offset.