Werner has led the paddlesports industry with legendary paddles for 50 years. They’ve repeatedly set a high bar and now raise that bar again with a race inspired whitewater paddle called the Odachi.
Recreational whitewater paddles have put comfort and easy of use among the top of their priority lists and that’s why we see Werner’s “Neutral Bent Shaft” align the shaft, hands and paddle blade in a nice neat line. They also extensively use pronounced dihedrals to make the paddle feel smooth and stable in the water. These features are key ingredients of what makes Werners easy and predictable to use.
Top: Odachi / Bottom: Sho-Gun
But while recreational whitewater focused on comfort and ease of use, a parallel development was happening in Olympic whitewater slalom. Aggressively styled paddle blades now commonly move the blade well ahead of the shaft and hand to maximize the time in which the paddle is in the “power zone” which is between your feet and your hips. After all, slalom races are now routinely under 90 seconds in length, so it’s all about putting the power down when and where you can. So it comes as no surprise that we see some of the best creek racers using slalom paddles (including at this past weeks Adidas Sickline).
Enter the Odachi. Werner have taken the proven concept of a forward reaching blade and added Werners magical touch to create an advanced paddle for the advanced paddler. The Odachi does everything we have come to expect from a full sized Werner with its low swing weight, balance and a smooth, stable feel in the water. The blade has minimal asymmetry which will favor an aggressive high angle paddler and the blade is large by Werner standards at 735cm2, their largest yet.
I’m a paddler that had chosen to use a slalom paddle for creek racing and training in my long boat and I’ve now had a chance to extensively use the Odachi since its launch. I can report that it compares very favorably to a through-bred slalom paddle. The catch is smooth and deliberate with the power being available immediately. The power phase of the forward stroke is smooth and providing you’re exiting early, the exit/recovery of the stroke is also stable and clean. I was using a slalom paddle with an identical surface area to the Odachi but the Werner doesn’t quite feel as powerful. However the Odachi does not wear me down as quickly and as a result I have found that I am fatiguing less and am able to increase my stroke rate a little too. This could mean faster times on the race course. I’ve also had a chance to hand the paddle to several slalom coaches that were impressed by the Odachi’s feel, balance and light swing weight. Bottomline, is that the Odachi is an incredible piece of engineering and Werner have built the ultimate paddle for those looking to raise their game.
As with all paddles of this kind, a little time to adapt was necessary. There are small compromises the Odachi must make in order to deliver this kind of power. You will need to adapt for any stroke that comes behind you and even rolling, but nothing that can’t be adjusted in a few minutes. But again, this is an advanced paddle for an advanced paddler that is looking for an aggressive paddle for moving forwards, racing or training. If you’re on “team downstream,” this could be the paddle for you. And how incredible is it that this type of paddle is now widely available to the recreational market from the Worlds leading paddle manufacturer.
Words and pictures by Chris Hipgrave.
Check out his blog here.