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Submitted: 08-28-2008 by WaterBird

This review is of the Werner Athena straight-shaft paddle.
Blade size: 15 cm x 48 cm
Weight: 22 oz. (for 220 cm)
Material: carbon shaft and blades, with foam core
Price: $380

The Werner Athena is a specialty paddle that will suit a small number of paddlers. Consider it if you:

  1. Can afford it.
  2. Are a woman.
  3. Have shoulder arthritis that causes joint pain.
  4. Are not that strong, especially due to arthritis.
  5. Are a low-angle paddler.
  6. Do enough kayaking to justify the price.
  7. Have a good kayak that would pair well with a high-end paddle.
I fit all of the above criteria except #1. Iím poor, but kayaking is very important to me. Iíve had extreme shoulder pain due to arthritis for several years and was about to give up kayaking. This year I bit the bullet and got a lightweight (44 lbs) kayak and the Athena. I also learned to paddle properly, with the torso rather than shoulder movement. My pain has been reduced by about 75%. Though the price caused me quite a bit of anxiety, I have not regretted my purchase: the Athena performs exactly as promised by Werner.

The Athena is the lightest paddle I know of. Three factors contribute to its light weight and ease of use:

  1. The carbon, of course. Carbon is stiff, so maximum energy is transferred from you to the paddle to the water, as opposed to that floppy nylon paddle youíre using now.
  2. The blades are smaller. This means that you wonít go as far with each stroke, but each stroke will be easier. In the course of a long day you will take many more strokes than with a regular-size paddle. But these will be easy pain-free strokes! The net result is that you will be less tired and have less pain than with the paddle youíre using currently.
  3. The foam core. At the end of a stroke the paddle rises to the surface by itself, requiring less energy to lift it out of the water.
I demoed the Werner Camano and rejected it because itís very noisy due to the shape. It made a disagreeable PLOUK with each stroke as it entered the water. The Athena is very quiet.
I demoed lots of other paddles. The Aquabound carbon Stingray is pretty good, at $190. I have one and like it as a spare. It weighs 27 oz. Yes, the 5-oz. difference between the Athena and the Stingray really is significant if youíre on the weak side and have joint problems. But is the Athena really worth $200 more than the Stingray? Certainly not if you donít need a superlight paddle. If you do, then you will be a lot happier with the Athena.

In short, after demoing other brands and models, the Werner Athena was the immediate winner above all others. You feel the difference with the first two strokesó-it is feather light, stiff, quiet, and smooth. It just feels like a dream to paddle a light kayak with the Athena. Even an inexperienced paddler will feel the difference immediatelyóitís like night and day.

The ferrule is fine, no problems. So I have to give the Athena a 10. There isnít a single thing wrong with it ó except the outrageous price.

If youíre not yet convinced that an good paddle is a necessity for anything more than casual kayaking, please demo some high-end models, of any brand. Youíll never go back to your $50 clunker. Then write a letter to Werner and ask why their fine paddles are so expensive.

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