Split paddles (aka Splits) are kinda like health insurance, you know you SHOULD HAVE IT and the older you get you keep putting it on the long finger. But most importantly when it all goes to hell and your in a spot of bother you'll be up shit creek and really regret not having them.
I'm really tempting fate here in saying that it's been quiet a few years since I last snapped a paddle personally but between then and now I've seen loads others not being so lucky. If you spend any time on Whitewater it is only a matter of time before you or one of your group get separated from their paddle. If there aren't a set of split paddles at hand chances are you will just have gone and ruined loads of peoples day out.
I could pretty much finish right here with you having a laugh at my swim above (exert from a short 'film') and tell you to sell you first born and using the proceeds to buy a set of Werner 4 piece split paddles, it's pretty much accepted that they are the best white water split paddle on the market.
Though to be fair to them currently retailing at €351.00 in my local shop they are not outrageously expensive when you consider the Werner Shogun with a cranked shaft retails for a little over €500. There are lots of models of split paddles available and all to suit a specific price point. Most of the paddlers I've known over the years are always hesitant to invest in a an expensive bit of kit which they hope they will never have to use.
The thing for me is pretty simple, chance are when you or your mates break or lose a paddle things already aren't going to plan! Do you really think breaking out the cheapest of the cheap TNP is going to improve the outlook for the remainder of the day?
Not only are those TNP paddles horrific to use but the weight a bloody tonne and you're going to notice them in the back of your boat when hauling it about. In fact I'd struggle to think of any situation where I could recommend anyone to buy those TNP paddles. The only people I have known to buy them are people who before an instructor or skills assessment realise that they are required to have an emergence paddle as part of their kit and they run out and buy the cheapest thing they can put their hand on.
I've heard stories of an infamous Irish instructor making people ditch their 1st choice paddle and start assessments using their cheap splits to teach them a lesson. The same person may have made me swim for 45 mins at the bottom of Jackson's falls in Winter while wearing neoprene shorts to teach me the value of dressing for the worse case scenario, it's a lesson that I've never forgotten to this day. What I'm getting at if you are going to invest in a set of splits there is little point in getting something that is just not fit for purpose.
There are a couple of mid range options available if you just don't have the cash for the top offerings from Werner or if you're an instructor who works with groups / kids whom you might be reluctant to give out a top end paddle. The TNP Rapa is passable, with a glass shaft and Nylon blades costing in €150 you could do a whole lot worse.
I'm open to correction on the next one but Werner's ever popular Rio paddle used to be available as a 4 piece split before it was withdrawn from sale and now it's back no the market. I haven't seen the re=released model but no doubt it will be top notch like everything else they do. I can't confirm pricing in Ireland but I'd suspect in our around the €200 mark. Weighing in at a little over 1.2 kg it's not overly heavy to carry with you either.
For years I had a set of home may 4 piece crank splits that I'm pretty sure I never had to use and very thankful as the build quality wasn't great. They had been passed around between friends and friends of friends to be used on assessments to check the box. Somewhere over the years they never came back to me and I was without splits for longer than I should have been.
The obvious choice was the Werner Powerhouse 4 piece split but being a crank shaft user for 17 years or so I just didn't want to get a straight shaft. Now before you say it there are so many reasons why I was wrong and should have just gotten the straight shaft. I opted to take a different route and visited i-canoe for supplies and this is what I came up with.
The shaft is a full carbon Galasport double torque crankshaft, adjustable length and infinite angle, left or right handed, the blades are Double Dutch. While the blades feel different from my Shoguns they are really large and give fantastic purchase in the water, the double torque crankshaft just feels awesome. So much so that I'd actually consider moving my main paddle to a similar set up.
I was happy to give up the convenience and compactness of a 4 piece for a 2 piece crank that felt so good. I'm also in a situation that my whitewater boat is always going to be a large and these fit into my Jackson Kayak Zen with ease. As a bonus I get a bit of enjoyment putting my own paddles together and having the fit just how I want it, that's not for everyone mind you.
Eventually getting around to the moral of the story and continuing with my preferred style of why say something in 100 words when you can stretch it out to over 1000, if I can include some typos and other mistakes that's a bonus. If you are a white water paddler you need to have a split paddle in your boat that's fit for the kind of water you are paddling.
When the day comes when you need a spare paddle all the good intentions or excuses aren't going to help.