Yes, they aren't inexpensive, but a good quality kevlar canoe costs 9 times as much as one of these, and you get what you pay for. Because of how well our ZREs efficiently and silently slice through the water with almost zero splash and without arm/shoulder fatigue, I have decided to buy a spare Surge Light just in case Zaveral might ever decide to retire. Almost as much fun as paddling with them is when you hand one to someone and then watch the shocked look on their face at holding an 8 1/2 ounce work of art.
I have a Power Surge Light and a Power Surge Medium and they are both in the 8-9 ounce range. If you are moving into this weight range of a paddle for the first time, you will notice an immediate ability to increase your cadence while at the same time reducing fatigue and hugely increasing stamina. Think doubling your mileage with no, or only a tiny fraction of the shoulder pain or stiffness- my experience was to go from 10-15 miles/day using a 21 oz Peter Puddicombe Bent Shaft (beautiful paddle) with shoulder pain while camping, to 20-28 miles/day with little or no discomfort sleeping on the ground- one trip for 12 days straight. And that is with little to no pre-trip training. The paddle slides in and out of the water smoothly and silently, lifting nearly zero water upon exiting. Retaining your strength and comfort allows you to paddle a cleaner stroke, with better technique and less need for concentration.
2 years of both fresh and saltwater use in rivers, the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, through the mangroves and backcountry Everglades and the paddle never ceases to amaze. I have no affiliation with ZRE, yet I honestly and enthusiastically believe you can do no better than to start swinging a ZRE paddle.
All are great paddles. I have nothing bad to say about any of them. My favorite is the Power Surge, for a couple reasons. First, its the lightest. I bought the WW and Rec first. I didnt think that 2.5-3.5 oz would make a difference but it does BIG time. You really notice it on the recovery and switching sides during high cadence paddling (like during a race or just paddling hard). I like the entry with the power surge blade. I cant exactly describe it but it feels just slightly different than ZRE's regular blade. I like it slightly more.
Also, I like that the Power Surge line offers a skinnier blade. I found I like a shorter/skinnier blade which the PS series offers. My shoulders get sore from hard paddling but a skinnier blade limits the amount of force that the paddle can generate. Some people talk about a small blade "slipping" in the water but I have never experienced that, and I'm a strong, athletic, guy in my mid 20's. I have an 8" wide one currently but when I order a new one in a couple years Ill go for a 7.75". Also, I recommend a skinny blade because if you need to go faster the correct way to increase your speed is to increase your cadence with shorter, less powerful strokes. Adding more power to a long stroke just wears you out faster.
The black rec and WW are great paddles too. If you just want a light paddle for a good price go with the Black Rec, carbon grip, factory second (10% off with minimal cosmetic blemishes). That will run you about $210 shipped for a 12oz paddle. Very worth it IMO.
The White water is another $50 for 1oz less. Probably not worth it for most people. Go for the black rec or shell out the big bucks for a light.
I've used one of the 3 for around 200 hours this summer and they show only minimal wear. They take quite a beating. Ive only seen one break. It was during a river race and the guy planted it HARD square on a submerged rock near shore. The shaft broke where the shaft meets the blade. But on the plus side ZRE sells the grip, shaft, or blade alone so you can fix your paddle for half the cost of new. I've heard (second hand) from other racers that you need to be careful with Ultra Light ZRE paddles, but that's the price you pay for a 7oz paddle!
I'm 6'1" and use a 48" in racing canoes (pro boats) or other really low boats. I use a 51" in my solo or in higher/rec/touring canoes like a MNII or aluminum boat. If you are unsure what length to get you can order an un-cut shaft and un-glued grip. Tape the grip on, then paddle with it. If its too long cut off an inch and repeat until it feels right. When you're happy glue in the handle with almost any epoxy. You can put your request in the "Commpents" section of your order or call ZRE directly to place your order. I talked with him (Bob?) when trying to decide which paddle to buy and he was very helpful.
To conclude, if you want to compete, ZRE paddles are THE way to go. Conversely, if you just paddle recreationally and want to spoil yourself the Black Rec is totally worth the money. After casually paddling with my ZRE then switching to a Wenonah Quetico paddle (a nice paddle in its own right) the Wenonah feels like a brick compared to the ZRE. As a Bonus you're supporting a small business here in the USA too!
Zaverel makes several different types of paddles. Each model can come in different weights, blade widths, and shaft lengths depending on needs, and your body size.
While the paddles are made for racing I use mine for casual paddling and find them great. They work well and are reliable with care but are much more fragile than a mohawk plastic paddle, but make up for the inconvienece with a much more plasurable paddle. If it looks like I am going to need a more heavy duty paddle that can take some abuse I bring an extra paddle along, but use this while I can. They are not for prying your way upstream or paddling in shallow water with sharp rocks.
I have let others use the Zaverals (and give a few a way as gifts) and find people have overwhelming satisfaction with them. Some people cannot imagine the nice feel of the paddle and their light weight. Even people who don't like paddling will appreciate the experience more.
The price is high (but not considering the craftsmanship) but will be more than made up for in pure pleasure. When I cannot bring my own canoe I bring my paddles and find even the worst canoes are more fun to paddle with light paddles. Zaveral will also sell blems for a slight reduction in price.