The Zen 95 is a very light paddle with a premium fiberglass blade and carbon shaft. It is the lightest product we tested. It has a performance adjustment system located in the shaft and this keeps its weight down. The handle on this product is the most comfortable tested and this high performance product is also the most expensive.
Werner Zen 95 Review
Cons: Has only 7.5" of adjustment range
Our Analysis and Test Results
This extremely light paddle has a blade that feels like a feather compared to some others we tested. It's handle is smooth, adjustment system free, solid and comfortable. It is our favorite handle tested. This product has the smallest range of adjustment of 7.5" of all the products tested and it is made for taller paddlers because the adjustment range is between 70" - 77.5".
Ease of Adjustment
The Zen 95 has what is called a performance adjustment system. It is easier to adjust than the LeverLock system found on the BIC SUP products tested and the Vibe. With this system, order to change the paddle height, you press in a stainless steel button on the handle end of the shaft and slide it up or down depending on your height. This simple system keeps the paddle weight down and the absence of moving parts on the handle feels nice and smooth and makes for a comfortable solid grip. If you plan on lending your paddle to friends and family, the downside of this adjustment system is that it only offers 7.5" of adjustment. On the plus side, this system also has less moving parts to wear out.
The Zen 95 is one of the least compact products we tested until you take the two pieces (the handle end and the blade end) of the paddle apart. With both pieces attached the smallest size that it can be is 70". With the two pieces apart the blade end measures 64.5" and the handle piece measures 21". The blade end measurement size is about average and the handle end is the smallest of all the products we tested and this is because it has the shortest adjustment range. The small size of the handle end also aids in keeping the weight down.
The locking mechanism on this product is simple. The only moving part is a stainless steel button located on the handle end of the shaft that you press in and slide up or down to adjust. The shaft end has six adjustment holes that measure 1.5" apart for a distance of 8", for the stainless steel button to slide into. The button slides easily into the adjustment spots without a harsh click and no finger pinching. Once in the adjustment hole, the button stays secure and doesn't accidentally slip out. This simple locking mechanism / adjustment system helps keeps the paddle weight down.
The Zen 95 is a great lightweight product with an exceptionally comfortable handle. This makes it a very nice product to use. The blade cuts through the water easily and effortlessly and its light weight makes it simple to increase your cadence. Throughout our testing however, the majority consensus was that this paddle doesn't move water very efficiently. It takes more paddle strokes to get where you want to go. The beautiful lightweight premium fiberglass blade is just that, beautiful. But, not super effective in moving water. The Werner Vibe, KIALOA Insanity and the Bullet Proof Alloy were much more efficient in moving water. They all weigh more than the Zen 95 though. The Insanity weights one ounce more, the Alloy weighs seven ounces more and the Alloy weighs nine ounces more.
The photograph above shows the differences between the shorter and rounder blade of the Insanity on the left and the longer more rectangular blade of the Zen 95 on the right. Even though the bottom of the blades are lined up, notice the difference of where the blade begins on the Insanity on the left and the Zen 95 on the right. We think the extra inch of width on the Insanity might aid in efficiency regarding moving water effectively.
This is the lightest product we tested. The KIALOA Insanity Adjustable weight just one ounce more but the next contender in line, the BIC SUP Performer CF W weighs six ounces more and the Werner Vibe weighs seven ounces more.
The Zen 95 should do well for lake paddling but for river touring we worry that the slightly delicate blade might get nicked up a bit.
This is the most expensive and lightest product that we tested. It could work very well for those who don't mind stepping up their cadence a bit in order to move water efficiently. This product is intended to be a higher performance product than the others we tested. It's arched blade, dihedral shape and performance adjustment system put it in a little bit of a higher class than some others we tested. We expected it to outperform them and we were a little bit disappointed when it didn't. The Insanity and the Vibe are both contenders that might be worth looking into for the price.
This product comes with a one year warranty.
The Zen 95 is a good all-around lightweight and comfortable paddle. It didn't completely live up to our expectations, but our expectations for it were very high. It did perform well, we loved the handle and the adjustment system is simple. It is one of the longer paddles we tested and has a limited adjustment range of 7.5" but, it does pack down small when disassembled. The Zen 95 also comes in a variety of cool color designs.
— Chris McNamara and Valentine Cullen