We are often asked what whip we would recommend for a beginner. The huge variety of whip types, materials and lengths often puts people off taking the leap as it can seem impossibly intimidating to work out which is the right whip to start with. Not to mention it can be a costly mistake to end up with a whip that just isn’t suited to you!
So we thought we’d do a little post about our tips for those new to the world of whips:
1) Price – how much can you afford to spend and what are you getting for your money?
While it can be tempting to start off with a £12 whip from Ann Summers because it seems sensible to start with something cheap, you’ll just end up with a useless bit of kit and some poor experiences. The cheap whips that are mass produced (often from reconstituted ‘leather’ fabric or PVC) are not intended for serious impact play or fancy cracking, and they are little more than props for roleplay. They do not move or function as a true singletail whip should.
On the other end of the scale, you have the beautiful (and costly!) kangaroo hide singletails made by the world’s top whipmakers. These creations are true works of art and will give you an experience like no other, but they will also set you back several hundred of your hard earned. A costly mistake indeed if you find yourself with a whip that doesn’t suit your needs! It must also be considered that a top quality ‘roo hide whip can be very easily damaged by inexperienced hands. Many top whipmakers will actually down-sell a newbie to a cheaper whip to use while they are still learning the basics.
So what do we recommend? A mid range whip from a quality whipmaker who can provide you with a synthetic option is a route that is increasingly popular. You want a whip that will perform well and get you into good habits, but that you are not afraid to use because of it’s value. Don’t be afraid to ask around and e-mail the whipmaker to see what they would recommend, and to find out more about their whips!
Tip One: Get a mid-range whip from a professional whipmaker that you can actually talk to!
2) “Wait, what was that about synthetic options? I thought whips were made of leather?”
A synthetic whip is easier to care for than leather and you can get ‘more bang for your buck’ in the sense that you can find a great whip that flies true without the expense of premium ‘roo hide. There used to be a lot of stigma against synthetic whips – they were ‘the new kid on the block’ and many old hands found them hard to get along with. However, as the synthetic whipmaking profession gained experience and synthetic whips became more common, it is now possible to find synthetic whips of excellent quality that can rival a good ‘roo hide whip in terms of performance, and for a fraction of the price!
Synthetic whips are usually made of paracord, a form of kernmantle cord. Kernmantle means the cord has inner strands (the kern) surrounded by a woven outer sheath (the mantle). Paracord is incredibly strong and highly suited for synthetic whipmaking. There are other cords used for synthetic whipmaking, but paracord is the most common. You can read more about the paracord that we use here.
Why spend upwards of £200 on a ‘roo hide that you may well end up damaging when you can get a great starter whip in a highly durable and strong material for less than half the price?
Tip Two: Consider synthetic!
3) Construction – what you want, and what to look out for
While the specifics of how a given whipmaker constructs their whips will vary, there are several tried and tested elements that all great whips have in common.
Firstly, the very centre of the whip is weighted. This may be done in several ways – top quality whips have what is called a ‘shot bag’ which is a tapered leather bag that is then filled with fine lead shot. Other methods include filling paracord strands with shot or steel ball bearings, using strands of leather curtain weight or using lengths of fine ball chain. Different whipmakers have different preferences depending on their skill level, the type of whips they produce and the materials they have access to.
Secondly, the weighted core is then bolstered and bound to give it stability and improve the taper and then covered in what is called a ‘belly’, which is a layer of plaiting over the core. This layer will look a lot like the outer layer of the whip and hence the term ‘a whip within a whip’. This layer of plaiting further builds out the whip and provides yet more taper, while keeping the whip flexible.
Thirdly, the overlay plait is added which is the final layer that you see on the outside of the whip. This plaiting should be tight and neat, with no obvious gaps or twisted/crossed strands. The overlay may have a fancy pattern or may be quite plain – this is purely a matter of preference. What really matters is that the plaiting is smooth and the whip tapers down in a consistent (i.e. not lumpy) way.
Finally, the whip is finished with it’s fall and cracker (if it has them), and usually some knot work for decoration.
There are several things you want to be wary of when buying a whip. Cheaper whips often have little more than some rope or rags to pad out the inside. We recently disassembled an imported leather whip from an unknown source (most likely mass produced from the look of it) and found that under the cheap leather was just string and some hessian sacking! No wonder the whip was so floppy. Speaking of floppy, you don’t want a whip that looks a bit like a dead worm! It should feel firm under the plaiting, not squishy, and shouldn’t feel as though you could crumple it up like a soggy noodle. On the other hand, it needs to be flexible enough that it will curl up in and not just poke out like a stick. And watch out for that plaiting – fancy designs aside, it is smooth and even? Are there lots of obvious gaps? Does the pattern seem to wobble about a lot or is it pleasing and consistent? If you look at the whip (or, if you can, run your hand down it), does it smoothly taper from the pommel to the cracker, or is it lumpy and seems to get thinner and then thicker and then thinner? What about the weight? Is is really light in the hand and feels flyaway? Is it so heavy it seems to wrench your arm when you throw it? A great whip is like an extension of your arm – not too light, not too heavy.
If it doesn’t look or feel right, don’t let anyone pressure you and don’t settle for a whip that seems badly weighted, lumpy and full of gaps just because it’s a bit cheaper than the competition.
Tip Three: Ask about the construction!
4) Length and type – what is the whip for?
First, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your whip. Are you interested in fancy cracking, tricks and stunts? Or do you want to explore the delights of S&M whipping?
If you want to explore fancy cracking, a handled whip is a great place to start. This would generally mean getting either a bull whip or a stock whip. For a beginner, a bull whip is probably the easier option to get to grips with. Length wise, you want something long enough that the action of the whip isn’t too sudden, but short enough that you can focus on learning the cracks rather than focusing on the quirks of a monster whip. For cracking and trick work, a lot of people start with a 6 foot bull whip. We’d recommend anything from 5-8 feet – any shorter and the action gets uncomfortably quick for learning fancy cracks, and any longer and you could end up with a very slow whip that is very intimidating to use!
For these kinds of whips, you really need access to an outdoor space or hall/warehouse to practice.
For learning to play with whips in BDSM, you are better starting with something smaller that you can use indoors and that has a little less power. A 3 or 4 foot snake or signal (no handle) is a common choice to start out, but a 4 foot bull could also work well for you. If you go too short (such as a 3 foot bull or a 2 foot snake), then you’ll end up with a whip that is a bit of a one trick pony and that doesn’t help you learn the basic cracks as well as a slightly longer whip due to how fast it needs to be thrown. A common mistake when learning to crack is trying to ‘snatch’ the whip and this is especially tempting with a short whip. A very short whip is a great thing to have in your kit bag once you’ve got the hang of the basic cracks and are confident using a whip in play.
Tip Four: Think about what you want it for!
So, which of our whips would we recommend for a beginner?
Fancy cracking and tricks – 5 foot bull whip | 6 foot bull whip | 8 foot bull whip
S&M play – 3 foot snake | 4 foot snake | 4 foot bull | 3 foot signal | 4 foot signal
Ask around! Different whipmakers and experienced whip users have their own recommendations and favourites, so don’t be shy to find out what other people think.