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Now Is The Perfect Time For Oar Maintenance
May 24, 2020
Mike Davenport,

Following is another excerpt from Mike Davenport's posts designed to help rowing folks make the most of this downtime in the sport; read the full article at Now Is The Perfect Time For Oar Maintenance.

There are two myths about oar maintenance:

The first goes something like this: "Rowing oars are indestructible. You can run over them with a tank and they'll just keep on rowing."

Nope, they're not and nope, they won't. They age and they break. And they can drastically underperform when not cared for.

The second is "rowing oars need more love and care than a parrot" (and if you've ever had a parrot you know what I'm talking about). Again, nope.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. The fact of the matter is that your rowing oars ARE tough, but they DO need love. You do need to invest in oar maintenance.

Start with an Inspection
Take a set of oars out of the rack and put them on two saw horses.

Go through each handle, regardless of wood or synthetic. First, you are looking for dings, rips, and areas that could be unkind to a hand. Use a non-permanent marker to circle any spot that needs attention.

Second, if you have adjustable handles check the fasteners— make sure they are secure.

Third, it's a safe bet that your oars handles need to be disinfected and cleaned.

Now move on to the sleeve and collar. These are sneaky areas because they get the most wear-and-tear of all rowing equipment - second only to the wheels on the seats.

Look for areas that are worn or cracked. They will need to be replaced.

Look at the shaft for ding, dents, or breaks in the material. These are signs of damage which can weaken the strength of the oar. Also look for signs of photodegradation—signs that ultraviolet rays are weakening the integrity of the oar. If you see this it is a sign that the oar should be on your replacement list.

On to the blades (aka spoons). Physically put your hands on each and every blade. Look for cracks—especially in the tips. Push and squeeze. Those need to be repaired and since the oars are probably dry this might be a great time for those repairs. Marks spots with your marker.

If you have glued tips on the end of the oars (such as vortex tips) are they secure? Look at the edge of the oars for breaks, cracks and splits. Any damaged areas will to be repaired, pronto. A broken oar can bring a practice to a screeching halt quickly.

Now wiggle the oars - hear any water sloshing inside? If so, you've got a leak.

Getting the water out of the oar shaft might be a quick fix, such as turning it upside down and letting it drain out if you have an adjustable handle. Or it could be more involved. I suggest a quick call to the manufacturer if you're stuck.

Sort, Label, and Fix
Oars that pass inspection with flying colors go back into the rack. Those needing attention go into a repair pile with a nice little note to receive immediate attention.

This one step - labeling any oar and repair area clearly so that it's obvious it needs to be repaired - is critical. You'd be surprised how many broken items end up back in use before repairs can happen, especially in a multi-human boathouse.

Now you've got a pile of oars in need of love. If you are unsure of how to fix them contact the manufacturer. They are the experts at oar maintenance.

Work now play later
Investing time and effort into oar maintenance today will help you have less hassles later, and better rowing tomorrow.

To learn more about rigging, check out Mike's new book Get Ready To Row: A Rowing Equipment Roadmap To Make Your Next Season Hassle Free - due out this summer, keep an eye at

During these unprecendented times, row2k is working hard to keep rowing coming to you; please help us keeping it coming by supporting our work!


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