How to Spot Wear on Your Oars
Old oars are a fact of life for most clubs. They aren't the most dangerous bits of equipment but they can significantly affect your enjoyment of the sport.
What goes wrong with oars?
- The collar (sleeve) plastic wears into grooves
- The button plastic wears into grooves
- The tip of the spoon splits and delaminates
- Sweep handles get too smooth and too small diameter
- Scull handle rubber grips have holes and thin patches
Why does this matter? Well setting up your boat so that the oars are at the correct pitch and arrive in the water at the intended angle is one of the keys to keeping your boat stable and the oar able to grip the water so you can lever the boat past the point of oar insertion.
You know your pitch is wrong when the oar dives deep, or washes out and won't stay under water. Pitch is affected by numbers 1 and 2 above and also the wear on the oarlocks (gates) as well.
De-lamination is a known problem with carbon fibre oars and sculls – when carbon splits it can form shards and then splinter human skin. I know because my husband has one permanently in his finger – a dark shadow under the skin. Fix this up by flooding the split with epoxy resin. It'll add some weight to the oar but should lengthen its life. Or buy the Concept2 rubber blade tips and get them added to the oar – their ergonomic effectiveness is questionable but it will help cover up a split oar tip!
Now onto repairs
Oars are expensive but replacing the worn parts is cheap. Most oar manufacturers will sell you replacement sleeves and collars and many will fit them as well. Croker and Concept2 epoxy these on and so once worn they have to be prized off the oars. Dreher has a new system that allows you to just unscrew the sleeve and there's no glue (neat eh?).
Handle management is also important because hands are one of the biggest causes of injury through blisters, skin breaks and possibly water-borne infections. Read about how to cope with blisters.
Many oars have replacable handles so you can buy new ones – old wooden oar handles can be roughed up using a wire brush or a saw tip – but remember each time you do this a bit of wood gets lost and the handle diameter reduces. Men find it hard to grip an oar handle that is too small.