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Hand Protection and Maintenance during Long Distance Paddle Race

Submitted by on July 29, 2016 – 4:41 pm
paddler hand after long race

My hand 5 days after finishing the 2016 MR340 Race

After the 2016 MR340 Race, social media and blogs show many pictures of paddlers hands: swollen, covered with blisters and open wounds. See e.g, Joe Mann or Joanne Hamilton-Vale. Scary, disturbing, impressive?

Well, maybe, I don’t paddle hard enough, bur certainly long enough to have some damage to my hands. Usually, I finish MR340 race with one or two insignificant blisters. This year, I ended up without any blisters at all despite that the race was pretty long, tough and sweaty for me.

During last years I paddled Sea Wind canoe and used exclusively a single blade paddle. A kayak paddle is less forgiving for your hands. I finished the MR340 three times using double blade paddle (Spencer Xtream, Thunderbold and JKK Supernova) with somewhat less happy hands. I am always trying to apply a light grip and keep my hands as much open as possible.

I have developed some calluses on my palms, but this year I didn’t paddle very much before the race – just 1 to 2 hours twice a week and nothing longer than 8 miles.

My main concern is sun protection, so I am using light, fingerless gloves. This way, I have to apply sunblock only on fingers not covered by gloves. I am not really sure if gloves help to prevent blisters, especially, that my hands are often wet from my splashing myself. In longer races, like Watertribe Everglades Challenge, I used to have problems with numb fingers after the race. I believe that gloves help to reduce that problem by spreading pressure from a paddle grip more evenly on a palm surface.

There are many styles of sun and blister protection gloves available, you can check, e.g., NRS website. This year I used very thin Outdoor Research Spectrum Sun Gloves. Previously, I paddled with thicker gloves similar to NRS boater’s gloves.

On the morning of the second day I did what I really should do before the race – applied hydropel to my hands. Hydropel is not available any more. I still have some supply from 10 years ago when I was racing in Texas Water Safari. Do you know any good substitute?

I also carry a hand cream and some vitamin E capsules for emergency treatment of my hands. It was not necessary this year.

Could you share your tips and experience for keeping your hands happy and in workable condition during endurance paddling racing?

Related posts:
Hot and Long 2016 Missouri River 340 – Race Report

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