paddling technique or normal?

I’m just wondering if I’m doing something wrong when paddling, or if it’s just normal to get some calluses/sore spots on hands? In general, my hands will be a little sore after paddling, but my main problem area seems to be my left hand. I’m getting a callus right where my middle finger meets my hands (I don’t think it’s a blister because there doesn’t appear to be fluid in it). I also feel the start of one on the same hand, middle finger, just below first joint away from hand. (see photo below)

I typically paddle anywhere from 4-8 miles at a time out on Lake Erie and a local river. I tend paddle at a higher angle and have been experimenting with a 30-degree feather. Is this just a normal “toughening up” process? I’ve only rented kayaks up until a few weeks ago when I bought one, and I’ve been paddling like a mad man since then =)

calluses = no more sore spots

– Last Updated: Sep-09-15 4:26 PM EST –

You're toughening up just a little. A friend and I were just comparing the rows of calluses on our hands. Without discussing what they meant, by the conversation, it was obvious we both viewed it as those with the toughest calluses have been having the best summer. Of course, we both have office jobs these days. In days past, it usually meant a lot of hard work. But now they're mostly the result of paddling fun.
Keep building them up. Tough callused hands are a beautiful thing.

I should add that I believe your thinking is on the right track. Every time you notice some soreness developing of any kind, but especially in wrists and shoulders in kayaking, it's a good idea to evaluate technique. One hand developing calluses could mean your form isn't the same on both sides, and it can be a good idea to try to iron that out. Maybe look at what your upper arm and elbow are doing on each side when you raise the blade from the water during a normal forward stroke - see if you're really symmetrical.

Or you could just be doing more directional control with one hand than the other. Or the skin on one hand is tougher for some other variety of reasons.

Cool, I will keep at it =) I’m not really worried about calluses, I just don’t want blisters that break open.

Your grip is too tight
Loosen your grip. I do a lot of paddling, Just over 1000 miles this year and I have no callouses. Been paddling for nearly 20 years.

Normal - No Worries
You’re lucky that you’re not paddling in the ocean where salt acts like an abrasive and really cuts up your hands. No worries about technique, because as you improve, new sores will pop up elsewhere (new pressure points). Be patient or you can go the fufu route and wear gloves?

As a macho type, I pour a small amount of either olive oil or avocado oil into my hands, dilute it with generous amount of rubbing alcohol, and rub the concoction into my hands. Let it sting, seep in and dry. Doing this will toughen or condition the hands after paddling. You can make up a small batch in a small plastic bottle at a 3:1 ratio of alcohol to oil.

Before paddling, you could lubricate your hands with a small amount of olive oil. Let it soak in, then wipe off any residue so the paddle won’t be too slippery.

second to try loosening your grip
Take a look at the picture at this link: The paddler’s hand that is away from the paddle in the water is pretty much open. Loosening (or even opening) the upper hand while you paddle (keeping a decent grip on the hand closer to the water) will be a way to keep from having too tight a grip.

I wear Buff half-gloves for sun protection and will be transitioning to Glacier Gloves next month. That’s okay. Girls don’t need to be macho. :slight_smile:

e.t. probably is using too tight of a grip as he/she mentioned sore hands. I use a relaxed grip most of the time, but still have a couple of calluses on my left hand.

Also check your paddle shaft…
You may well be gripping the paddle too tightly, but also look at the paddle shaft itself.

My current Werner Cyprus has a very smooth paddle shaft that doesn’t abrade my hands at all. My spare Aquabound Stingray Carbon is much rougher.

I always get wear between my thumb and
the palm… It develops a thick skin over time.

And the shaft in that hand is constantly rotating and I hold it by just thumb and pinkie.

My paddles however are over 20 years old and no doubt some pitted from salt.

Soreness in hands
More of a concern than the callous(s). Callouses will happen if you don’t use gloves. FWIW, I have found that for the short finger ones I prefer rigging gloves (like for sailing) from places like West Marine. The have slightly longer fingers to protect knuckles than normal paddling gloves, last longer and cost about the same.

The sore hands are a different matter. I don’t have particularly strong hands or wrists, and if I am doing things right my hands are never sore even after a long layup. My wrists can be which I take a a signal to fix my paddling. In both cases, there just more weight pulling on that paddle than you need. I often find that the best fix is a shorter stroke and a higher cadence. Not bad for your core or aerobic level either.

Have you tried varying your cadence? That will automatically shorten your stroke as you go faster.

Buy some gloves with open fingers; you’ll wonder what took you so long.

Thanks for all the tips. I will try to relax my grip a bit. I also got some bike gloves the other week that seem OK, but I can’t feel the paddle as well and they are very slippery, so I think I’d rather just go bare.

yes and no
My callouses shrink in winter and come back in summer. When I did manual labor I had them always, which was nice. Callouses are a protective adaptation.

But I’d second the idea of loosening your grip. For me it was not so easy to consciously do so in all conditions but where it really makes a difference for me is in wrist soreness.

I like Warmer gloves with the finger ends cut off they have lasted 4 years with a lot of paddling in salt water. I just rinse well and hang dry. Loosen grip as stated above.

More on gloves
I’ve used NRS summer gloves a lot, both the full- and half-fingered variety. They are a big step up from bike gloves because the thick padding on the palms of bike gloves is counterproductive for paddlers. I’ve always been surprised though, that the NRS gloves get quite slippery when wet (NRS being in the business they are, you’d think they’d have found a solution to that problem). I’ve had far better results with mechanic’s gloves. They are nearly as thin as NRS summer gloves, but unlike them, they don’t get slippery when wet.

check out tropical dive gloves
no insulation or padding at all but blister ( or sting) protection.

Sometimes when I can find them I use mine.

Or Try Sears 99 Cents Garden Gloves
Cut off the tips and you’re good to go. Grippy too.


– Last Updated: Sep-13-15 2:21 AM EST –

Little late to the game here since the question of callouses has been addressed, but take it from us guitarists, we deliberately try to build up and take care of the thick callouses we get on our fingertips. Without the callouses, playing the guitar for a long period of time, such as in a band playing a concert, would be an extremely painful and bloody experience.

I've recently picked a guitar back up and before I do much with it, I'm just running through scales on a daily basis to build the callouses back up on my fingertips. With my crappy playing, I'm not bending any strings before building up some fingertip callouses. Heck, when I was playing a lot and a callous was starting to separate, I was stealing a nail emery file from my wife to sand down the edge of the callous so it didn't rip off.

The big rock band guitarists, they could probably knock you out with a finger with the hard tough callouses they probably have on their fingertips.

I’m fairly new to paddling myself…
but have never gotten calluses or blisters. I read a lot in the beginning and watched many videos on paddling technique. The emphasis was on relaxed grip at all phases to avoid injury. I paddle several times a week, 6 to 12 miles each at a good pace for fitness. Mostly paddle with open fingers and have only found myself gripping too much when caught up in chasing a faster boat and forgetting to relax. I don’t use gloves so can’t comment on effectiveness, but I’d try watching lots of videos on YouTube first.