There two reasons to take oar maintenance action now and get your oars ready to row
First, you need oars to row.
Second, for most of us the oars have been sitting—high and dry.
And that means it’s the perfect time to give them the love they deserve.
There are two hoaxes about oar maintenance
The first hoax 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 under perform when not cared for.
And the second hoax 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.
Like a puppy waiting at the door for a walk your oars are waiting for you
Let’s give your oars the attention they need. Let’s start with an inspection.
(A word of caution here—most of today’s oars are made of materials which could splinter if damaged, and those splinters can be very nasty to hands. Be careful.)
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 oar’s handles need to be disinfected and cleaned.
Sleeves and collars hardly ever get love
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.
Don’t worry about the specific placement of the collar right now—you can adjust that easily later when you have selected your rigging numbers.
Inspect the shaft
The shaft starts at the handle, runs under the sleeve and connects to the spoon. It’s long and is critical to the oar’s function. And it also suffers a lot of abuse.
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.
Don’t ignore the blades
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.
What’s that I hear?
Now wiggle the oars—hear any water sloshing inside? If so, you’ve got a leak.
It might be from a crack or dent you’ve found. Or if you didn’t find any then the water in the oar is telling you that there is one. Look again.
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 reach out to the manufacturer if you’re stuck.
Sort 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. You can find Concept 2’s info here and info about Croker oars here.
Action Steps: Taking care of your oars
- Put oars on saw horses
- Secure adjustable oar handle fasteners
- Clean and disinfect oar handles
- Inspect selves and collars
- Inspect oar shaft
- Inspect blades
- Drain any water that may be in oar
- Label oars that need repair
- Identify and label good oars
- Return good oars to rack
- Contact manufacturer for oar repair instruction if needed
Work now play later
Investing time and effort into oar maintenance today will help you have less hassles later, and better rowing tomorrow.