History of Sweep and Sculling Oar Handle Surface Treatment:
Durham Boat Company developed the first adjustable length sculls in 1991. In 1992 with the introduction of the first adjustable length sweep oars we had to solve the problem of handle surface treatment to promote grip on the inboard hand while enabling the handle end to turn freely in the outside hand when feathering the oar.
Wood had historically done an adequate job with the ability to vary the surface characteristics by roughening up the inboard surface and leaving the outside smooth. In wet conditions this sometimes became too slippery requiring a tighter grip which resulted in tight forearm muscles at high stroke ratings.
By sanding the outboard surface of the carbon composite handle lightly with 100 grit sandpaper the approximate feel and grip of a traditional wood handle was achieved. This allowed a decent grip and the ability to turn in the outside hand when feathering.
Various grip surfaces over the inboard area of the carbon handle were tried: The first idea tried was to cut off the ends of two rubber sculling grips, using contact cement to promote adhesion to the carbon handle. This approach had limited success because the rubber handles eventually relaxed their grip to the surface of the carbon and would move. Other feedback from sweep rowers was that for many, the use of a scull grip was too coarse a texture to be used on the outboard side of the sweep oar.
The problem in selecting an existing scull grip for use on a sweep handle was that the best existing scull grip surfaces relied on cross hatching or ribbed surfaces to grab the skin. This leads to excessive blistering and tearing, a repetitive cycle that can go on throughout the whole rowing season. Soft rubber compounds like the traditional Stampfli grips rely more on the give of the rubber compound than the cross-hatching. Soft compounds also wear out more quickly and last barely a season. There also was a wide range of opinion among scullers over what surface was best: hard vs. soft, ribbed vs. cross-hatched or smooth.
Next tried was a thermoplastic rubber used on baseball bats, but the application method was difficult and the material would split after a while. Various existing wraps for bicycles, tennis and handball rackets were tried, but difficulty in unraveling, porosity and durability plus being too narrow made them less desirable than wood. PVC foam handles like on ergometers were an inexpensive solution, but were deemed too soft and difficult to keep from slipping.
We than decided to try a wood veneer surface which required a good waterproof adhesive and was difficult to manufacture, but it still was no better than existing wood handles, except the handle weight was reduced considerately over the solid wood handle, resulting in a lightweight oar with the correct balance point.
Final Steps in the evolution of Dreher Row-Wik:
After much research and testing we found we found a Synthetic Suede grip wrap material with a continuous adhesive backing, which we believe is a huge improvement over all the wood and synthetic surfaces we and other oar manufacturers have tried. We think that it has just the right feel and texture that promotes a firm grip without generating excessive wear on the athletes hands. It has excellent grip in wet, humid conditions and provides insulation value from the carbon handle in the cold.
The recommended method of application is on the the inboard side of the sweep handle only. The polished carbon handle makes for the perfect grip on the outboard side. For those who need an outboard grip, the wrap can be used on the outboard side of handle end as well. Although the Synthetic Suede is not very aggressive on the hands, more friction will occur on the outboard hand due to the rotating action of he oar within the hand and thus may result in more wear. Individuals that desire both inboard and outboard coverage, may want to have the wrap divided into two sections on the handle. Then only the outboard section would need re-wrapping if wear occurred.
We tried it on scull handles and some find it superior to any scull grip we have used. We understand that choice of sculling grips is very subjective and feel that this grip wrap compliments the Martinoli and Stämpfli grips that are also offered to our sculling oar customers. As a result of the positive feedback on the Synthetic Suede grip wrap performance on sweep oars as well as feedback from sculler test subjects, we begun offering it as an option on our sculls during the summer or 1997 in six colors (black, blue, red, yellow, purple and gray).
However, our supplier started dropping color option so we began looking for something even better then the Synthetic Suede and after testing many options to see if we would get something better. We actually did find a product, Row-Wik, that comes in four color and is Easy To Wrap, has a little more padded that easier on the hands, has horizontal striations to wick away moisture. In addition, these new grips are easy to clean brush, soap and water and seems to last as long or longer then previous grip wrap. They also work well on both sculls and sweeps.
We also have a product, Over-Grip, that is available in many colors (blue, light blue, pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green). This material is not meant to be an under wrap or grip, but rather used on top of the grip to personal the handle and keep the under grip clean and prolong it life. It is also helpful in making a quick repair on a grip that may have started to deteriorate. Click Here for a video on how easy this grip is to install on sculls over an existing grip.