Our current rowing club has a nice set of equipment, and one thing that has been really useful has been the opportunity to try out a variety of boats and oars. I’ve rowed a bunch of Filippis and Carl Douglas boats; I haven’t particularly enjoyed the singles but that’s more that they don’t fit me than because of any flaw in the boats themselves. I’ve really enjoyed rowing a Sykes single. The oars there are a mix of Concept II and Croker (sadly, none of the CIIs has the black grips I prefer). Each boat has a particular set of oars designated and set for it; the double I’ve gone out in recently has Croker oars. The oars themselves seem OK; I have no complaints about their balance, catch or finish.
But the grips … argh. You can see them here if you scroll down; these particular oars have the medium-sized blue grips, which are a little big for my hands, but that’s not the primary problem. Who ever decided that it was a good idea to have ridges all the way around the grips? And why? Did they not ever look at a human hand, or try rowing with prototypes? I can understand why you might think that having ridges where your fingers grip them would help to keep your hands right at the ends of the handles where they belong. But ridges do not belong anywhere on the part of the grips that hits your palms. After rowing for 5-6 km, if I’m not extremely careful about keeping the oars gripped as loosely as possible, they begin to hit a nerve. Since that’s about my normal halfway poit, it can get pretty excruciating on the way back.
This is partly a size issue; if the grips were smaller or my hands bigger, more of them would be contained in my fingers. On the other hand even for people whom they fit better, a smooth surface on the back side wouldn’t be harmful, and it would increase the utility of the grips in club situations where a variety of rowers use the same oars.