One of the great things about stand up paddling is how low impact it is. There’s no knee damage from running on concrete or concussions from head impacts. Even falling is typically no big deal. You land in the water and then you are wet. No bruises, cuts, or ouch. However, there is one part of your your body which might need real protection, especially if you paddle a lot. A part of your body which gets worked the most. No, I don’t mean your shoulders or your legs or that mushy core area — that probably should get worked the most! I mean your hands.
Why Wear Paddling Gloves?
In a normal paddle, your hands are the only part of your body subject to friction. They grip the handle as well as slide up and down the shaft hundreds or thousands of times during a normal paddle. (Sound a bit naughty, doesn’t it.) After a while, there’s no escaping blisters. They happen to everyone and are no fun at all. The best solution for this is easy: paddling gloves. A well designed pair of paddling gloves will prevent most blisters. If you’re serious about paddling, invest in them. Your hands will thank you.
Gloves offer other benefits besides hand protection. A well-designed glove with provide you with a “consistent feel”. In detail, your bare hands are going to move along the paddle shaft differently whether they are wet or dry, and getting your hands wet on a SUP is pretty much unavoidable. There’s less friction when they’re wet, obviously, and your hands will slide easier. That’s going to affect your stroke. This may not seem like a big deal, but as your develop a consistent paddle rhythm, wet hands can throw you off your game. A good pair of paddling gloves will provide similar levels of friction whether your hands are wet or dry.
There are a couple of different styles of paddling gloves: full-fingered gloves or three-quarter fingered gloves. The latter resembles the look of motorcycle gloves. I’ve been using the three-quarters style for years, and they’re great at keeping your hands cool and leaving your fingertips exposed so you can open zippers or untie things, normal activities while you’re paddling. The bad part of this style is that the exposed parts of your fingers are still rubbing against your paddle. They will blister. Full gloves take away some fine dexterity but you are protected more.
Make sure you hang your gloves out to dry after you use them. The tendency is to throw them in the back of your car and forget about them. Even if you didn’t fall or get your hands wet that session, your gloves are probably damp from perspiration. Even if your hands don’t sweat, you may have used them to wipe your brow. Unless you’re interested in cultivating a smelly mold garden, rinse then hang your gloves after each use.
If you’re a person who thinks about your clothes a lot, consider that gloves give you a Road Warrior look, and maybe that’s the most important reason of all to wear them! A paddleboard is tiny and vulnerable compared to every other vessel on the water and a pair of gloves projects a don’t-mess-with-me aesthetic. You may be standing on a fragile surfboard, but darn it, those gloves make you look like one tough paddler! Who would dare bother a person who looks ready for fisticuffs? Kidding aside, gloves do project an air of seriousness.
Of course the fashion is really an afterthought. Get the gloves to protect your hands. They’re worth it. Blisters can be awful, especially during a long paddle, and a little less wear and tear is probably good for everybody.