Do you paddle in gloves?
Wearing gloves on the water is a personal thing. Some people never wear them, but I hate paddling without them. It’s not just the blister protection. A good pair of gloves gives a consistent grip on the paddle. No matter whether my hands are wet or dry, the friction is the same. Recently my gloves have needed an upgrade. I’ve used ½ finger gloves for years. They worked great except the I was getting blisters on the unprotected part of my fingers. I felt a little sad giving up my old comfy pair. They fit like a… well, you know. (Yes, I waited a full paragraph to make that joke. So there!) But it was time for a change.
In my search I discovered the Kokatat Lightweight Gloves, which is a ¾ finger design. They’re a traditional design with a velcro strap over the wrist. Dry, they felt comfortable and they kept my hand in a slightly “fingers curled” position. One thing I missed was a moisture pad above the thumb. My old gloves had them, and they were nice for dabbing sweat out of my eyes. I do wish they came in other colors besides grey/black. What’s so bad about a splash of color? Bright colors may not always be cool, but they help with visibility. Visibility equals safety. Plus, absent-minded paddlers like yours truly can spot them just a little easier.
No matter the color, the function was most important. I tried the gloves out on one of these typical spring days we’ve been having in the northeast: cold, clammy, and windy. The water a balmy 45ºF. I was on my Ghost Board, a trusty but ancient NSP 14’ Race which just loves to throw me in chop. I’ve gotten pretty good at bracing myself to prevent falls, but without a good grip, I was in trouble.
But after fighting the chop for a little while, the gloves weren’t quite meeting my desired expectations. I had less grip than before, if that was possible. But there was also another problem. The lip where my glove ended was pushing into my finger a little. No big deal on a short workout, but that hot spot would blister on a long run. I didn’t remember this happening with my older gloves. I just put them on and they were fine. What was the deal? Did I need to break these gloves in more, or had Kokatat dropped the ball on the design?
It’s always amusing when answers come unexpectedly. On the downwind part of the run, my Ghost Board did what it loves to do — toss me into the drink. (Have I already mentioned the river was 45º? Sorry, just checking.) Thank goodness for wetsuits. I pulled myself back on my board, and it was only after another mile that I remembered my gloves. Why? The grip had improved. That lip had also stopped bothering me. They were broken in! It’s funny how getting them wet solved everything. I normally dip my hands before a paddle, but this time because the water was— okay, I won’t say it — I was keeping dry. My older gloves probably needed the same thing, but I had bought them in summer when it’s fun to get wet.
After using them a few more times, I’ve grown to really like these Kokatat gloves. They have good grip and protect all of me that needs protecting. I do miss that pad above the thumb for wiping your brow. And maybe some new colors? Kokatat has some really pretty dry suits. I suggest they extend the same creativity towards their gloves. Small details aside, these gloves are good protection with a consistent grip. You won’t go wrong with them.