As we are now coming into a period of racing I reflected recently on one of my favourite routines. The pre-race cleaning of my oar handle is something that I actually look forward to. About 60min before race time I enjoy taking a walk down to the boat pontoon with wire brush and oar. Feeling the energy of the event is intense and to be able to take some time to absorb the buzz while doing an almost therapeutic process of clean the handle.
I found a few photos from last years world cup in Poznan. Duncan and I take some time to prepare our oars for the racing. While focusing on making the handle just right to ensure an easy hang off the oar is relaxing. I have become very particular about how I like the surface to be and it is one of the many reasons why I have not change from timber handles. We have on occasion tried other grips, but my preference is timber. You could say that the wood is good and to be able to craft it the way you like gives a great sense of intimacy with that connection between hands, oar and water.
The two tools we use are wire brush, timber file/rasp and some times sand paper is handy. Years ago when Mike Mckay for the Oarsome Foursome had a row in the club youth eight that I was in he made some great comments after our row. He spoke about the importance of a clean oar handle to allow a comfortable hook grip that did require tension in the hands to hold the oar. I remember the action he created while standing in the boat bay hold onto an oar. The emphasis he made struck a cord with me and ever since I have taken particular care with my oar handle. What I like is a clean slightly furry handle. It usually takes about 5mins once a week, but on race days I tend to clean prior to each race. This often means that every 6 months I need to get the handle replaced. We try to time the replacement to occur about 4-6 weeks before major events. So this meant aften our National Championships we asked the concept2 oar distributors, Sykes Racing in Geelong to replace them so we could have new handle to use for the trials.
Next week we go into competition again and I know that there will be a number of occasions when I am standing out on the pontoon, taking it all in and enjoying one of the subtle pleasures of preparation to perform.