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How to Prevent Blisters When Kayaking

Posted by on January 7, 2014

Kayakers, especially folks new to the sport, are very familiar with blisters. Hand blisters typically form on the inside of thumbs, upper palms, and on the padding of fingers. This guide will give a brief insight on your first line of defense against developing blisters on the water.

Proper grip. Your first line of defense against hand blisters is through proper paddling grip. More times than not, I see kayakers gripping their paddle shaft with “white knuckle” strength. Much like little leaguers are taught in batting practice, holding a kayak paddle is more about finesse than strength. Gripping the paddle shaft lightly will reduce friction and heat, allowing more air through your hands during each paddle stroke.

A smooth shaft. A smooth kayak shaft is important to ensure the least amount of friction as possible. The constant sliding of wet, soft palms over the kayak shaft creates a one-way ticket to blistered skin. An easy to reduce friction and sliding on the paddle shaft is through the addition of Yakgrips, soft neoprene pads which fit over the paddle shaft in the hand position. Yakgrips are a great companion for kids and new kayakers who are still learning proper paddle grip and position.

Hands covered. Paddling gloves or pogies are a smart investment for those looking for a way to prevent blisters. Available in various designs, colors, and styles; paddling gloves are great for paddlers of all skill levels. Gloves prevent rubbing and friction on the palms, fingers, and inner thumb areas. In addition, gloves can help keep your hands dry while wicking way excess moisture.

sailing gloves

Word of caution: Be aware of sand! Loose sand can become trapped behind glove fabric which can spell disaster for blisters. Make sure to remove any sand from your gloves prior to hitting the water.

Preparing hotspots. I’m not talking about Wi-Fi here. Hotspots are localized areas of the skin which are prone to inflammation. Some kayakers are more prone than others at developing blisters due to skin sensitivities. If you fall in this category, it may be a smart investment to purchase a preventative pre-bandage such as Moleskin or anti-blister pads.


These can be found at various pharmaceutical shops and outdoor retailers. Look for waterproof or water-resistant variations as you will be using these primarily on the water. In addition, it is best to garnish Moleskin with additional wrappings along with paddling gloves.

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