Paddlers fall into two gear camps: Those that obsess over every item, seeking golden bits of information to gain any sliver of performance on the water or an extra year of longevity in the garage; and those that could care less and just want to paddle that board now, factory fins and all. Wherever you fall on the gear-geek spectrum, understanding the basics of optimizing and maintaining your hard-earned equipment will take you a long way. We reached out to our top contributors and athletes to gather some hacks, tips and tricks to maximize both the performance and the lifespan of your gear. 

This article is part of a series of tips and tricks for picking the right gear and maintaining it for the long haul, originally published in our 2018 Gear Guide, available in digital and print here!

Yes, that is a PVC handle. No, I don't want a higher performance grip.

This one works. It cost me 76 cents. Could I have driven half an hour to an actual paddlesports store to buy a proper replacement? Probably. Could a shop professional with the proper tools and equipment have saved me from what became half a ham-fisted day? Perhaps. But that's no fun. And it's no way to form a kinship with your most important piece of gear.

After cracking and losing the temporary handle on a 2009 Werner Nitro prototype, I had a problem. The simple solution was at my corner hardware store in the bin of pipefittings. With a wooden dowel section sawed and then sanded down to fit in the empty tube top, I screwed on the threaded end of the PVC Tee section and slathered it all in two-part epoxy.

I used this paddle for the next eight years. Downwind, surf, river, through countless beatings, breathless miles and unspeakable treatment by rocky whitewater runs and salty airline baggage handlers alike.

When anyone asks me for gear recommendations, the answer is always the same simple truth: Get the gear that you will use. My Cro-Magnon handle-badge of honor taught me a corollary lesson: Keep the stuff that works for you. If it breaks, fix it.

After nearly a decade of abuse, the paddle finally broke. The wave was too big, my talent too small. I emerged dazed with half a blade. In that moment, my next thought went to the handle. The PVC remained. Licking my wounds on shore, I vowed to never throw away or replace the proto-paddle. It sits, patiently awaiting the next inspired solution for the other end. –DS

Other Gear Hacks

How to transport a big board with a little car.

Finding the right fins.

Choosing the right leash.