Gilman Grips Review

Gilman Grips Review

We met Jeff Gilman this last fall. He brought over some demo oars coupled with his Gilman Grips.

An exciting new grip. Yes, not much development in the oar grip arena the past 100 years. While we have had progress in blade design and shaft improvements we have not had any design innovations in the oar handle. Now we have that in the Gilman Grip.

So we tried them out. Both John and I rowed all day with the Gilman Grip.

And here are the results…

Comfortable while holding the Gilman Grip at rest. I thought that it would make a difference in the space of a day. A spot for your thumb, and intuitive design that allows you know the orientation of the oar at all times. It is not round like all other oar handles so you know where you are at at all times. Some texture on the gip is nice. You can get them with counterbalance or not.

That is where the comfort ends for those who row a drift boat for a living. It really changes your outlook if you sit in the rowers seat daily. It is one thing to occasionally row, but when you row for your mortgage payment, it becomes “real bro.'”.

If you like to crab, or crawl stroke, which is the stroke that moves the boat laterally without changing the attitude of the bow or stern, this is not the grip for you. It hurts your hand if you need to use the entire grip for rowing. It is perfect for the push/pull stroke. Beyond that the design is not conducive for pushing on the end of the grip, which you do while rowing for anglers. When pushing the oar away from the rower, towards the boat, the seam hurts your hand. The flat, or seamless regular grip, does not hinder the crab stroke.

It would be great for rafters who are focussed on going downstream. Guides, recreation rowers, anglers, are interested in keeping the orientation of the boat parallel to the shore so both anglers can fish. When you turn the Gilman Grip and put your palm on the end of the grip, it is uncomfortable.

My personal opinion/Disclaimer: I don’t think this grip was designed for serious fishing rowers. While the grip does make you aware of the blade and its position, the discomfort upon crabbing is not worth the battle/discomfort. They can be heavy creating a counterbalance for those older style heavy shafted oars. We just do not use that type of shaft anymore. The advent of lightweight shafts with some flex and modern blades have replaced the need to have a counterbalance in Missouri River fishing and guiding.

The Gilman Grip, counterbalanced version, comes in at 2 pounds 10 ounces. I am trying to eliminate weight in my rowing program. That is too much for my aging 50 year old rowing arms! Pushing and pulling an additional 3# every stroke? No thanks for me. You can order the Gilman Grip without counterbalance as well.

I would put this grip, unweighted,  on a lightweight shaft for ultimate rafting performance. The shaft that John and I rowed was way too heavy. It would have to be on a modern lightweight shaft for me to row with the grip. And then the benefits would have to outweigh the drawbacks. And they don’t for me personally. The inability to manipulate the grip on your hand is a killer for me. If I weren’t changing the orientation of the grip in my hand while rowing, it would be fine. But using the blunt end of the oar grip while rowing for fishing, and being able to inch my hands around the grip, make the 1.0 grips better for my situation.

I know the other two shops in Craig tested the grips as well. You would have to ask them how they felt for a second opinion. I know that our guides did not respond to the Gilman Grip.

There is some (lots) work pulling out your existing grips and installing the Gilman Grip. The best application would be to order them from an oar manufacturer and not have to go through the battle of replacing your existing grip.

Many oar manufacturers are representing the Gilman Grip and I believe you can order your new oars with the Gilman Grip installed.

Bottom Line

The upshot for us? Not the right product for daily fishing rowing. Designed more for the non-fishing segment. Or for those who do not employ any rowing techniques that require you to use all sides, ends, facets of the grip. If you have to push on the end, the butt of the oar, it is not comfortable at all. IF you have to crawl, pushing the oar towards the bow of the boat, it is uncomfortable. It just is not made for those who push the oar, or crab stroke, or row for fishing on a flat river like ours. Rowing finesse is important for us here. This is a powerful rowing grip more suited for whitewater and beyond.

If you are a whitewater rower, these may be the right grip for you! You can seek them out at a consumer fishing show, online, or at your oar manufacturer of choice.

Gilman Grips Top 10 (from the manufacturer)

1. Dual durometer grip with a glass filled Polypropylene under mold and a high grade TPE overmold

2. TPE gasket to keep water out of the oar shaft

3. Insert molded a10mm grade 12.9 bolt into the Polypropylene undermold for added weight and strength

4. Bi-directional groves in the cylinder for better adhesion to the oar shaft

5. Internal  counter balance option that will come in at just under 3 LBS each

6. Clocking/indexing marks for fine tuning the installation for your rowing style

7. Right and left handed marks on each grip for easy identification

8. Gilman Grips logos in two locations

9. Texture surface of the TPE for a no slip high performance feel

10. Two material two color grip for style and performance.

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