Cork grip for windsurf booms?

August 21, 2018

Yes, cork grip is an excellent choice for riders who are after long hours of high engagement windsurfing, with plenty of off-the-harness activity.



The story with cork grip may be summarized as follows:

  • it delays fatigue,

  • it requires civil handling 

  • it is easy to repair,

  • its may tailored after personal preferences


Cork grip delays fatigue


The most beneficial contribution of cork grip to windsurfing is that it delays the onset of forearm fatigue. It is comfortable and secure because it is firm and offers traction without irritation. What follows is an effort to describe why firmness and the natural adaptive nature of cork are instrumental to the efficiency of windsurfers' grip.


Holding on to a windsurf boom is not just a matter of muscle contraction mechanics but primarily the result of friction between the skin and the grip. It is very much like the effect of rope being wrapped around a sail winch; the muscles facilitating the mere curling of the fingers around the tube. The rest of the action is taken care by the nature of the interface between flesh and the windsurfing boom.


The skin of our palms features a textural wealth of crevices, valleys and peaks, oriented randomly in order to facilitate traction of hold in all directions. In addition, the skin between the distal palmar crease and the root of the fingers is soft, malleable and eager to wedge itself in the interface with whatever is being held, twisted, pushed or pulled. All that hand palms need to establish a good hold, is the firmness of the object being clenched. Then the naturally designed skin micro texture and folds set anchors in and around the texture of that object. In the absence of firmness, as is the case with soft synthetic foam, the anchors drift, the hand slips, releases and then clenches again to reestablish new anchor points. Palms and fingers go into a repeated milking action of the boom tubes trying to regain grip. Then the wrists start flexing into a false grip and finally the musculature of the forearms fails. For some, this may mean more than an innocent soreness; it may lead to undesirable conditions like trigger finger or carpal tunnel syndrome.


The repeated clenching to failure does not happen with firm substrates such as cork grip. Fingers and palms stay where they are set at, the skin smoothly being sucked by the natural pores of cork. Traction is uniform over the entire contact area and not limited to the areas of highest compression which would lead to blisters. Wet cork provides a level of lubricity to allow skin to settle and spread shear to a larger area. With the stickier of synthetic grips, traction may be too high of a stimulus for skin to handle and the call for relief may lead to another vicious release-clench cycle with the aforementioned outcome. 


This is not to say that cork grip has the effect of baby lotion on hands. Palms will get red with it as well and skin will feel on fire due to the enhanced circulation, but it will grow thicker in time and resist to blistering. Just like a barefoot runner does not grow blisters or even calluses whereas a runner on shoes may enjoy equal shares of both. 



Cork strength and ease of repair


All in all, cork is a bit more sensitive to brutal handling than synthetic grip. Hard or sharp objects can easy tear it to its roots and leave gouges to the bone. Its wounds are hard to conceal due to the lightness and uniformity of its color, especially against the black background of carbon underneath. What is not going to happen with cork grip, though, is the gradual swelling and delamination from the boom's surface and the splitting at the seam.  


Cork is very easy to repair with minimal tools without requiring a full regrip by a specialist. A small gouge may be repaired by the boom's owner to an end effect of aesthetic appeal equal to that of the original make.




Cork's tunability


The texture of cork grip can be tuned to the liking of its owner. It is easy to appoint a silky smooth character or a rougher feel when prescribing the making of cork grip for a windsurfing boom. The general recommendation is that the silky smooth finish is preferred for enhancing comfort. Smooth cork grip appears deceivingly non-tracking when dry, yet when wet it surpasses all competition without ever being abrasive or irritating.






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