A good grip is mostly responsible for whether you make it around the buoy or not – it's as simple as that. But if your hands are not prepared for the friction, you'll end up with raw, blistered palms. To achieve the ideal callus, here are four things to remember.
1. Moisture maintenance
A callus should match your nail size and feel like Swedish Fish candy; firm, but not hard enough to crack. Corn Huskers Lotion ($4, drugstore.com) actually helps calluses stay in this state. Unlike regular lotion, this nonslippery formula works wonders to provide just enough moisture without over-softening skin. Also, to maintain smooth calluses, invest in several medium-grade emery boards, suggests Rhoni Barton Bischoff, a five-time U.S. Open Women's Overall Champion. But go easy; you don't want to file away valuable dry skin.
2. Duct tape gauntlet
On the water, use duct tape to protect raw skin by wrapping each finger from top to bottom, below the knuckle, then plaster tape around the palm to seal the deal.
3. Callus TLC
Post-set, treat sore calluses with a few ice cubes wrapped in a paper towel for eight to 10 minutes. The chilly compress relieves discomfort without compromising skin toughness, says Bischoff. If you do get blisters, drain the fluid before bed by puncturing a few spots near the edge, keeping the skin intact.
4. Build a stronger grip
At the gym, integrate pull-ups and the rowing machine into your routine. You'll condition important forearm and shoulder muscles, which will help you with your grip, plus you'll maintain thicker skin at the base of each finger.