Rowing is a sport that used to be a really hard job! Before the invention
of outboard motors and steamships, there were rowers. Rowers were used to
move huge boats carrying tons of cargo quickly through the water.
|Rowing clubs often have open houses where you can talk to other members
-- and maybe even try rowing for free!|
|Courtesy of: Rolando Rosler|
Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, the need for a rower is gone.
The urge to row, however, is not. Centuries of rowing for necessity have left
us with a great sport.
Rowing is the act of propelling a boat through the water with oars. The
boats rowers use are called shells. They are thin, lightweight crafts designed
to make rowing as easy as possible.
"In order to harness the strong muscles in our legs, the seats slide back
and forth on a track. To get the maximum leverage from the long oars, rowers
face the back of the boat. They drive their legs down towards the bow, move
the oar to the back, and propel the boats forward," says David Garcia, a rower
Regattas involve side-by-side races that vary from 500 metres to 2,000
metres in length. Typically, two boats are involved, with the winner progressing
to the next round and the loser exiting the competition.
"Rowing in teams can be very challenging because every person must be in
exact unison [rowing at the same time] with the other. Good technique and
concentration are essential," says Karleen Harris.
The whole body is used in rowing. Legs, backs and arms are used to propel
the boat forward. While the boat is moving, the rower has to prepare for another
Probably the most difficult part of rowing is the technique. Rowing requires
careful body positioning. At first it's very uncomfortable and difficult to
keep the right position.
There are two main types of rowing -- sweep rowing and sculling:
- In sweep rowing, each rower controls one oar and paddles on one side of
the boat. Sweep boats have between two and eight rowers powering them. Sometimes
these rowing teams also include a coxswain, the person who steers the boat
by controlling a rudder and keeps the rowers in unison by giving them commands.
- In sculling, each rower uses two oars. There can be one to four scullers
and the boats rarely have a coxswain.
Believe it or not, not all rowing takes place on a lake, ocean or river.
Many cities have indoor rowing clubs where rowers practice and compete in
Ever used a rowing machine? Then you have an idea of what rowing is all
about. Rowing machines are stationary machines that work on pressure to measure
distance. The principles and the technique are the same -- you row as hard
as you can to cover a long distance in a short amount of time.
Rowing can be a very physically demanding sport, but experienced rowers
say it's up to the individual to decide just how hard they want to push themselves.
"Rowing can be as much of a workout as you want it to be. If you compete
on a team then it will kick your butt and put you into the best shape that
you can possibly be in. But there is room in rowing for those who just like
to row," says Harris.
For people who want to row competitively, however, the drive for a personal
best is essential. Experienced rowers say this means being willing to give
100 per cent all the time.
"Not everybody has the dedication necessary for this sport. To learn how
to row requires going to every practice, with 5 a.m. wake-ups several times
a week. You have to try [to push] every workout to its fullest and always
be willing to push yourself as hard as you can," says Garcia.
Rowing clubs at schools or colleges supply rowing shells and oars for their
members. Student rowing organizations are generally free to join, and the
only thing you'll need to bring with you is some basic athletic clothing.
If you want to purchase your own shell, you're looking at a much bigger
investment. The standard cost for a single sculler is between $1,200 and $1,800.
The American Rowing Association estimates there are close to one million
rowers in North America.
Rowing is enjoying increasing popularity in North America these days. Its
high profile in the Olympics has helped college-level teams. As a result,
more paid rowing coaching positions are available to people with a strong
rowing background. People who enjoy rowing may also be well suited to teach
physical education or to a career managing rowing clubs.
One of the best reasons to start rowing is because it's a sport you can
do all your life. "Anyone can row, and I wish more people would," says rower,
"Anyone can do this sport. Ernestine Bayer, the matriarch of women's rowing
in the United States, founded the Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club in the 1930s,"
says Karleen Harris. Bayer was still rowing in her 80s!
Experts say rowing is an easy sport to learn, but a difficult sport to
master. Rowing techniques can be quite difficult, and may seem to get harder
as you continue to practice. Experienced rowers believe this difficulty is
a sign of improvement, and encourage new rowers not to give up when they hit
"The most important advice for someone starting out is to stick with the
sport and not get frustrated. No matter how poor the technique is or how awkward
the body feels, it is important to stick with it and everything will come
together," says David Garcia.
Regardless of whether you want to row competitively, or just for fun, you're
going to need some training. Experts say rowing clubs are the best way to
learn the basics of rowing. They also say that, thanks to the growing popularity
of rowing, these clubs are springing up everywhere.
"Virtually all clubs offer novice programs, where people come in once or
twice per week to learn from an accomplished rower or coach. After a certain
qualification period, people are allowed to row on their own, or may opt to
join with a group of like-minded rowers and form a crew," says Cipolline.
Many clubs rival more expensive fitness clubs in their array of exercise
equipment, rowing machines, weights and training gear. Experienced rowers
suggest calling rowing groups for more information.
United States Rowing Association
Austin Rowing Club
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