First time on the water

No, ergs don't yet float, but some of us do, and here's where you get to discuss that other form of rowing.
Post Reply
1k Poster
Posts: 133
Joined: November 3rd, 2018, 12:37 pm

First time on the water

Post by ukaserex » March 12th, 2019, 5:39 am

So...I took a group of folks from the small fitness gym I belong to where the workouts all revolve around the C2 rower, to a rowing lesson in New Orleans this past weekend. It was a small group of 8, and only one had any prior rowing experience on the water.

The experience left me...uncertain. The fitness was there, but the understanding of the terminology was not. Facing the stern, from the bow, and suddenly my left is now starboard, and my right is now port-side. The feathering of the paddle was easy enough to figure out, but when I was in a boat of inexperienced rowers - like me - it seemed like a fair amount of work, and not a great deal of fun. The raising of the paddle handle, and the lowering of it...well, let's just say there was a lot of information overload, at least in those moments in the water.

The instructor was certainly patient - and we were told we all did well, despite gusty winds and a few white caps in the river.

My question: do things ever get smooth enough where people can actually converse and enjoy each other's company, or will there always have to be a vigilant ear out for instruction from the coxswain? I spent 150 minutes in a boat with 7 friends and didn't actually talk to any of them, because we were all so focused on determining what to do.
100M - 16.1 1 Min - 370 500M - 1:25.1 1k - 3:10.2 4:00 - 1216 2k 6:37.0 5k 17:58.8 6k - 21:54.1 30 Min. - 8130 10k - 37:49.7 60:00 - 15604
1/2 Marathon 1:28:44.3 Marathon 2:59:36

215 lbs
53 years old

6k Poster
Posts: 823
Joined: December 13th, 2006, 8:20 pm
Location: Bremerton, WA

Re: First time on the water

Post by Cyclist2 » March 12th, 2019, 12:11 pm

That is perfectly normal. Rowing with 7 other inexperienced people in a tippy boat in rough conditions - be glad you all didn't go swimming!

Just like anything new that requires new and unfamiliar movements, it takes time. Yes, you'll eventually be comfortable, almost anticipate what the cox is going to say, and have fun with your friends. Keep at it!

Great job for being able to get yourself and friends out there in the first place. Well done!
Mark Underwood. Rower first, cyclist too.

Half Marathon Poster
Posts: 2856
Joined: March 18th, 2006, 3:44 am
Location: Trentino Italy

Re: First time on the water

Post by jamesg » March 13th, 2019, 6:37 am

Rowing starts with outings in a tub pair or four with the coach steering. Sweep if possible, since one oar each is easier than two sculls.

Tubs look like a Thames skiff but with slides and short outriggers for longer oars. Once wood, clinker built, today same shape but fibreglass. ... 6c33_b.jpg
08-1940, 183cm, 87kg. Last seen MHR 162, in 2k (2020-05-16) 8.47.5@24

User avatar
Marathon Poster
Posts: 5261
Joined: June 14th, 2014, 9:51 am

Re: First time on the water

Post by jackarabit » March 13th, 2019, 11:47 am

The rental skiffs on the Serpentine in Hyde Park still looked like this in the late sixties. By ‘88 they were gone. The “tub” appellation is understandable from the pov of those who have rowed competitively in extreme shells but they were quite beautiful, strong, light, and servicable examples of the riveted plank on frame build.

There are two types of people in this world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data


User avatar
10k Poster
Posts: 1359
Joined: January 8th, 2010, 2:17 pm
Location: Hopkinton, MA

Re: First time on the water

Post by gregsmith01748 » March 13th, 2019, 2:22 pm


I reply as someone who came to rowing later in life. I took it up in my late 40s after a couple of years on the erg. I can tell you that what you experienced is totally normal, and it gets better very quickly. There are lots of different ways to learn. In my club, we run a learn to row program where we usually plug two learners into the middle of a quad between an experienced stroke and experienced bow. That's how I learned and within a couple of lessons, we had gotten used to the lingo, figured out how to feather the oars and started to enjoy ourselves.

I think there is an apt analogy between rowing and golf. It takes some practice to develop an effective swing and until then, the whole thing is very frustrating. But you reach a point where you have the basic mechanics and then you begin the long process of perfecting them. The thing is, after you are over the initial hump, the process is fun, challenging and happens in an environment that few people get to enjoy the way rowers do.

Of course, rowing is more challenging than golf, because we need to take 72 holes worth of "perfect swings" in a 8 minute period with our heart rates close to our maximums while avoid flipping over the boat or running into anything. (and we don't stop for a beer halfway through).

Anyway, after an initially frustrating outing, I caught the rowing bug hard and I haven't regretted it. Best decision ever.

Age: 55 H: 182cm W: 90Kg

Myopic Squirrel
1k Poster
Posts: 101
Joined: July 4th, 2013, 11:36 pm

Re: First time on the water

Post by Myopic Squirrel » March 13th, 2019, 3:28 pm

uka, think back to any of the first things you learned requiring physical coordination - riding a bike or if you were really lucky, learning to drive with a manual transmission. The learning curve is typically the steepest early on, and decreases with usage. Greg mentioned golf. Practice doesn't make perfect - perfect practice makes perfect (better understood if you saw me play). Your situation was extra challenging by a factor of 7 with all the neophytes. View some of the Youtube non-race sweep & sculling videos (those folks ain't chattin') to see the grace & beauty of rowing - pretty inspirational. Keep at it and I think you'll find it extremely rewarding.
74 M 188 cm 86Kg "If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself." - Mickey Mantle

Post Reply