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Subcontinental Rowing Technique
by Verena Loch
posted on August 10, 2002

I'm one of those who are watching from far away. I thought I'd be out of the sport for too long to enjoy reading the news about collegiate races, and I thought I'd get to a point when I might forget about everything. As it turned out, despite my shaky internet connection, I check back with this website pretty much every second day to read the updates and to follow up rankings and results.

Last fall, I started a job in Mumbai, India (Bombay, ed.). As I usually do when I shift to new places, I searched the area for rowing clubs. Due to its peninsular character, Mumbai is surrounded by plenty of water. However, the ocean is heavily polluted and so are the canals in the city. All other lakes are full of crocodiles. The frustrating final result of my investigation was that the next rowable water is a six and a half hour drive away.

It took me a while, but I found a gym with a brand new Concept II ergometer, and I felt as though this would help me get over my year off the water. I sat down on the erg and pulled the foot stretches tight. I felt the excitement of getting back to a place that is full of childhood memories when I lifted up the handle and started kicking, pulling my first few strokes really hard with my eyes closed, so that the cooling air on my body might raise the illusion of wind outside on the river - "Excuse me, Ma'm!", I was harshly interrupted. I looked up to a small man with thick muscles on his arms and chest, yet very skinny legs. "Yes?", I asked back, "Can I help you, Sir?"- "No, Mam. But if you please, I have to tell you that what you're doing is not corrrreckt." It took me a while to understand what he was trying to say. I got up and let him take a seat on the erg. He got onto it and rowed a couple of strokes, keeping his upper body straight up and completely omitting any leaning back at the final stroke. The whole thing looked very short, stiff and powerless. I tried again myself, keeping my back as stiff as possible, but he went on telling me that I was about to ruin my back if I kept doing that. I explained to him, that I had done this before on the water, and that according to my experience, it was indeed part of the rowing stroke to lean back a bit in the end. He responded that this rowing simulator had nothing to do with rowing on water, and that it was only supposed to warm up the body before doing weights, and to cool it down afterwards, in case I didn't like the stationery bike. A short discussion followed at the end of which I got kicked out of the gym. The man turned out to be the "physical instructor" of this gym, and since I hadn't held back my personal opinion about him on top of what I thought was just a lack of technical understanding, the guards received strict order to keep me out of the gym for as long as I shall live.

I've put this behind me. I just returned from a trip to Europe with blisters on my hands and callus on my buttocks. I use the memory of European spring to take my thoughts back onto the water whenever I run along the polluted streets.

I hope that all of you enjoy the water as much as I do when I close my eyes and try to let my thoughts catch early and drive fast, looking forward to the day when I'll be back there- just another four months to go…