row2k Features
More The Year of the Single 101: Balance (and Flipping), Blade Depth, the Grip, More
July 8, 2020
Charlotte Hollings, Calm Waters Rowing

It's looking more and more likely that if you want to row this year, your best bet is to row a single. And what better time to learn than the middle of the summer when the water and air are warm - you'll be much less nervous about falling in when the water temperature is well above 60, plus you can use this time to figure out how to get back in the boat should you fall out.

We like to say that there are two kinds of single scullers; those who have fallen in and those who will. You can easily find a video on YouTube to help you figure out how getting back in the boat is done, but you'll only truly learn by doing it.

I find getting back in the boat takes similar muscles as getting out of a pool without a ladder or a bottom to jump off of - and tends to be tougher for women in that they generally have less upper body strength than men. It's important that you're safe out there so if you plan to row the single, falling out and getting back in is one of the first skills with which you should become familiar. If you can't get back in, you'll need to know that, too, in order to have an alternative safety strategy.

Balance is your next lesson. No longer will you have anyone else to help set the boat, but the advantage is that whatever you do, you'll know it's you. Play around with your hand heights; move them up and down, feel how the boat reacts and where the hands need to be to keep the boat level. Don't worry about getting the blades off the water, use them to help you balance. (While you may be able to get the blades off the water, if the boats not level, it's not helping you.)

Work the muscle memory of level hands, which is much easier to do with the blades touching the surface. After you've learned the muscle memory of level hands you can gradually start to play around with slightly lower level hands and eventually the blades will become lighter on the water.

During the drive, it's also important to know at what level the hands should be. To figure that out, square and bury the blades, and while keeping the boat level, try to gently rest your hands on the oar handles with as little weight as possible. The blades will float just beneath the water, and that is where you would like them to stay the rest of the stroke.

Chances are they will go deep in the middle of the drive. You can check the waterline on the shaft of the oar to see if they did or not. A quarter of the way up the shaft is fine, but if you see the water line creeping halfway up, you know the blade(s) went too deep.

One of the reasons blades tend to go deep is that, at the crossover point, if your hands are not well positioned, they run the risk of bumping into each other. The tendency is to lift one hand over the other in order to keep the hands from clashing. Even then, as a new sculler, you may find yourself coming off the water with bloody knuckles from the fingernails of your left hand scratching the knuckles of your right hand.

To avoid this, and to avoid going deep, we teach something we call nesting. Instead of stacking your left hand directly on top of the right hand, try offsetting the hands, with the left hand very slightly to the stern of the right. If you are in the correct position, the knuckles of your right hand should brush the heel or palm of your left hand during the crossover, both on the drive and on the recovery.

We accomplish this by sitting slightly offset in the boat, and shifting the torso so that the left shoulder is slightly to the stern of the right shoulder. Maintain this offset throughout the stroke; don't switch back and forth between square shoulders and offset as the hands always want to be offset.

The proper grip will help you find the nesting. If your hands are wrapped too far around the handle, you are more likely to clash your knuckles. If you ease up on the grip so that your wrists are flat on the drive and just the fingers maintain contact with the oar handle, you'll be able to find that point where the knuckles of the right hand brush the heel or palm of the left hand as described above.

I find the grip is most similar to hanging from a pull up bar or holding onto a suitcase, but from a horizontal position. Think of the grip more as a hang or a hook.

The more you row the single, the more comfortable it will become. With good balance, you'll find it much easier to relax and the more you relax, the better the boat will feel. Enjoy!

During these unprecendented times, row2k is working hard to keep rowing coming to you; please help us keeping it coming by supporting our work!


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