row2k Features
Dock Hack: The Inflatable Platform Dock
October 7, 2021
John FX Flynn

Well, folks, we did ask last week if anyone had a trick on par with the Kettle Bell Mooring Buoy for launching sans an actual dock, and Rock River sculler Andy Gush came through with a pretty sweet hack all his own: The Inflatable Platform Dock Hack.

A long-time Hack reader, first time Hacker, Gush has cobbled together a unique solution to his water access issues. As he tells it:

"I row recreationally on the Rock River in western Illinois. The water level varies dramatically, which makes launching from the permanent concrete dock difficult or impossible. The water can be 5' below or above the dock level."

"Investing in a proper rowing dock is impractical for me given the ranging water level, required USACE approvals, harsh winter including ice flows, and my own frequency of rowing (not often enough!)."

"Enter the Inflatable Platform Dock Hack! Inflate the platform, secure it to the river edge, and then launch!"

Pretty slick, we have to say--though we might have gone with "Inflatable Float" as a moniker here, but to the Rowing Hack himself go the naming rights, as well as any patents pending.

The platform Gush is using currently is a pretty manageable size--5x8 feet--so it is not hard to inflate or wrestle into position...and doesn't even take up much shore-space.

It is, however, still just an inflatable dock, so Gush cautions that, "the platform is not perfectly stable and launching and docking can be an intense core workout by itself - so save a little energy during the row."

His other tips and tweaks? "I currently use rope to secure the dock, but plan a more secure attachment method for next year to reduce the wobble. With advancements in drop stitch technology, floating platforms have recently become much better. Perhaps other people already use this hack, but it has made rowing much more accessible for me. No more waiting for the perfect water level."

We have to agree: this trick could make lots of flat water easier to get to and, while you can wet-launch a racing shell, even that requires either a boat ramp or a strip of shore that you can easily carry your boat to. On Gush's stretch of the Rock, with the cement bulkheads at a fixed height, that is not an option, but this works well...and some extra core work is a nice bonus that probably doesn't hurt in the boat speed department.

In all events, well-hacked, Andy! While this is not our first inflat-a-hack ever, it certainly does take things to a new level--and would be an easy add to the trunk of any vehicle you might car-top off of.

So, let's just ask the same question we did last week: do you have a trick that helps you get your strokes in spots without the actual rowing infrastructure we typically rely on? If so, share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.

If you have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion, then please send it to us, like Andy did, and we will feature your idea in a future column.

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


Log in to comment
10/13/2021  12:31:55 PM
For the last 2 years I have been using a swim step...

works pretty well but not perfect as the platform can be a bit like surfing.

10/07/2021  11:39:38 PM
Did I miss the brand? I guess just Google “inflatable dock”? Any recommendations or something to look for?

10/08/2021  9:30:51 AM
While I use one sold by American Muscle Docks, there are several manufacturers that make inflatable docks. I think the main things to look for are: -Dimensions: the 5'x8" dock works well for my needs, and with the 8' projection into the river, I can dock and launch without pulling my oars in to avoid hitting the concrete. -Attachment Points: having D-rings or webbed loops to secure to the shore (or an anchor) -Surface: Look for one without too many handles on the walking surface to reduce tripping potential. -Construction: Look for durable materials and dropstitch construction.

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