row2k Features
Sculling Solutions
Rowing Hack: Foam Rolling to the Water
March 17, 2022
John FX Flynn

This week, we feature a guest hack from Mark Underwood in Bremerton, WA, who hacked up a higher purpose for the humble Foam Roller: helping him launch his single.

Underwood has invented more than a few Rowing Hacks in his quest to keep rowing--including a clever "erging on pool noodles" trick that helps him work on his balance through the winter--so it is no surprise to us that he found not one but two ways to hack with a Foam Roller, and here he is to tell us about them both:

"Here on the west side of Puget Sound, all my rowing is beach launched. If you have your own boat, it is car-topped. So, the questions become, especially for us mature rowers: how to get the boat on and off the ever-taller cars, how to get it into and out of the water without scraping up the hull, and how to do it all without leaving slings or dollies on the beach to get blown away or stolen? The obvious answer is to have a buddy to help, but I row alone quite often. Here’s where the foam roller hacks come in."

Hack # 1: It's a Sling Thing

"With my Maas Aero, I roll it off the roof rack [using his Skateboard Wheel Hack] to the back and wheel it down to the beach on my PVC dolly. I took a 4-foot foam roller and cut it into two halves, then cut a groove into one to fit the hull at the bow. The other I left full size so that the skeg doesn’t contact the ground. I set these on the ground to hold the boat while I remove the dolly, return to the car to store it and grab the oars. After I lift the boat into the water, I secure the foam rollers under bungee cords on the bow deck. They weigh almost nothing and don’t get in the way. I can row anywhere and always have 'slings'!"

Hack #2: The Stern Pad-er

"With my Coffey single, a foam roller gets used slightly differently. I can carry this boat but getting it on and off the car alone is a challenge – a ladder or step stool at the side is, for me at least, dangerous at best. Here I use a 6-inch length of the foam roller with a slot cut into it that I slip over the stern. This allows me to partially slide the boat off the roof rack and set the stern on the ground without damaging it. I can then reposition myself to pick it up to carry it to the water. Once in the water, I remove the 'pad' and stow it in the cockpit."

"Just like Tom Rose’s elevator hack, this one was born out of an aging rower’s desire to keep on rowing as long as possible. Getting the boat to and from, and in and out of, the water is by far the hardest part of the whole process, but the desire to get out to row spawns creativity. These hacks have sure helped me continue rowing without a mobile support crew, hopefully far into the future."

As we say, "Well Hacked"--and thanks for sharing your tricks, Mark.

Are you a single sculler, like Underwood, who just wants to keep rowing and has a Rowing Hack, or several, that gets you out there? 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, too, and we will feature your idea in a future column.

If you enjoy and rely on row2k, we need your help to be able to keep doing all this. Though row2k sometimes looks like a big, outside-funded operation, it mainly runs on enthusiasm and grit. Help us keep it coming, thank you! Learn more.


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12/14/2023  12:18:24 PM
Is there a way that two, high-density, foam rollers could be fitted onto my shell's rowing rigging to serve as stabilizer pontoons to aid in low-cost novice training? Has anyone achieved a hack such as this one?

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