A Different Stroke, and First Time Single Sculling


Today I was fortunate enough to row twice! May this be the first of many such days.

Quad Racing Practice

In the morning I went to practice as usual. Our racing quad was incomplete with our stroke seat taking the day off (she’s also training for a half marathon this month). No worries, another woman was willing to stroke for us. She is an experienced rower, and very fast and light – I don’t know what her stroke rate was, but it felt at least 4 strokes per minute higher than we are used to as a team.

As a novice rower I often feel like I’m just hanging by the skin of my teeth to whatever is thrown our way, so when the coaches warned that we would have to adjust to her particular “metronome,” I just thought, “Sure, sure.” Then we got in the boat and my brain went into a tailspin – there were strokes in which I had no time to think about anything else but keeping up with her. But it was fun, and very exciting. I struggle with getting into a rhythm so it was a good challenge, and I was also really trying to work on my squaring of the blade and grip. It was a lot to try and execute on the water with a very different stroke seat. But we weren’t awful. In the last quarter of the practice, I had a light bulb moment regarding finishes which made Coach pretty happy. Whew! I am making progress in something.

We rowed with another quad into Portage Bay and through the Montlake Cut out to the east end of the 520, and saw a blue heron sitting atop the totem pole across from the UW boathouse. Then Coach also spotted one of the bald eagles that lives along the 520 Bridge. Seeing the wildlife and enjoying the beauty of the outdoors is one of the great things about rowing, so that was a treat!


View of lake union and space needle on partly cloudy, partly sunny day.

Looking out onto Lake Union and the Space Needle from the boathouse.



First Time Single Sculling

I returned later in the afternoon to have my single sculling lesson with one of the club coaches. By this time the clouds had partially cleared and the sun was out. At 57 degrees, the air felt very warm. There was a little wind now on the lake but not too much. I was assured that the shell I was taking out was virtually untippable and all I needed to do was relax and row. I had practiced some calming exercises in the clubhouse while waiting for the coach so I felt pretty okay. I was hit with a BIG wake just as I was leaving the dock, it pushed me back into the dock, but a staff member helped me out. I didn’t panic, and it was kind of fun to ride it until I thought I was going to ram into the dock.

Coach guided me out to Portage Bay, which had almost no boat traffic, and I worked on relaxing in the boat and getting used to the feel. Then After watching me straight row for a while, Coach pointed out my biggest errors and gave me advice on keeping that darn starboard oar from diving: keeping my arms straight and hands even as I pulled back during the drive. Nothing I’d not heard before but this time it finally clicked and I made a very big improvement. I was able to ask specific questions about my grip, what was okay and what was not okay. I’d really been trying too hard NOT to grip, which was screwing things up. Again, so much to think about and try to execute, but Coach was patient and encouraging. She is the 5th rowing coach I’ve worked with and I just keep being amazed at how in their own ways, they have all been so helpful to me. It’s nice having the flexibility of being able to learn from different people.

In a single I really felt like I was “out there” in the water, which is a little overwhelming, but at the same time, I enjoyed the responsiveness of the boat and the autonomy. I didn’t feel rushed. I definitely want to get some more time in a single. The benefit of the private lesson was having someone help me with the steering, which can be tricky even if you’re not a novice like I am. Navigation is something I’m going to have to work on if I want to go out in a single with a larger group. For the time being, I hope the work I did this afternoon shows up in tomorrow’s practice.



4 thoughts on “A Different Stroke, and First Time Single Sculling

  1. so exciting. what a gorgeous place to be on the water. sculling always looks like something where you mostly look at the boat, lol. i’m used to kayaking where you can bob around like a duck and look at the scenery!

  2. @ Lori: I think the intensity can vary depending on what you’re doing, usually we stop to look around when we’re not resting. In a single, jerking ones head around can unsteady the boat. Kayaking is definitely more bobby and chill, though there are rowboats (like the Whitehalls) that are basically cruisers. They weigh a ton, tho, unlike kayaks and racing shells which can weigh less than my four year old!

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