With the way that the last two years have been with Covid-19, many people are looking for ways to get outside and exercise to stay healthy. With lots of research pointing to an increased level fitness leading to higher chances of survival, rowing and other sports have been put in the spotlight. Here are a few tips of what to do when getting started when checking out your first boat.
Whether you are an experienced rower or a relative beginner you will want to make sure that you are considering both safety and comfort when looking to buy your first personal rowing shell. This is the same when buying any kayaks, canoes or small boats.
The new carbon fiber racing shells are sleek, quick through the water, easy to tip and highly expensive. Unfortunately they are also very technical to row and extremely unforgiving. I’m not really selling them to you so far am i? Sweep rowing skills do not translate to the single scull version. To explain this in a simpler way, it is quite difficult to go from one oars up to two. You need to allow yourself some time to get used to the new skill. Unless you have a good amount of experience in longer, narrower shells, I would highly recommend purchasing a design that is a bit wider or designed for open water.
There are bountiful options, from Stand Up Paddle Boars (SUP) with rigging, to plastic shells, to carbon fiber elite shells. I would go into your first purchase knowing that this will not be the same shell you use for your whole rowing career.
When you have been blessed with your first purchase, I would recommend going through the process of learning self-rescue. Just in case. We never plan to fall in the water, but it happens. A lot at the start. Whether you have been on the water for days, weeks, months or years, each shell can feel different when it capsizes. You need to know how it feels and what you need to do to re-enter. Choose a suitable area to practise and make sure you know what to do before going out on the water for real.
Where Can I row?
Once you have your boat you need to find a place to use it. Finding a great bit of water can be half of the challenge. The single gives you great flexibility, in that you can choose to row on your own time, you want to make sure the water you are using is safe and easily accessible. Fully research your options before going for your launch. Key questions to ask:
Can you launch straight from the shore?
Is the boat large enough to bring everything you need for the trip?
If there are docks, will the sculls’ rigger fit near it?
Is there access to a rowing club?
If you put your boat on top of your car, can you lift it by yourself?
When a boat is made specifically for open water it is often more flexible in terms of allowing you to row on lakes and the ocean. When a body of water comes at you with challenges, such as waves or debris, you must take into consideration your boats durability and how you would get it fixed if it needed it. If your rowing in salt water, you’ll want to do extra cleaning.
Of course the best way to see if a boat is for you is to take it for a test drive. This may not always be possible, but will go a long way to helping you decide what design is for you. A big factor in choosing your hull design will be making sure that it matches your weight range. This makes sure that your shell sits properly in the water. You do not want to be too high in the water or too low. The majority of new rigging systems will allow you to customise your setup, but you will want to ensure that your basic ranges fit the rigging you have chosen.
The shape of the hull battles with a trade-off between the resistance of wind and water and the stability. Some of the shapes are more similar to bananas whilst other have straight lines. They can also be flat or curvaceous. Although the design differences appear to subtle, they will majorly impact on how the boat turns and rows. It will also change how the boat responds to your strokes.
When it comes to the specific dimensions there are 3 different shell lengths. 26-28 feet, 24 feet and 20 feet. The longer boats often have smaller beams, the width of the boat, this can mean less stability in the water. I would advise you to buy a boat that suits your current abilities. You want to make sure that you are comfortable enough to set yourself a foundation to gain confidence with sculling.
It is unusual for people to be allowed a test row, so you will want to do your own research on the manufacturer. They do build in varying styles. Speak to other rowers about their experiences with their boats and what they have found. Boats are not equal when it comes to speed and comfort. You will need to find out what you desire.
The price for a new or used shell wil vary greatly. You are usually looking at prices between £1500 – £15,000. Then you will need to factor in all of the accessories (slings, boat rack, roof rack, computer, shoes) and oars. Oars can thankfully be brought back to life if you purchase a second hand set. Fresh sleeves, new grips and other updates can do them a world of good.
New or Used Boats?
If you speak to the boat manufacturers directly they will usually give you great advice about how to best setup their shells. If you purchase new you get all of this support. The same can not be said for buying second hand.
It can be a bit of a minefield searching the second hand markets. You never really know who you are dealing with. You can look on websites such as Craig’s List and row2k.com for lots of great offers, but do your research first. It is also worth checking with your local boathouse or rowing team. That way you can meet someone hopefully at their club and get a feel for their first first-hand.
Whatever way you end up in the water this year, be safe and enjoy it!