I learned quite a bit about my own big fear after spending 3 hours at an event yesterday called Row For A Day (RFAD). This, in preparation for the month long Learn To Row I signed up for at the Sammamish Rowing Club which starts June 7.
After registration, there was a brief introduction to Rowing terms and parts of the boat. We practiced the Rowing motion on erg machines and went down to the dock.
I lowered myself in an 8 person shell with 4 other novice Rowers. I was shown how to keep my single oar snug to the lock, told Never let go of it under any circumstance, and how to use it to keep the boat balanced. As we pushed off, I noticed the shell wasn’t really that much wider than my hips.
The winds were high. The water was choppy. The bow rowers were having trouble getting us out of the sleugh and onto the lake. I was seat 7, one of the stern pair. For obvious reasons (that I hadn’t clearly understood before), rowers always work in pairs. Because I was paired with an experienced rower and the boat needed more power to prevent it from being blown into the shore, we were called by the coxswain to row.
Not realizing it, I had been preparing myself for this moment. Rowing is, in actuality, a pushing sport – the leg push is the motion that gives a stroke its power. I had been lifting heavy weights in virtually the same way, by pushing my legs really hard. In a boat, all I needed to do was push against the foot plate in the same way I pushed against the floor to lift weight.
Number 8, the rower with his back to me, set the pace. All I had to do was follow, but of course, pushing is not the only movement to master – the water has a way with one’s oar. 1. Left in too long, the oar continues to push its smooth end directly into your ribs (and could potentially break them). I felt the beginnings of several rib-crusher strokes and I quickly learned to avoid them. 2. An oar with too little depth wastes the strong stroke from the legs and throws off your timing, not to mention how it completely off-balances the boat and steers it off course.
Oddly enough, during this whole experience I didn’t feel any gut-wrenching, forehead-sweating fear. Instead, I realized the importance of many transfer-to-life things like
A. Focus on the current stroke – one can’t worry about the last one because you end up with two bad strokes in a row. Or worse, a stack of poor strokes.
Forgive the mistake, learn from it, and focus on now.
B. The boat needs you – you must row when you are needed to row. You can not stop to catch your breath or take a rest. When the coxswain calls you to action, you must take action because the boat will not move forward without all rowers rowing.
Every seat has a role and is necessary. Life is a simplified form of rowing.
You an important contributor – will you be ready when you are called?