The real beauty of rowing lies in its nature. The stroke is a rhythmic, never-ending infinite cycle of catch, drive, release, recover. Catch, drive, release, recover. Catch, drive, release, hands out, pivot forward, slide and catch. On and on, stroke after stroke. But the thing is, the stroke is never perfect. That little carrot is always dangling, and presenting new challenges on the path to become a better rower.
Lately that’s been my mode: how can I make this even better? The stroke is never perfect. Each individual brings their own strengths and weakness to a particular boat on a particular day. In the 1x, I have been working on improving the balance using my core and my legs. I have been trying to eliminate the wobble in my knees as I move up the slide, to stay center regardless of what’s going, to carry that port hand a little higher into the catch. I switched into a boat less stable than the boat I’d been using to force myself to emphasize balance. The last day I rowed 1x had a strong head wind–I worked on having a later roll-up and cleaning up my release. Then I bowed a 4x, where the focus changed to matching the stern’s stroke while steering the best course for the boat.
Yesterday I rowed a women’s 8+–probably for the first time in a year, and one of the handful of times I’ve swept in the last 365 days. I didn’t expect perfection, but regardless, in my head it was a constant ticker of what to improve stroke-by-stroke. Push down clean at the release outside arm only, balance with the inside hand, aggressive at the top end, match stroke’s movements, stay center in the boat, legs together. All seeking the best possible stroke on that particular day, new blisters and all.
And that’s just the stroke. Rowing holds more challenges, too. There’s upping the stroke rate–how fast can you go at all before losing boat speed? How fast over 1000m? How far can you go-5000m? Albee Bridge and back? Stickney Bridge and back? Around the island? There’s the myriad of boat configurations: 8+, 4+, 2-, 4x, 2x, 1x. Port and starboard, coxing versus coaching, cross winds, head winds, tail winds, incoming tide and outgoing tide, dolphins, manatees, markers, and bridges. Rental boats, jet skis, trawlers, and yachts. Getting waked, rained on, so humid everything sticks, blisters, and track bites. Each and every day, a new challenge in the quest for the perfect row.
And the challenge is never the same for two people. That’s what makes the sport so dynamic and interesting.
What’s the next challenge?
Rowing the 1x on the square 10 strokes no slapping water. (Current personal best: 4)
Rowing a pair.
Building a strong cardio base.