How to get rowing

Interested in this lake activity? Here's all you need to know to get started



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Next time you’re looking out at a calm lake early in the morning, imagine yourself skimming quickly and silently across the water. If you find the idea appealing, you may be ready to get into a rowing scull. Here’s what to consider before you begin searching for a boat of your own.

Decide what type of boat you want to buy

New, used, or home-built, there are many manufacturers that offer recreational hulls—perfect for beginners—including Alden, Peinert Boat Works, Whitehall Spirit, Maas Boat Company and Rossiter Boats. WinTech and Hudson Boat Works build racing hulls and have built Olympic and national championship winning boats involving a level of engineering not necessary for rookies. Whether you’re in the market for a recreational hull or a racing hull, prices tend to range from about $3,000 upwards to $6,000 and beyond.

Used boats are another great option, most selling for about 25 to 35 per cent less than the price of a new boat, down to $800, depending on the quality of the craft. As with most used items, expect some wear and tear, but look out for damaged hulls as even the smallest nick can affect speed, and make sure that the seat slides easily to prevent injury. Row2k and Rowing Canada’s classifieds pages sell boats directly from the owner, whereas Rowable Classics purchases used boats and, in most cases, refurbishes them for resale.

Consider building your own boat

Wayland Marine and Chesapeake Light Craft both sell kits. These kits usually include the plans and materials to build the hull and are priced from $800 to about $1,400. Other accoutrements such as the rig (the part of the boat with the seat unit and oar locks, which can be customized for physique and type of rowing) and oars, can be purchased separately from their websites or from other rowing companies. Chesapeake also hosts forums with building tips. If you love to build, using a kit may be the ideal combination of cottage activities.

Choosing the best type of oar

Once you’ve purchased a boat and it’s fully rigged and ready to go, you still need the right type of oar. In rowing, there are two oar types, scull and sweep. Most singles are scull oared, meaning that a rower has an oar in each hand and moves each at the same time; in sweep oaring, rowers have one oar, which they hold with both hands. Oars can be expensive, ranging from about $300 to $600. Many boat dealers, such as Alden, Whitehall Spirit, and WinTech, sell oars, and some used boats are sold with oars and other rowing accessories included.

Water safety

While Olympic rowers don’t wear lifejackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs), it doesn’t mean that you are exempt. While competing or training for a competition, rowers aren’t required to wear lifejackets or PFDs because a safety vessel with the necessary equipment on board supervises nearby from the water. Safety should always be a concern, especially when you are alone on the lake. Look at the Canadian government guidelines for more information.

Lastly, consider taking a few lessons from your local rowing club. There are clubs throughout cottage country with weekend classes as well as accelerated classes for those who aren’t always in the area. You can also find rowing resources on Rowing Canada, US Rowing, and World Rowing.

This article was originally published on June 30, 2010

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