Q: Will I Fall In When I Row?

A: Yep.

This is why, dear Novice Rower, you row prepared. This means no cotton clothing, no rowing in dangerously cold water, and rowing with coaches who are equipped to rescue you. You should also know how to swim well (treading water for a good period of time is a lovely talent, because you’ll be staying with your boat) and be physically able to lift yourself out of deep water and into a coaching boat. And, at some point, you should intentionally flip a single scull (1x) boat and learn how to get back in. (A resume-worthy accomplishment best attempted in the summertime.)

Like any smart athlete, you take measures to prevent bad outcomes. But falling in shouldn’t take up a lot of your brain space. It’s a rare occurrence that comes about more often in your early rowing days because you are learning proper oar technique. Your first days in a 1x or 2x (single or double sculls) might also lead to spills, since the margin of error in small, narrow boats is…well…small and narrow! However even with great technique, it happens. Usually when you run into something, or it runs into you.

In my 20+ years of rowing, I’ve flipped six times. Four of these were in my first year of rowing. (Three were due to bad technique, and one was a flip test.) Flips #5 and #6 were more interesting, and were after many years of rowing.

Flip # 5 was The Jet Ski Incident. A regatta where I raced didn’t get the proper permits to keep Jet Skis from using the course (yes, really!), and 250 meters from the finish, we were waked and our race was over in epic fashion.

Flip #6 was on my home river in my own 1x. My oar hit a submerged log, tossing me off balance and into the Mighty Mississippi. The college coach who rescued me has my eternal gratitude—I will likely name a pet after him in the future.

So yes, my novice friends, you will likely find yourself falling into the drink someday, but this shouldn’t concern or worry you if you row prepared. It definitely shouldn’t stop you from taking up an oar. You’ll have amazing tales to tell afterward!


photo credit: Keuka Lake via photopin (license)