Devilish Rowing Details, or Sculling For Engineers

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I managed to pick up a used single scull a while back. My son, who had never rowed a single before, essentially got in the thing and rowed it for about 8 kilometers and said “that thing is fun”. That’s it, he gets in the boat and goes. He doesn’t think about it, he just does it.

I, on the other hand, have proven that if I get into that boat on the river I have a statistically significant chance of flipping the boat somewhere during the row. This of course causes the analytic mind to instantly hop into hyper drive and try to figure out what the heck is going on, and it is at this point that the myriad subtleties of sculling start to pop their heads above the surface.

Take the other day for instance. In a prior row I had discovered that I wasn’t pushing down evenly on both feet, and I figured out that this was because I wasn’t getting my heels down properly. Get the heels down and whooosh…the drive phase starts to feel much better. So there I am, happily stomping my heels down on each stroke and what happens? I start to get caught up at the end of the stroke. For some reason I sometimes can’t extract my blade from the water and just to be clear that’s a BAD thing (unless you wanted to go swimming, then it’s just peachy).

So I spend the rest of the row trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing wrong at the finish while simultaneously amusing the other rowers out on the river. That part is actually true, the cox of another boat came by after one such extraction issue and said in a very loud voice “I SAW that” while laughing at me. And here I thought that by going out in a single I would be immune from cox taunts, no such luck.

I finally gave up trying to figure it out and decided to just survive the trip back to the dock. As I was headed that way I accidentally allowed my thumbs to slightly change position on the grip. We’re probably talking less than half an inch here. Suddenly the blades are popping right out of the water. Clean extraction…no problem. All the thinking in the world wasn’t going to get me there, but once I stopped trying so darned hard it just happened.

Not wanting to leave well enough alone I of course analyzed what was going on, and in fact it make sense (trust me, I’ve got it figured out), but that’s not the point. The point is that sometimes we analytic types need to find a way to let go of all of that and somehow find a way to channel that 17 year old who just got in the boat and rowed it for fun without trying to figure it out.

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