Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Tonight I did something I haven't done in years (about 15 years, actually): I sculled. Sculling is rowing with two oars per person in smaller, lighter boats--with smaller, lighter oars. Sculling boats are singles, doubles and quads. Last year I was sweep rowing--which is done with one oar per person in bigger, heavier boats with bigger heavier oars. Sweep boats come in pairs, fours and eights.

In my rowing history, I learned to scull first. My mom had an "ocean" shell, which is about as wide as a canoe and very stable. Racing shells are narrower and harder to balance, but I've rowed in those too.

A couple of years after I graduated from college, I decided to take a rowing class. It never occurred to me to do anything other than sculling. It had been years since I rowed my mother's boat and I'd never been coached, but I knew the basics. They put us out in wherrys (the wide type of single shell) and I learned a few things. I particularly learned that I enjoyed rowing in doubles and quads rather than in singles. Soon after, I took a sweep class--and I haven't sculled since. Until tonight, that is.

I got to thinking that sculling might make more sense than sweep rowing. I have lingering shoulder pain that I developed from rowing last year. I've exacerbated it from knitting (yes, I know, KNIT LESS). Also, I have not been looking forward to rowing! So weird, since I was so excited about it last year.

One reason I didn't consider sculling before, besides my love of sweep rowing, is that I didn't want to take a beginner class. This year I realized there is an intermediate sculling program. I exchanged a couple of emails with the coach and I went down to try it out today. We got in a quad and rowed around the river for about an hour. It felt good. I remembered more or less what to do and it was fun. Quads are great boats and the one we were in is a beauty. The rower sitting ahead of me was rather inexperienced and most of the coach's efforts were directed at her. She only gave me one comment and I corrected immediately.

The thing I didn't remember about sculling is how might lighter and easier to handle the equipment is--that alone makes things easier on my shoulder. The smaller boats are easier to flip, but quads are very stable.

After we got off the water, the coach (out of ear shot of the rest of us) advised the more inexperienced rower to take the novice sculling class. Later, the coach came to talk to us and I gave her an inquisitive look. She said, "You're fine. I'm not worried about you."

I went on to say how beautiful the boat was that we'd rowed in and she started to glow. "That's the boat we took to Worlds. But it's ok for you all to use it--in a coached environment."

"Of course!" I said.

She said, "But it's a great boat. It's has to be used!"

I think I'll be sculling for now--at least for the spring season. I'll go back to sweep if I get the itch. I'm very encouraged, though, that after all these years, I still know what I'm doing with two oars.

Grateful for: sculling.

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