Our story begins with my wife and I, long time active residents on the waters of Sarasota, becoming interested in rowing. We looked at racing shells but they were too unstable and fragile to take on the open waters of the bay and gulf. After much research we discovered the LiteSport 2X which appeared to be the perfect balance of recreational, sport and adventure rowing. We purchased the boat, learned to row, and have been thoroughly enjoying the boat ever since. We have discovered that coastal rowing is a fantastic sport enjoyed around the world.
As it turns out coastal rowing, also known as open water rowing, is very popular in Europe and growing in popularity here in the United States. Simply put coastal rowing is done in open waters using boats designed for rougher sea conditions, and involves rowing along a coast line or in rougher inland waters. Coastal rowers often prefer rough water which adds a whole new dimension to the sport. On calm waters, coastal rowing boats make it easier to learn due to the stability and robustness of the equipment. This was very helpful to us as we learned using LiteBoats. As the water gets rougher the excitement these boats provide goes up exponentially. The standard boats are designed for one or two persons, and a rower has a separate oar in each hand. This rowing configuration is known as sculling.
Coastal rowing has been labeled the “mountain biking” or “adventure side” of rowing. While this is definitely part of the appeal, there are extra components to coastal rowing. Additional skills are needed to be able to read tides and currents, and learn to surf the waves. While Olympic style racing shells cannot handle rough waters, boats designed for coastal rowing do very well. They have a sealed hull and open aft deck which lets any water taken over the bow run out the back. The stable design also makes them ideal for exploration and adventure. These boats will take you safely from the quiet back waters all the way out to the ocean and back again.
Rowing is a water sport where you principally use your legs, back, and arms to propel a boat on the surface of the water with oars. The basic equipment consist of a boat set up with a sliding seat that the rower sits on facing the back (stern) of the boat. The rower puts their feet into what is called a “stretcher” which allows the rower to anchor their feet so they can push and pull against the boat. The oars are held by a “rigger” which is typically a metal strut system attached to the boat. Located at the outer ends of the rigger is an “oar lock” which holds each oar. The last basic items are the “oars” which are highly engineered for modern boats. While you can always add accessories, all you need is a life jacket and you are ready to go. All of the LiteBoat LiteSport models use a proven rigger design that quickly attaches and detaches for cleaning and storage.
Rowing is perceived as a discipline reserved for elites who have very high physical and technical levels. That statement has some truth to it, but is not completely accurate. Yes, if you want to row at the top levels of competition your physical and technical skills will have to be top notch. But one of the interesting and rewarding aspects of rowing is, once learned correctly, your technical skills and body mechanics will be the same as those elite rowers. The fundamentals of rowing are not difficult to learn, but it is important to learn correctly and not develop poor form or bad habits in the beginning. The basic movements have been highly refined over the years to help you produce the most power with the least impact on your body. This allows rowers to row long and hard without causing damage to their body. There are excellent instructional articles and videos available on the internet, and one could teach themselves to row based solely on that information. However its so much more fun to work with someone especially the first few times out on the water. Just an hour of instruction will start you off with good technique that will keep you injury free and happily rowing for miles to come. We found it most helpful to have viewed a number of videos on technique and then have an hour of personal instruction from a knowledgeable rower.
If you have ever used a rowing machine, such as the ones found in many local fitness clubs, then you already have some of the technique for rowing on the water. You just need to add the hand movements to turn the blades, know as feathering, and cross the hands as you go through the rowing motion. Take a look at this video to see and hear an excellent demonstration of how to row [Link]. Below is a very basic written description of the rowing movements.
We will start at the position known as the catch or beginning of the drive. Feet strapped in, sliding seat toward the stern, knees together between your arms and close to your chest, arms fully extended straight towards the stern, oars in the water with the blades in the vertical position. Begin the drive by pushing with the legs and rolling forward on the seat until the legs are fully extended, keep the arms straight and have the left hand pass above the right as the arms move forward, when the legs are fully extended pull in with the arms, as your arms near your chest your elbows should be hanging down in a relaxed position so that they will pass closely by your torso as you finish the stroke, as the oars swing through so that the grips point at your sides, lightly press down on the handles and simultaneously rotate the blades flat as they come out of the water. Once the blades are out of the water you begin the recovery. Straighten your arms keeping the left hand over the right, move the grips toward the stern, as the oar handles pass your knees begin rolling on the seat towards the stern, keeping the arms straight and knees together as you roll back bringing your knees back to a position near your chest, just before getting to the position of your next catch turn the blades to vertical, as you stop rolling on the seat drop the blades in the water and begin pushing off for the next drive. Here is a link to a very detailed written explanation complete with diagrams [Link].
The LiteBoat LiteSport series boats are excellent to learn in. The stability keeps you safe and helps build confidence as you learn. You will quickly find yourself searching for open water to adventure in.
Rowing is a wonderful and versatile form of exercise. It is a fantastic full body low impact workout for anyone between the ages of 8 and 88. Coastal rowing allows one to engage in as much or as little exerciser as they wish. Every part of the body and even the mind is engaged as the rowers body goes through the full range of a complete stroke. Even the most relaxing cruise on silent back waters will flex and stretch the rowers body as they glide along. The quiet gliding of the boat combined with the rhythmic strokes of the oars takes ones mind into a most relaxing peaceful state. At the other end of the spectrum a rower who wants to push the limits of exercise and excitement can choose many different ways to push new personal boundaries of speed, distance and rough water capabilities. The range between the two extremes is huge and completely in the hands of the rower as they choose where and when to row. The stability of LiteBoats make them ideal for people in less then perfect shape, and people who experience health or physical related issues. Every rower can seek a level of rowing performance that is beneficial to their mind and body. Here is a great video of a 65 year old gentleman showing the benefits he realizes from rowing a LiteBoat [Link].
These two activities are combined because they share many aspects. The risk of capsizing concerns the general public when they view racing boats. The stability and safety of coastal rowing boats makes them ideal whether you just want to go out and take a nice relaxing row, or your looking to carry some extra gear and explore less traveled waters. The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, running from Boston Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to Brownsville Texas. There are thousands of places to row and explore along the ICW, but you need a boat that is safe and can handle waves, weather and boat traffic. Having a stable coastal rowing boat will allow you to easily take your boat to anywhere you want and have an adventure. LiteBoats are an excellent choice for your adventure. They are light enough to make transportation easy. The sturdy and stable design will keep safe and can carry enough gear for all of your needs.
For those wanting to engage in sanctioned racing there is a FISA racing class for Coastal Rowing [Link]. This form of racing is very popular in Europe and is growing in popularity here in the US. The races can be conducted right from a beach or dock. The racers typically row out and around course markers and back to the finish. There are races for 1X, 2X and 4X boats in various distances, and the always changing water conditions makes it very exciting. The LiteBoat LiteRace series boats meet FISA regulations and are proving to be very fast. The US International Coastal Rowing Regatta was held in Pensacola Florida on November 7, 2015. Here is a great video to see the format and action [Link]. We will be holding our first official race here in Sarasota November of 2019. See Race Info page for specifics.