Giving rowing a go
It was fortunate I grabbed my sweater from my closet before heading out on the evening of Sunday, July 5.
When on the road or visiting a different town for work, dressing in layers or having extra clothing handy is always a good idea. I also keep a jacket in my truck in case it gets cold.
On this particular evening at Lady Lake — site of the historic Harbour Grace Regatta — the sun was hidden behind the clouds and the 18 C temperatures from earlier in the day had cooled down drastically.
A handful of kids were preparing to get into a racing shell for a row on the lake by running around to keep warm. A few brave ones waiting for their mother were swimming and catching little fish near the shore.
I stood at the railing that acts as a safety barricade beside the water. I had on a tank top, a zipup hoodie, a pair of capris and my sneakers. This was going to be my first time rowing.
Coxswain Amy Durnford agreed to take me out with her six-woman crew so I could see and feel what a rower experiences on the water.
“I got this,” I kept saying over and over.
I used to be a competitive swimmer, so the water didn’t bother me. If I can use a rowing machine at the gym, how hard could this be? The answer? Very. I am a self-proclaimed clumsy person, but I have great balance. Because of this, my co-ordination is sometimes a little wonky, and that’s the number one necessity as a rower.
Putting on my fingerless gloves to grip the oar, I climbed into the middle of the boat to assume a stroke position — with the help of Amy of course. I had no idea what to expect at this point.
“Just pull the strap around your feet as tight as it will go,” Amy told me.
The other members of crew included Barbara Ann Crane, Melissa Bursey, Tracy Seymour, Lori Reynolds and Lisa Neville. Cassandra Bartlett was nice enough to give up her seat for the evening.
“OK, I got this,” I repeated one final time.
Once we were situated in the shell, we lightly pushed off the floating wharf. This was it. I was going to start rowing, but not without a few warnings first.
“You will lose your oar,” Amy warned me. And she was right.
There’s a method to rowing, an art really. It’s steady, consistent and can be beautiful. But not the way I did it.
After a few strokes, we paused to get reorganized. Over my right shoulder was a group of young girls. They couldn’t have been more than 10 years old and they were rowing in perfect unison.
“Way to make me look bad, kids,” I laughed, making fun of myself to Amy’s crew.
But everyone was encouraging. Amy said the proper technique for pulling the oar through the water was to not go too deep. The force is what made me lose my oar the first, second and third time. But everyone kept pushing on.
It was physically draining, using every part of my body and mind to row. It’s not an easy sport, although many of the teams that participate in the regattas each year make it look simple.
If I hadn’t been keeping fit and active since January, I likely wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.
During the last few strokes on the water, I began to get my rhythm. This was the point I no longer needed that sweater.
Being in my job, I often get the opportunity to take part in certain activities many others don’t — like the time earlier this year I took a ride on a garbage truck. But rowing is something anyone can take part in, and I might try to join a team next year.
Even though it was exhausting and difficult, I am excited about the possibility of doing it again.
But the highlight of the sport from my perspective is not the amazing workout, the competition or heading out on the lake. The greatest part is the feeling of sportsmanship and comradery from everyone involved. From the crews and the coxswains, to those on shore watching, everyone plays a part, and everyone supports one another.
Thank you Amy and your crew for taking me out on the water, and for letting me experience the amazing sport of rowing. Now go get ‘em on July 25th.
Amy Durnford (far right) is the coxswain of two crews at Lady Lake this year. She invited Compass reporter Melissa Jenkins to try her hand at rowing. Members of the team are, from left, Lisa Neville, Lori Reynolds, Tracy Seymour, stand-in Melissa Jenkins, Melissa Bursey and Barbara Ann Crane. Missing from photo are Cassandra Bartlett and Georgina Adams.
Compass reporter Melissa Jenkins went for a row on Lady Lake with a crew that will be competing in the Harbour Grace Regatta on July 25.