Meet Survivors on the ROW® Team


I’ve never been athletic, and I’ve heard rowing is really hard. Is ROW only for competitive athletes?

ROW is designed for breast cancer survivors, regardless of physical conditioning. We begin very slowly to make certain that everyone is able to participate fully. In fact, many ROW participants have never taken part in any type of organized athletic activity before starting to row as adults. Practices focus on basic rowing skills, rowing terms and teamwork, with an emphasis on learning to row as a team. Participants develop knowledge about rowing and build confidence in their abilities. As a result, many participants form strong friendships from the shared experience.

Are there different types of rowing?

There are two types of rowing – sweep rowing and sculling.  In sweep rowing, each rower uses only one oar.  The most commonly used boats are fours and eights, with a coxswain on board to help steer the boat. In sculling, the rower uses two smaller oars.  The boats are referred to as a “single” (one rower), a double (two rowers) or a quad (4 rowers). Sculling boats do not have a coxswain but sweep rowing boats do utilize a coxswain. ROW offers both of these kinds of rowing to its members, but we primarily practice sweep rowing.

What parts of the body are most stressed in rowing?

One of the beauties of rowing is that it exercises most muscle groups of the body—the legs, back and core, arms, shoulders, and hands. Although there is no hard impact on the body, such as in running or contact sports, the lower back is vulnerable in rowing. Proper warm up and stretching can prevent most back injuries, as well as building and maintaining a strong core.

What is the cost for joining ROW?

Recovery on Water (ROW) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is supported through fundraising event, grants, a monthly giving club, our Board of Directors and individuals.  Patients and survivors who join the team can opt to give to ROW but it is not required!

How long will it take until I “get it” ?

It will take some time, and that is more than okay! No one on our team knew how to row before joining, and everyone learns at different speeds. Working out on the erg will build the muscles and skill you’ll need for water practices. It takes a few water practices to grow confident, but you’ll get there! Be patient. What if I can’t lift the boat or have weight on my shoulders? That is not a problem. We have volunteers who are here to help carry boats and make practice run smoother. You are not required to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.

Do I have to race?

ROW team members do not have to compete. We encourage members to participate in races or cheer on their teammates—but it is not mandatory to compete or attend regattas.

What if I tip the boat over?

This is almost impossible to do! The long oars act as outriggers and stabilize the boat. Even though the boat may feel wobbly, you will soon get used to it and learn how to “set” the boat evenly in the water. There is always a coaching launch following the boat carrying flotation, first aid and other safety equipment.

What do I wear for rowing? 

It is important that you wear snug clothing so that nothing gets caught in the sliding seat. When outdoors, dress in layers to provide enough warmth while getting boats ready for launching and then remove layers as you warm up. Wear socks and easily removable footwear. You will leave your shoes on the dock and use the shoes that are attached to the boat. Most of our rowers wear spandex shorts or pants and bring a cover-up for when we’re not on the water.

How long are the boats and what are they made of?

The longest boat (or “shell”) is an “eight” and is around 59 feet long. Shells are made out of fiberglass and carbon to reduce weight, maintain stiffness, and handle stress.The heaviest shell weighs around 250 lbs. and is carried by eight people. The lightest shell- a single- weighs around 35 lbs. and can be carried by one person. Like automobiles, shells are manufactured by many companies with varying methods of construction and materials.


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