Frequently Asked Questions


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

Many of our current team members were entirely new to organized athletic activity when they joined us; they didn’t consider themselves athletes, and they had very little experience with fitness. But that is why ROW has developed its curriculum to be highly accessible for all breast cancer patients and survivors, regardless of their current physical conditioning. We begin very slowly to ensure that everyone is able to participate fully; initial practices focus on basic rowing skills, rowing terms and teamwork, and we spend considerable time learning how to row as a team. This approach lets our novices—those who are new to the team—develop important knowledge about rowing, and it helps them build confidence in their abilities.

Are there different types of rowing?

There are two types of rowing—sweep rowing and sculling. In sweep rowing, the most commonly used boats are fours and eights (referring to the number of rowers in the boat), and each rower uses only one oar. In sculling, the rower uses two smaller oars, and the boats are referred to as a single (one rower), a double (two rowers), or a quad (4 rowers). Sweep rowing boats will always include a coxswain, the person who steers and provides functional cues while seated at either end of the boat, but sculling boats do not. ROW practices utilize sweep rowing only, though separate opportunities may be available for sculling.

What parts of the body are most stressed in rowing?

One of the beauties of rowing is that it works most muscle groups of the body—the legs, back and core, arms, shoulders, and even the hands. Although there is no hard impact on the body, like there is with running or most 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 individual donors. We do not charge our members for program access, but all are welcome to give if and when they choose.

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

It will take some time, and that’s okay! Most of the women who join our team arrive without any knowledge of how to row, and everyone learns at different speeds. Working out on the erg initially will build key muscle groups and impart the skills you’ll need to succeed in 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. Many of the women on our team are faced with chronic conditions and injuries as a result of being treated for breast cancer, and it can impair their ability to lift heavy or support weight overhead. We have volunteers on hand at all practices who are available to help carry boats and oars and make practice run smoother. No one is required to do anything they are not comfortable with or physically able to do.

Do I have to race?

ROW team members do not have to compete. Because we are all part of a team, we encourage all of our athletes to either participate in races or to cheer on their teammates—but it is not mandatory to compete or attend regattas.

What if I tip the boat over?

Believe it or not, this is almost impossible to do! The long oars act as outriggers, and they help to 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. Plus, there is always a coaching launch (a small motorboat) following the rowing boat and carrying flotation devices, 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, we strongly suggest dressing in layers; this way, you will be warm enough while getting boats ready to launch, and you will then be able to remove layers as you warm up during practice. Most of our rowers wear spandex shorts or pants and bring a cover-up for when we’re not on the water. Wear socks and easily removable footwear; during water practice, you will leave your shoes on the dock and use the shoes that are attached to the boat.

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

The longest boat (or “shell”) is an eight, which seats eight rowers plus a coxswain; it is around 59 feet long. Shells are made of fiberglass and carbon to reduce weight, maintain stiffness, and handle stress.The heaviest shells weigh around 250 pounds, and they are usually carried by eight people; the lightest shells, which are single sculling shells, weigh 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.