Learn to Scull

The Marin Rowing Association offers individual private lessons in sculling to juniors aged 12 and up. Sculling is rowing in a single shell with two oars, as opposed to sweep rowing, which takes place in a bigger shell (8+ or 4+ person) with one oar per person.

Sculling lessons are offered at all times throughout the year by our sculling coaches. Lesson prices run $70 for a single, $80 for a double. Once your son/daughter has taken an individual lesson we offer group lessons at a prorated cost. To schedule a sculling lesson please contact chris@marinrowing.org.

Below is the basic structure of each lesson in a checkout series:

Lesson One:
Indoors in the boathouse and on the erg.  Start with a brief tour of facility.  Look at map of creek.  Have student sign liability waiver. Cover differences between sweep and sculling, and elaborate on what programs in each the MRA offers.  Go over which oars to use, and the three levels of sculling shells the club has.  Ascertain whether there are any structural issues the student may have that will affect performance (i.e. old knee injury, back, etc.)  Go upstairs and teach the basic stroke, with an emphasis on postural stability and lower back safety.  Define basic terms, including “weigh enough” and “weigh enough hold water”.  Explain how body position affects oar handling, balance, and glide.  Explain motion of the boat.  Row side by side continuously for at least 5-10 minutes.  Explain how to use the erg computer to facilitate a workout.  Encourage practice in between first and second lesson, and ask that student come ten minutes early immediately prior to next lesson to practice on the machine alone.  Go over times when the student can use the erg without interfering in team practices.

Lesson Two:
Carry oars and boat down.  Explain traffic pattern (three lanes).  Point out landing pattern.  Explain traffic pattern again, and emphasize safety.  Demonstrate how to adjust stretchers, put oars in correctly.  Coach demonstrates stroke in boat first.  Go over hand position on oar, angle of blade, stability and balance.  Explain/demonstrate basic steering (i.e. arm only rowing on one side.  Once on water can have student learn to “check” to steer.)  Have student get in boat and go through feathering and squaring, balance, motion of recovery and drive.  Here I figure out whether a student can then safely leave the dock on their own, with me in a launch.  Sometimes the answer is no, and we spend the whole lesson at the dock.  If the answer is yes, then go over traffic pattern, and landing procedure, and off they row in the aero and the coach in the launch.  Coach basic stroke, blade handling, steering.  Nip in the bud any technical errors that will lead to injury.  Teach how to do a pivot turn.  Help with landing from the launch.  Encourage student to land without help from anyone on the dock.  Show how to wash the boat with soap and water on both sides, and dry.  Oars need to be rinsed and handles bleached if bleach is available.  Remind student that this boat care must be done each and every time boat is used.

Lesson Three:
If the student did not leave the dock in Lesson Two, then the series will extend to five lessons.  If the student was successful in rowing on the water in lesson two, then lesson three becomes a practice session.  Student should, with coach assistance, set up oars and stretcher properly.    Go over safety and traffic pattern one more time.  Spend the whole of this lesson on the water.  As with lesson two, emphasis is on safety, steering, increasing comfort level in the boat, and the development of good technical habits.  Emphasis on lower back stability and safety.  Land without help, or minimal help, from the coach.  Several tries if necessary.  Go over what the student must do in the final lesson to “pass.”  If lesson three is successful, then proceed to checkout in four.  If lesson three is not successful, then the series extends to five and lesson four become a practice session as above.

Final Lesson:
Start on land.  Go over sign out book, damage log, tide book, weather and wind patterns (i.e., when is it safe to row).  Novice scullers are not allowed to row when the tide is below 1(one) foot for safety reason (plus it is no fun).   Explain how to find tide chart on line, and go over how to read tides so they know when 1 foot or lower is. Look at map of creek again. Talk about what clothes to wear, especially as the weather gets colder. Go over what to do if boat flips.

Emphasize the following:

-Stay with your boat!
-Swim boat to shore:  Go over how to get in boat from the mud, and how to get in from a high private dock.
-Once in, go back to dock immediately, no matter how long you have been out or what the weather is
-If student is out and sees someone else flip, stay with that sculler until that person is safely back in boat and headed home.
-Novice scullers are not allowed past the 101 bridge unless they are either with a coaching launch, or under the guidance of a very experienced sculler.  I try and discourage beginners from going out into the bay for at least six months, no matter how much assistance they have, as the water is unpredictable, the shore far away, and the ferries are big!

Go over times that the novice may use the boathouse and the boats.  See below:

-Ergs and weights starting at 5:30 am to 3:30 during the school year, M-F
-They may scull on the creek only after 7-7:30 am when the sweep teams come back.  This is a vital safety issue.  Encourage scullers to complete their workout prior to lunch, when the boathouse traffic thins and it will be hard to find help carrying the boat.  They may not scull after 3:30 when the junior teams arrive.
-Weekends are more open, although 8:30 am on Saturdays is a dicey time
-Answer any questions.

Time to row! The student must choose correct oars and boat on their own.  Must set up boat properly without help.  Must row on the creek without being excessively reminded to stay on correct side.  Must be able to do a pivot turn (ex. port to back, starboard to row) in a full circle, in both directions.  Must demonstrate ability to back the boat.  Must land without help.

If the lessons are successful and your son/daughter would like to continue rowing, contact chris@marinrowing.org  to learn about further rowing opportunities!