By Susan Farewell
The opportunity to learn something new on vacation appeals to more and more travelers. Some people cook in France. Some study art in Florence. I learned the ABCs of rowing while traveling in Vermont.
I had been fascinated by the sport since I was eighteen and saw someone sculling on Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks. I never forgot the sight of him moving silently and deftly through the water, the rising mist and the thick pine forests all around. I decided right then that someday I’d become a rower, but it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I actually took up the sport.
I decided to spend a week at the Craftsbury Sculling Center in Vermont. Little did I know then that I was embarking on a new passion that was going to become an enormous part of my life. But first things first.
The initial challenge I encountered in learning how to scull was figuring out how to balance a 27-foot-long, skinny boat that was hardly wider than my body. I had had a lot of experience with rowboats, kayaks and canoes but it didn’t prepare me for this. Simply shift about too quickly and over I’d go.
The next came with actually making the boat move. It certainly seemed easy enough. Put the oars in the water and pull. But I quickly discovered that gliding effortlessly is no simple task. In a sculling boat, the rower is constantly moving on a sliding seat. There’s just one moment when you can effectively place the oars in the water and pull. If not executed correctly, you’re not going to move very well.
While this is okay early on in the sport, every sculler I’ve met has become obsessed with achieving the perfect stroke. A perfect stroke is when the blade enters the water without a sound or a splash. It is also when the rower’s body--arms, legs and back--moves in complete harmony. The sculler’s focus has to be unwavering, scarily intensive.
This is the ultimate ideal of rowing and the quest for it is like a magnet, keeping rowers in the sport for life. Even if a rower gets it right once, there’s no guarantee he or she will have ongoing success. It is this constant pursuit that has held my interest like no other sport has ever done.
Over the years, I've gone back to Craftsbury and I attended other rowing camps. For me, what better vacation than getting out in the fresh air, doing the sport I love and being around like-minded people.
Photo details: The photo on the right was taken in the South of France and provided by Rowgue International Rowing Camps. The first two rowing photos on this page were taken at All-American Rowing Camps in Florida. Pictured top right is Timothy Jones of Cambridge, MA; above left, Laurence Kurzner of Westport, CT.