After a pretty fun summer of rowing, pushing myself out my comfort zone with varying degrees of success, I guess I was starting to feel a tiny bit cocky. OK, so I’d crashed in two races, but I’d also survived a 70km race in a Finnish church boat, a long row on the Tyne in a single and picked up a handful of pots along the way. I was starting to feel like I could take on pretty much any rowing challenge. So when the chance came to try my hand at gig rowing on a trip to Cornwall with some rowing buddies, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. How hard can it be, I thought? A big old stable boat with fixed seats? No problem.
Ha! How wrong I was. Gig rowing turned out to be a lot of fun but way, waaaaaaay, harder than it looked. For a start, there is nothing but a couple of pins to hold the (very heavy, wooden) oar in place – not even a collar – so it has a habit of sliding around as soon as you start to manoeuvre it and seems to have a mind of its own.
Then there’s the grip and the posture. You have your outside hand upside down and have to lean further back than feels remotely feasible. And although it’s fixed seat, you still have to push off with your feet, using your lower body much more than you’d expect and rolling back on to your bum.
Suddenly our group of reasonably experienced rowers (most of them – myself excluded – with a gold medal from Henley in their collection) were thrust right back to the beginning. We flailed around like we were on our first learn-to-row session, squealing and struggling to master even a basic feather and square. It was a thoroughly humbling experience, as you can see from the footage (stern pair, you can probably guess, are proper gig rowers from Fowey Gig Club; the other clowns in the boat are us so-called fine rowers).
Maddeningly, my rib, which has been playing up recently after a ridiculous injury lifting a boat (don’t even ask), went ping just at the end of the piece in the video, so I had to move into the seagull seat in the bow and missed out on the race we did at the end, but I did get the chance to try a few starts (terrifying). By the end I almost felt like I was getting the hang of it. Almost – I still couldn’t pull up to my shoulder like you were meant to and still hadn’t mastered the feathering bit.
So massive thanks to Fowey Gig Club for letting us try our hand at gig rowing and putting up with our lack of ability with such patience. We have learned huge respect for your brand of rowing (and if you ever want to try fine rowing, you know where we are!)
Anyone else had a go at gig rowing? How did you find it?