If you’re anything like me, you start to get a little bit panicky around this time of year. I start strong, early in the season, with a few easy wins, picking up bits and pieces that don’t require much brainwork. And then suddenly, whoosh, it’s December, Bublé is playing on loop and there are still LOADS of people I haven’t bought anything for. If this sounds familiar, and you have a rower or two on your list, you can relax. This is the first of three gift guides. I’m breaking with my own tradition of dividing up gifts into men, women, juniors and coxes. Instead I’m doing gifts according to price. I’m using the term “stocking fillers” loosely; you’d need a pretty voluminous stocking for some of these. But they’re at the budget end of the market. If you’re feeling more flush, I’ll be catering for more lavish gifts soon.
1. Rowedge shoe adjusters, £13.98 incl. P&P, Sculling Boat Sales
These are so clever I genuinely can’t believe nobody has thought of them before. If you have small feet, you’ll have spent many an outing with your feet sliding around in giant’s shoes. Hopeless. Over the years I’ve tried wedging my feet in with balled-up socks, or wearing crocs inside the shoes (probably not very safe, come to think of it). But now, rejoice!! For the RoWedge has been invented – a clever device designed to make the shoe up to four and a half sizes smaller. And hey, if the boot fits…
2. Pogies, from £8, Rock the Boat
If you’ve never used pogies, you may think they’re weird or uncool and you probably genuinely don’t see the point of them. But I promise you, if you hate having cold hands these are the answer to your prayers. They slip over the oar handle and keep the cold wind off your poor, chapped hands, at the same time allowing you to have full contact with the handle. If you’re a parent buying them for a child, you may find they don’t use them, in the same way they don’t wear a coat or any similarly practical or warm items of clothing, so you have been warned. For anyone else, they’re a no brainer.
3. Zippo handwarmer, from £23.95, Zippo
Decent handwarmers can make the difference between misery and happiness at a winter head, but the disposable ones aren’t very good for the environment. Step up the Zippo handwarmer – like the lighter (it’s filled with fluid and then you light it) which gives it a little bit of welcome sassiness. It comes in different colours and in a slightly more expensive 12-hour version (this is the six hour one). It’s safe to keep in your pocket, by the way. https://www.zippo.co.uk/comfort/3075-6-hour-high-polish-chrome-hand-warmer-041689403638.html
4. Naked rowing calendar, from £10, various
Warwick started it, and now several other university boat clubs have got in on the naked act, including Glasgow and Newcastle. The naked rowing calendar is now A Thing – 12 months of butt-naked students, with their modesty mostly disguised by boats and blades. If you want (or, cough, need) to justify accusations of perving over naked students there’s the defence that you’re raising money for charity, which obviously makes it OK (though depending on your age, I’ll have to leave that to your conscience).
5. Ponytail hat, from £14.95, The Cosy Hat
Another genius invention. If you have thick hair and a substantial ponytail, you’ll understand the hat problem. Either you leave your hair flowing, which isn’t great in a boat, or you cram your ponytail inside your hat which looks a bit weird and can end up itching your neck. But the clever people at The Cosy Hat have come up with an inventive solution: a hat with a hole in the back of the hat for you to thread your ponytail through. It’s definitely on my Christmas list this year, and the designs are getting better and better each year.
So that’s the budget end of the market covered. Keep watching for some mid-range and blow-the-budget suggestions in days to come.