For most of lockdown I’d surprised myself by not minding the break from rowing too much. I was so distracted by the enormity of the pandemic – and by the alternative forms of exercise on offer – that not being able to row for a little while felt like a small sacrifice to make.
But as the weeks went on and spring turned into summer, I began to feel like enough was enough. Especially when the hard border between England and Wales meant that I had to see my social media feeds flooded with gorgeous images of friends at English clubs taking to the river in their singles, while we Welsh rowers were still firmly in lockdown.
But finally, FINALLY, the news came last week that at last we were permitted to go back on the river (with many rules and restrictions, of course). We were ready to go the moment the news came through – a sub-committee had spent hours perfecting a Return to Rowing plan.
As luck would have it, our return briefly coincided with a mini-heatwave and the river was perfect. Flat, not too low and with the sun beating down and glinting on the water. Buddied up with my long-suffering rowing BFF Helen, who was my double partner in Budapest, we booked our slot, washed down our boats and equipment and tentatively pushed off from the side.
I’d assumed I’d have forgotten how to row. I hadn’t been out in my single since last summer (not, in fact, since she was named, making this our official maiden voyage) so I expected a wobbly, hesitant course up and down the river. But no. It honestly felt like I’d never been away.
As it was bakingly hot and we were out of practice, we just paddled gently for an hour, chatting all the way – absolute bliss.
Even that brief outing was enough to form a few blisters (maximum fuss from me, obviously), but they have since, gratifyingly, turned into callouses (yay).
This being Britain, of course, the weather has since turned and I had to cancel yesterday’s outing as it was just too windy to be enjoyable or safe, but I’m hoping for another paddle this week.
For any of you still waiting, either because your club isn’t open yet or because you don’t scull, my apologies – but I promise you that it’ll be worth it. I will never, ever take this for granted again. Remind me of that next winter when I’m moaning about the cold and the wet, won’t you?