(None of the photos below are of Dan or his specific boat. But they will illustrate for newcomers some aspects of this wonderful sport.)

I have been rowing sculls in the northeast since I was 14 years old. On and off, except for one break of 15 years. It’s a great sport, a non-impact kind of exercise. You’re on the water, which gives me a good feeling, and is a nice place to be. I love going so fast.

singles rowers in foreground—notice squarish, symmetrical oar shapes

singles rowers in foreground—notice squarish, symmetrical oar shapes

It’s great cardio, uses every muscle in your body. You use your legs, arms, feet and back. I’m usually in pretty good shape.

Actually it’s not just exercise. It’s a total experience, being part of nature. I don’t even mind rowing if it’s raining.

I row close by each summer, beginning in April or May as soon as the ice is out. I’m off the lake early October. I usually row four to five times a week for an hour and a half each time, so it’s about two hours total round trip. I go around 7 to 7:30 in the morning or 7 to 7:30 in the evening, when there is a beautiful sunset.

Mt. Tom Pond, where I row, is about 65 acres, and I can go about 0.9 mile per lap. I do 6 to 8 laps each session. After it is too cold to row on the water, I use my Concept 2 rowing machine. (see photo below)

before the stroke with seat near feet—notice legs bent before pulling the oars

before the stroke with seat near feet—notice legs bent before pulling the oars

A scull is a boat in which your feet are fixed in foot stretchers, and the seat moves forward and backward on wheels in a track. There are two long oars that the rower uses.

Some rowing boats have 2, 4, or 8 oars, but each rower only handles one oar. These are called “sweeps.”

racing shell—notice legs extended after finishing the stroke

racing shell—notice legs extended after finishing the stroke

I have two different boats. One is a shell (a racing scull), which is 26 feet long, 11 inches wide—pretty narrow—and weighs just 45 pounds. I use it in the warmer weather. It’s made by a company called Schoenbrod.

The other is a wherry, an English style rowboat that is sleeker than what you usually see here. It’s about 15 feet long, 30” wide and weighs about 140 pounds. I use it when the water is cold and icy. Mine is a Heritage 15 design by Little River Boat Works.

the Heritage 15 is a wider, heavier wherry design

the Heritage 15 is a wider, heavier wherry design

There’s a lot to it. You have to synchronize the stroke, be precise how you put your oars in the water (called the “catch”), then you have to accumulate the water, but only put the oar 8 to 10 inches in the water. There are two different oars—symmetrical and the hatchet oar. The hatchet traps more water for each stroke.

hatchet blade oars—most oars can be 8 to 10 feet long

hatchet blade oars—most oars can be 8 to 10 feet long

When I was going to high school, I rowed competitively for the New York Athletic Club. We won a lot of races and even beat some major colleges. I used to row a four. But I don’t compete now. They have Master races for people over 27 and Ancient Oarsmen races for rowers over 60. These days I don’t know anyone else who rows.

Actually I don’t think of myself as especially disciplined. I just don’t do anything that is bad for me, never smoked, and I’ve never been over-weight. But I believe you keep your weight down by not eating too much, mixed with some exercise.

the Concept2 indoor rowing machine

the Concept2 indoor rowing machine

When I start rowing each spring, it takes a few days to get back into it. After a week, I feel like I could row all day. I get into a groove. When I row, I don’t even feel taxed.

And I don’t notice any endorphin high. People just get tired and are about to pass out, and then they get an adrenaline boost.

A lot of people over exercise and strain themselves. You have to listen to your body, especially later in life.

The wherry is a real workboat, but the lighter boat– the shell–is more demanding. When you start the stroke, you keep your back straight, push with your legs and finish with your arms. If done correctly you can almost lift your body from the seat. All the pressure is directed to the oars that connect you to the water. It’s a better workout in the shell when done correctly.

You have to build up to it. I’ve never had any trouble with pulled muscles, aching joints or back problems.

A lot of people tend to wear themselves out. They think more exercise is better. A balanced exercise routine should be your goal.

On the other hand, if you don’t stay fit and suddenly jump into strenuous exercise, it’s like running your chain saw without sharpening the chain.

I love to be outdoors, in the forests, cutting wood, walking and hiking, hunting. Rowing is part of my life, but archery and design are just as important.