Safety is the top priority in everything we do at WRC. All our programs are run in adherence with the safety regulations set out by USRowing, and before heading out on the water rowers receive a thorough introduction to the USRowing safety protocol, which is continually stressed by WRC staff.
Rowing is of course a “water sport” in some sense, but actually winding up in the water is not common, though precautions are nonetheless taken. Crews on the water are always accompanied by a coach in a motorized launch carrying safety equipment, including enough flotation devices for every person on the water, and all rowing at WRC is overseen by a coach with Red Cross First Aid and CPR certification. Should any rowers experience a serious medical problem during class, they will be taken to the emergency room at St. Joseph Mercy and the rower’s emergency contact will be called.
Rowing is a very safe activity, especially compared to contact sports. The sport being low-impact means that injuries like concussions and broken bones almost never happen. If rowers dress appropriately for the weather and hydrate, they can avoid most of the problems that tend to arise.
What To Bring and Wear
Over time athletes tend to accumulate a wardrobe of athletic attire specifically designed for comfort while rowing. For those just getting started, the main thing WRC recommends are a few pairs of trou (rhymes with ‘now’ and known to non-rowers as spandex shorts). Athletic shorts get caught in the sliding tracks used in rowing, so trou are pretty much standard fare for all rowers. (If rowers like, they can wear athletic shorts or track pants over their trou until it is time to row.)
You can purchase trou from one of the companies that specialize in rowing gear—Regattasport, JL, and Sew Sporty are some of the major ones— but the general use spandex shorts sold at most major sporting goods stores are also completely fine. Please note, however, that biking shorts (which have padding) don’t work very well for rowing. Full-length trou are also available and are great for cooler days.
General rules to follow for everything else are that clothing for practice should be fitted (again, baggy clothes get stuck in the seat tracks) and should keep rowers suitably warm and dry without adding too much bulk or inhibiting range of motion.
On top, t-shirts or athletic tops are great, long-sleeved and layered as the weather calls for. (Layering these kinds of items is far preferable to bulky hoodies or jackets, and there’s space to store clothing in the boat if rowers want to remove layers as they warm up.) Until rowers get trou, they may row in athletic shorts or track pants, but again these should be fitted to avoid getting caught in the tracks.
Rowers should also wear running shoes or cross-trainers to practice.
We row in both cold and rain (unless accompanied by lightning). Thick socks and winter hats become a rower’s best friends in the cold. Gloves cannot be worn, as they prevent proper control of the oar handle, but rowers may consider investing in some pogies, which represent the rowing world’s elegant solution to this problem. Lightweight waterproof jackets are advisable if rain is expected and some rowers like a waterproof outer layer in all weather, as water does splash up into the boat from time to time.
Finally, rowers should bring full water bottles so they can stay hydrated throughout practice.
Rower’s Practice Checklist:
-Fitted t-shirt or athletic top
-Running shoes or cross-trainers
-Full water bottle
-Layered and long-sleeved fitted tops
-Thick socks, hat, pogies
Weather and Practice Cancellation
As an outdoor sport, we are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. The rowing community as a whole takes the approach that less-than-ideal weather is not something that stops us from doing what we love. However, at WRC we do place the highest of premiums on safety, and we will never go out on the water if weather conditions make it unsafe to do so.
If moderate cold, wind, or precipitation are forecast, there will likely still be practice, though depending on conditions we may have to stick to the rowing machines and land exercises.
If extreme weather (and especially thunderstorms) seems very likely, we will probably have to cancel practice. We try to make the call as early as possible but also have to respond to weather conditions as they develop, and so in some cases we may have to cancel relatively close to practice start times. We disseminate practice cancellations via email. (We originally tried regular post, but that proved largely ineffective.)
If during practice we experience weather conditions that make it unsafe to row or remain outside, coaches will take rowers to the Concordia Student Union.
Due to logistics of equipment allocation, water time, and coordinating participant schedules, WRC generally does not offer make-ups for classes cancelled or interrupted due to weather. If there are an unusually large number of cancellations for a particular program or session, we will do our best to arrange some extra time for rowers to get out on the water.