An Exercise in Self-Rescue

As the saying goes “there are two types of scullers, those who have flipped and those who will”. Since flipping over in a sculling shell will eventually happen to everyone, practicing how to get back into the shell is an important skill every sculler needs to learn. Borrowing from Troy Howell at Craftsbury, let’s think of this as “an exercise in self-rescue“.

The steps listed below are borrowed from an excellent article by Marlene Royle:

  1. Hold onto the boat once you are in the water. Never leave your boat and try to swim. The boat and oars will float you. Come up near the rigger.
  2. Stay relaxed and catch your breath.
  3. Make sure that the boat is righted with the seat up. If you rolled the boat so it is upside down, press down on the rigger nearest you to begin to roll the boat, then reach across and pull the other rigger down towards you so the boat will be right.
  4. The oar closest to you should be all the way into the oarlock and the blade flat on the water so it can support you. Hold this handle down in the boat with your hand nearest the foot stretchers.
  5. Next, you need to get the other oar handle so you can hold both handles in the bottom of the boat. You may need to jump up or reach to get the other handle but you must get both handles together in one hand before you can continue.
  6. Push your seat towards the bow.
  7. Hold both handles in your hand closest to the foot stretchers, and with your other hand reach across to the gunnel. You will need to keep pressing on the handles.
  8. Kick and jump into the boat as if you are getting out of a swimming pool onto the deck of the pool. You need to be focused on getting the weight of your hips over the boat and into the seat deck. Avoid trying to pull yourself into the boat.
  9. Once your hips are in the boat, you are stomach-down, kick again, turn and sit, letting your legs dangle over the side of the boat still. Don’t let go of your oar handles here.
  10. Raise your oar handles up to right the boat.
  11. Make sure both blades are flat on the water and you are stable.
  12. Swing your legs in the boat.
  13. Put one foot back and scoot yourself back on the seat.
  14. Put your feet back in the shoes.
  15. Practice it again!

Below are two videos that illustrated the above steps. I recommend watching the videos several times to familiarize yourself with the steps.

Our focus should be on understanding the steps to getting back into the shell. It’s a step-by-step process that both videos illustrate this very well.

Be prepared. Take time to practice this skill and the day that you flip, you will be well prepared to self-rescue yourself.


Categorized as Sculling

By Mike Wagner

Mike began rowing in 1992 during his freshman year at Hofstra University. He learned to scull the following summer at the Sagamore Rowing Association. Mike worked with the Joy of Sculling as the Program Manager for the Coaching Conferences from 2013-2019. He continues to actively scull and coach both at Sagamore and at the Craftsbury Outdoors Center in Vermont.

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