Breathing in the Dark

Oyster Bay after sunset

Last night out on the Bay, as darkness fell, I truly enjoyed the experience of sculling back to the beach. I could feel the shell moving well in the water. I felt relaxed as each stroke connected to the next.

It’s now the end of September and we are normally off the water in early November, so I am taking time to enjoy each day on the water. Winter and training indoors is just around the corner, but for now I need to stay in the moment.

My focus was on revisiting a sculling drill from Jim Joy, the 6-inch pause drill. The objective of this drill is to get the speed into and away from the body uniform. The handles come in and go away from you at the same speed. There is a brief pause as the handles are just 6 inches away. Note, the arms are not fully extended, just 6 inches away. This can be practiced on land as you sit in a chair looking at your hands. The smoother we are around the release, the better. Watch the video below to see the drill in action.

I find the 6-inch pause to be a great spot to pause because it allows me to focus on the handles in, handles out at the same speed. It is also the point where my hands begin to tuck one behind the other for the recovery. This drill leads to better boat feel and flow.

So, as September draws to a close, I look forward to spending more time out on the Bay during October. The next step is focusing on the recovery as a whole movement.

The Letter “R”

Photo from my shell this morning in Oyster Bay Cove, NY

“Today was brought to you by the Letter “R”.” That was how the first dock talk I ever heard at Craftsbury began. Dan Roock went on to talk about the Release, the Recovery, and Relaxation.

This morning I ventured out onto Oyster Bay and continued my focus on the release. I sculled along the south shore over to Oyster Bay Cove and was treated to some beautiful calm water.

In the cove I took time to try the King of the Mountain drill and I also did some slow motion sculling. I could feel a difference in the release when I allowed my elbows to stay high and away, following the arc of the oar, followed up with a slight downward tap at the release. My focus was on allowing the top 1″ of the blade to come out square before the water turns the blade onto the feather.

My hope is to tie this into what Jim Joy taught:

We have to know why we do movements in a particular pattern. We have to think holistically for the best results of our efforts. The final movement patterns must be simple and energy conserving. All extraneous movements must be eliminated. Everything must lead to flow and smooth movement.” 1

Jimmy noted that “There is a nice flow from the elbows; the little anconeus muscle on the posterior side of the elbow joint is the activator for the release and smooth follow through actions.” 2

Well, as I allowed myself time to focus on the release I could feel the shell running more level and the release felt more fluid.

So it was great to get out for a longer row this morning. I could feel my legs getting tired on the row back, so I will need to focus on the whole movement. It was nice to see 19 single scullers from Sagamore Rowing at the boathouse this morning. Onward.


  1.  From an email from James C. Joy on August 10, 2018.
  2. The Sculler’s Philosophy and The Whole Technique” by James C. Joy

Stabilizing a Rowing Shell

Gordon Hamilton demonstration lateral pressure.

Well 2020 has been an interesting year. While I have not sculled on the water much so far, I am planning to go sculling this evening.

I like to have a goal for each row and the video below caught my attention the other day. I really enjoy focusing on new technical ideas, especially in the single. It’s fun to see how the shell responds and how the shell feels in the water.

In the short 4 minute video Gordon Hamilton of the Florida Rowing Center discusses the benefits of using lateral pressure into the oarlocks to stabilize the rowing shell. I’ve worked on this idea before and am looking forward to experimenting with it more this evening.