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2021 – a year of coastal rowing

How about taking time to reflect on the past year of coastal rowing? Let us know about your experiences, achievements in 2021 and plans / hopes for 2022.


Following a slow and slightly chaotic start to the year, we have seen huge developments across the sport. Here are just a few observations and thoughts on the following aspects. We have broken this down into two blog articles:


This blog


- Participation in coastal rowing across the world

- Removing the barriers to the sport

- Juniors and Masters


Next blog


- Learning and improving coastal rowing

- ‘Beach Sprints’ vs ‘Offshore Enduro’

- Performance improvements

- Looking forward to 2022


Ardmucknish Bay, Scotland



Increased participation


There has been a surge of interest both in existing clubs and new locations. Europe seems to be leading the charge and building on the previous momentum that started in France, Spain and Italy and continue to have strong representation at the World and European competitions. The success of Ukrainian, Polish, German, Greek and Monaco teams will hopefully also help to increase interest across the region.


In the UK we have seen increasing number of people starting the sport through the expansion of coastal rowing centre activities in the south of England. Universities in Scotland are also building infrastructure to mount an increased challenge at future national competitions following a strong performance at the British Championships and building on Robyn Hart-Winks and Kieran Brown’s success in the 2019 World Championships. Following significant investment in boats in 2020 and ‘tester’ competition events in 2021, Welsh Rowing is preparing to host the World Championships in 2022. There also seems to be more interest in the North West of England for racing – with Runcorn fielding teams at major events.


It has been great to see North America waking up to the sport following the pioneering work from the likes of Ben Brooks (USA) and Aubrey Benson (Canada)… maybe because of the temptation of Los Angeles 2028 Olympics…? We need these countries to develop rapidly and drive innovation across the sport, bringing technical know-how from other sports.


The sight of home-made boats in the Bahamas and Argentina shows how accessible the sport can be. Given the continued disruption of international shipping and considerable cost of boats it would be great to share these designs across the globe and continue to remove these barriers to participation… maybe World Rowing can help in this?


Participation in Africa seems to be growing but it is concentrated in the north and south – with Tunisia and Egypt continue to actively compete and recreational rowing in South Africa. The continent has so much potential for expansion and becoming a warm low-cost winter training / race location for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Having experienced the Zanzibar kitesurfing vibe in February, the thought of rowing there is enticing… just saying!


It has been great to see active competitions in the Middle East and Maldives, especially as they involve so many youngsters from Arab nations and Pakistan.


Maybe we are just not connected to events in the Far East, but it is hard to see any activity other than the excellent round Hong Kong Island racing. Let us know if you are aware of any events, clubs etc. We should expect China to put on a strong performance in the future after their domination of the 2019 Beach Sprints Championship.


Activity in New Zealand seems to be picking up and accelerating ahead of Australia (nothing like stimulating some local competition!). The combination of racing, recreation and touring looks enticing, especially once Covid restrictions start to relax.



Carradale Bay, Scotland



Accessibility


Access to boats is increasing with manufacturers gearing up and expanding capacity to serve the market. Hopefully prices will reduce as competition build between suppliers and the second-hand market grows. It would be great to have a high participation coastal rowing movement with a realistic cost of entry, rather than a high-cost elitist niche sport. The availability of cost-effective equipment will be key to expansion of the sport.


The establishment of rowing centres in the south of England is helping the local clubs to try World Rowing standard boats. They are also providing the considerable number of boats and all the other equipment needed for ‘pop up’ style competitions, this helps the local clubs who can organise the event but do not have enough boats for visitors.


New low-cost plastic boats (e.g. from Glideboat) are providing a great platform for people to enter and enjoy the sport. These centres are quietly building a wave of competitive and recreational rowers from new entrants to those re-starting. Maybe this growth model can be expanded rapidly in the future?


Many areas still need more centres and clubs with boats and coaching to enable people to try the sport. Many lakes and beaches across the UK are not yet served by any equipment. We have a huge untapped ‘market’ of potential rowers if the sport can be opened up.


Access to training camps and coastal rowing centres with low-cost camping and bunkhouse accommodation would also help to bring more people into the sport and give it ‘mainstream’ appeal, much like kayaking and stand up paddling seem to be enjoying in a post-covid world.

British Championships – Exmouth, England



Juniors and Masters


Junior and Master categories are starting to appear in many competitions. This is helping to provide a more accessible entry point for younger athletes and expand the sport for a significant number of more mature athletes.


Covid concerns have hampered junior participation at several events, however those who have managed the risk and taken part seem to be thriving – particularly in Beach Sprints. Nations who are not participating are likely to be left behind.


Masters’ rowers are showing that they can still compete at a high level, bringing significant support and much needed revenue to clubs and events. In many respects they are the bedrock that keeps our clubs alive whilst the youngsters pass through on their rowing journey. Their expendable income also helps to drive boat sales and ultimately create the second-hand market as they upgrade for the next ‘big thing’.



Kintyre Peninsula, Scotland… with a bumpy horizon caused by the swell!



Many thanks for taking the time to read this – please send us your thoughts, ideas and coastal rowing experiences, either via the website or on our ‘Positive Float Coastal Rowing’ Facebook site which can be accessed via this link https://www.facebook.com/groups/211733563446176



Our next blog will cover:


- Learning and improving coastal rowing

- ‘Beach Sprints’ vs ‘Offshore Enduro’

- Performance improvements

- Looking forward to 2022


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