Rowing by 8's under the Rte 9 Bridge mouth agape: Reflections from a new Learn-to-Rower

It was my first morning of Novice rowing.  With just four weeks of Learn To Row under my belt, I was fortunate enough to be seated in an 8 boat with considerably more seasoned rowers around me.  As we pushed off from the dock, I was excited to be trying feathering for the first time, which felt like an important, early milestone.  Focusing on matching the steady pace of the rower in front of me, I was lost in concentration as I tried to decode the vocabulary of feathering (Which one is my “outside” hand? How soon do I “square” before the catch?)

I was intent on integrating this new technique into the myriad other rhythms and movements that have inexplicably and delightfully become part of my early mornings.  So intent, in fact, that I was caught completely off guard by the massive structure looming overhead.  Having barely left the view of the docks in the previous weeks, and having only rowed by 2s and 4s, I suddenly became aware that we were, all eight of us together, rowing under the Rte. 9 bridge!  Coach Beth laughingly remarked on the expression on my face – my eyes open wide and mouth agape with the thrill of it all.

Seven weeks in, I’m loving so many aspects of this new experience:  The warmly welcoming community of experienced rowers who have become my new role models.  The camaraderie and shared encouragements among novices as we slowly become indebted to each other to show up and do our best.  The sunrises.  The wildlife.  Even the new challenge of waking up at 4:30 and starting the day with a proud “I did that!” Putting aside the demands of parenting, work, and other responsibilities in order to take instruction, learn huge new concepts and small refinements.  Helping each other.  Forgiving ourselves.  And doing it all again, anew, with the next stroke.

Heidi Nortonsmith