More Than a Kayak


Erin Dooley, Journalism Block 4A/C

In the early morning you wake for a leisure paddle along the river. The water glimmers beside your small yellow kayak as you work your way through the channel in the golden glow. You stop every few minutes to admire your surroundings as the sunlight bounces off of the trees painted reds and oranges. As your small boat slowly makes its way through the open waters, you think, “This is rowing right?”

Not quite.

If you thought rowing was comparable to a relaxing canoeing trip you’re not alone.

“A lot of people think it’s kayaking,” Patrick Pierce, a junior and rower of five years, said, “…but it’s not.”

The Shen Crew Club, recently joining forces with Burnt Hills Rowing, is both a fall and spring sport available to students grades 7 through 12. Coordinated by Scott McDonald and Andy Sayles, the team practices 6 days per week on the Mohawk River. The club competes in regattas on the weekends during their season.

Practices consist of technique drills and anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half of cardio work. Regattas, which are typically on Saturday and Sunday, can start as early as seven in the morning and the races are usually 10-15 minutes long depending on the distance of the course. It is possible to race one to three times during the day.

Andrew Cheely, a junior on the rowing team, illustrated the major differences between a casual paddle and the sport of rowing. “Rowing is..mostly a leg and lower body workout,” he said, “…there’s two types of rowing: sweeping and sculling. Sweeping is with one very large oar that you have both hands on…Sculling is with two smaller oars.”

Like any other sports team, rowing has a multitude of misconceptions and stereotypes. Ryan Agans, another experienced rower, described a common generalization made about crew, “is that rowing is either not difficult at all or… that rowing isn’t even a sport.” He adds that, “People don’t know how physically or mentally demanding this sport is.”

Cheely similarly remarked on how difficult rowing really is. “It’s mostly the mental aspect that’s more challenging. Anybody can be strong…but it’s not stopping when you feel like your body is going to give out and pushing past that point mentally,” he said, “…some days are harder than others.”

Sophia Ventosa, a senior rower, said that her favorite part of being a part of crew was, “All of the friends [she] has made,” and her teammates would have to agree with her. Pierce comparably voiced that the best part of crew were, “the teammates”.

Cheely, also valuing his companionship with others on the rowing team, described the crew atmosphere as “super welcoming”. He said that, “I have met my absolute best friends through this sport…the friendships forged are so special.”