Row like a Kiwi

I love this clip of the 2012 NZ Men’s quad in training. Great rhythm and relaxation. Great soundtrack. I think the stroke man (Robbie Manson) has the better entry, maybe because he is sitting tall and not dropping his shoulders. What do you see?


A few years ago, when Xeno Muller was sharing a lot of rowing photos and videos on Facebook, he would often comment that something was ‘burning his retina’.

Back then, I couldn’t see what he was seeing, but now I get it. And I understand why it drives him nuts when rowers are pushing off the foot-stretcher before the blades are fully covered, or when they are poised at front-stops, shins vertical, but the blades are still up in the air.

Getting closer to the water at the entry is something I am constantly working on. What motivates me to keep at it is the thought that if I push off the foot-stretcher before my blades are locked in, I am not only wasting energy pushing against nothing and going nowhere—I am actually pushing the boat in the wrong direction.

This idea blew my mind when I first processed it (I am spatially challenged).

So fixing this has to be a double-win. Plus, it feels so good!


Noel Donaldson has coached the Kiwi Pair since 2013 and previously coached Australia’s Oarsome Foursome. He shared the above photo of the Kiwi Pair in his FISA Coach in the Spotlight presentation [PDF 182 kb] which is well worth a look.

New Zealand rowing style is illustrated in the presentation, with no less than Mahe Drysdale in the hot seat. Here’s a snippet:


Note, too, the Steve Fairbairn quote, which presumably Donaldson and Rowing New Zealand espouse:


Here’s the Fairbairn quote in text (my bolding):

“I have always found that telling a beginner to watch his blade, and to make it cut through, will in 5 minutes, bring him to manipulating his blade correctly, whereas, when working through the body and not the blade, I found it used to take fully 2 years of teaching body form to get the same truly controlled movement of the blade, which means the same true working of the body. This is not exaggeration. I used to tub for body form at first, and I noticed the truly drawn blade only began to show regularly at the end of the second year, and now, coaching for watching the blade, I can get the same true blade in 10 minutes.

“So the best way to get the blade to work truly through the water is to watch it; and to make it feather high and carry forward truly and evenly is also to watch it. Further, watch your blade moving evenly through the air freely, away from the water, and sometimes waggle it in the air to sense the feeling that the blade is in your hands. This feeling will give you a true balance.”

I’ve never been one to watch my blade—maybe it’s time to start.

Watch and waggle.


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