Properly, only very recently in the summer of 2019. I actually attempted to start 35 years ago when I began secondary school but my 13th birthday fell too late in the year and I was deemed too young. By the time I was old enough I had already chosen rugby instead, a sport in which I covered myself in mediocrity over the following years. Rugby then changed to cycling for which I was far better suited as what I lacked in skill and spontaneity, I more than made up for with stubbornness and a delight in masochism. Fast forward the tape 20 years and small ones arriving in my house put paid to cycling as I could no longer afford the luxury of hours every Saturday and Sunday morning, which is when I turned to the ergometer for it’s sheer time efficiency. So began my rowing adventure, ten years ago on the erg then ten months ago in an actual boat.
My morning commute on the bike takes me through the University and past the clubs down by the Cathederal. I would see crews out for early rows, gliding through still water, sometimes with a light morning fog hanging in the air lending it a serenity that was in sharp contrast with the backed up traffic on the bridge and the fact that I was on my way to work. It looked incredibly appealing and I thought those people to be very fortunate to start their day that way. I didn’t know anyone who rowed and didn’t know what opportunities there would be for someone my age with no prior experience to get involved but the sight of those morning crews was too much, I simply had to find a way in. When the open day at Tribes came up last summer I jumped at the chance!
3. Do you have a favourite seat?
Any seat in a nice boat with a good crew and nice conditions is a favourite seat. As I am relatively new to this, my experience in limited. To my memory I have yet to sit in bow, I have certainly never steered and I have not been in an eight. With a gun to my head I would say, selfishly, I like to sit in stroke. I enjoy setting the pace but that can sometimes backfire when sitting in full view a diligent cox that is happy to point out my myriad of technical shortcomings.
4. What was your top challenge?
I made a new year’s resolution to get down to the club before breakfast at least twice a week for erg sessions. It’s a cold, dark and lonely place at 6.30am on a Tuesday in January but thankfully Cormac, another newbie, agreed to join me and what started as a challenge turned out to be a very rewarding new habit. I can’t wait to start it again whenever the world gets back to normal.
5. What would you like to learn or improve?
Everything. My years on the erg prior to getting in a boat gave me a false sense of my ability and so my first time in a boat was a humbling experience when I realised I really hadn’t a clue. Concentrating on technique over power has been the biggest learning curve for me. I like being at this stage of the beginning of a learning journey, taking rudimentary skills and slowly honing to something resembling competence. Club members are always generous with tips and advice and the coaches are excellent so it’s a great club to learn in.
6. Favourite Spin?
Early Sunday morning on the Corrib. Getting down to the club at first light when most of the town is still sleeping, making our way up the bends and twists of the river in the stillness of the morning is magical. As someone who suffers with anxiety, the steady repetition of the strokes, movement on the water to the sounds of nature is beyond therapeutic. In Galway we are blessed with a great city to live in with the craic, the festivals, the Prom, Barna Woods, Silver strand and Connemara, which are all wonderful but a calm morning on the Corrib is from another planet.
7. What do you love most about rowing?
As above and above all, I’m grateful for time on the river, it’s a tremendous privilege.
The club very welcoming of new members and there is a jovial and friendly atmosphere throughout. There is room for healthy levels of mickey taking and laughter within the discipline needed for such a sport
The physical and mental returns are immeasurable, I can’t remember ever feeling better and it’s great to be involved in a sport that I can continue with indefinitely as the risk of injury is lower than some other sports. The mix of long rows on the river with short sharp sessions on the erg and some free weights is all the exercise I need in one place, what more can you ask for.
It also appears to drastically slow down the aging process. I can’t tell you how many times since joining Tribesmen someone has volunteered their age or perhaps the age of their children and I’ve thought to myself “but you couldn’t possibly be……” so that can only be a good thing.