Pro Tip: FAQ For New Rowers
I spend a lot of my time recreating and working on the river. I have been on trips with people that have more experience than I may ever gain and people on the river for the first time. There are so many questions new and old boaters have but might be afraid to ask.
Whether you are taking people down for the first time or teaching someone to row a boat there are going to be lots of questions. Here are a couple questions I get from many new rowers.
What raft should I get?
That is a pretty complex answer with lots of variables. As with most gear many people want that "all purpose" raft that can do it all. Here is the short answer of what you should get.
If you will split your time between rowing your boat and using it as a paddle boat you will be pretty happy with a regular old 14' raft.
If you want a boat that is going to be used mostly for rowing on muli-day trips think about getting a 16' raft. Get one with some thwarts and you will be able to use it as a paddle boat if needed.
If you plan to use your new boat mostly as a paddle boat go 14' or smaller. If you will be using this to learn to row read the answer to the next questions as it contains important information.
I got a 11' raft, that will be easy to learn to row with right?
In my experience teaching folks to row the shorter the raft the more they struggle. Yes a small raft is easy to move around the river but when you are still figuring out how to read the water and use your oars you end up spinning around in unnecessary circles.
Shorter boats like the find the micro currents and can be a bit unruly while learning. The longer the boat the more it tends to go in a straight line down the river. This is extremely helpful for many reasons. One reason is you can focus a bit more on building muscle memory with your strokes. Having the water work in your favor allows you to focus more on developing your stroke.
Should I get a cataraft or a raft?
This is a bit of personal preference. Also it depends on what sort of whitewater you want to tackle. I learn more toward raft and here are a couple of reasons why.
- I think rafts accommodate passengers more comfortably
- Catarafts tend to be a splashier ride for both rower and passenger
- Cataraft frames tend to be big and heavy
- Rafts are a big more versatile
Catarafts shine if you are looking for a way to get on single day stretch of river where you don't have the need to carry people or much gear. 11-14' cataraft set ups can be light weight, carried by two people, and even hauled on the top of a truck or SUV while fully rigged and inflated.
What size oars should I get?
Lots of people end up with oars that are too short. This can cause lots of problems. Use this simple equation to get the optimal oar length.
Width of oar locks on your frame x 1.63 = oar length.
If you want to dive deeper into this watch the video below.
What will the boat do when I pull/push with my right/left arm?
This is a really really common questions. New rowers just want to know what does what and when to do it. This is where on water practice and muscle memory come into play. I like to have new rowers practice in flat water and figure this all out on their own. If you are reading this and wondering what the answer is....Whatever arm you pull with, the bow of your boat will go to that side. If you push, the bow of your boat will go to the opposite side.
Can I go through that hole/wave/rock/other thing?
Another great question that is pretty situational. Quick and easy answer, if it is way bigger than my raft maybe not. If you have to go through, hit it straight with some momentum. Here are a couple things to consider before heading into that hole.
- What hazards are below in case I flip or swim?
- Have I tried a similar looking one before?
- Do others see/know what I am going to try?
- Is my passenger ready?
Do I need this accessory?
There are so many accessories out there to add to your raft set up. Here is a list of some basics you should have to get your started
- First aid kit
- Safety kit
- Throw bag
- Repair kit
Before you go out and buy all sorts of additional things make sure you have the basics. Personally, I like to keep my boat trimmed to the minimum. I don't have a chicken line, ladders to get back in if you fall out, special oar lashes, or custom made to fit perfectly dry boxes. For me all of those things are extra cost as well as things that can becomes broken, or even worse hazards.
So in short, think about things you need before just buying all of the extras.
There are a lot of questions drifting around the minds of new and old boaters. The above ones are just ones that I have heard on numerous occasions. If you have more questions you think are important let me know and I can try to help find you an answer.