10 things never to say to a rower: Guest Post by ‘Girl on the river’


There’s something about coming out as a rower that invites comment. I know it’s a relatively unusual sport to be doing (maybe not up there with dwarf-throwing or underwater hockey, but a lot less mainstream than, say, running).  Even so, it does seem to excite a disproportionate amount of interest. And with interest come comments and questions.

Now, I’m a pretty easy going kind of girl, but I have noticed that certain remarks are guaranteed to make me growl. Since an angry rower is a bad rower, I thought it might be helpful to go public on the comments that really annoy me.  So here’s a handy, print-out-and-keep list of things never to say to a rower.

  1. You don’t look like a rower.However you look at it, this is just a bad thing to say. It either means we’re too small. Or too fat. Or too thin. However kindly meant, it’s just not a compliment.
  2. You must be very rich. OK, so most of the schools that do rowing are well-endowed, private schools. And Henley does give the impression of wealth and privilege. But club rowing is unbelievably good value. I challenge any gym in the country to offer the facilities, tuition and all round fun that a rowing club provides for the same price.
  3. Why are your hands bleeding? Look, there’s no need to draw attention to it. I’ll be the first to admit that I do not have the hands of a lady. There are hard bits and sore bits, and my nails are in tatters. I’d just prefer it if you didn’t remind me.
  4. I went canoeing once. I’m going to blame the media for this one.  How is anyone supposed to know any better if rowing is hidden away under “Other Sports” on the BBC website?  By the way, if you don’t believe there’s a difference between rowing and canoeing, next time you’re out in a canoe I dare you to challenge some rowers to a race.  Go on, try it.
  5. Ooh,the rowing machine is my favourite exercise at the gym. Watching non-rowers on the erg is hilarious and maddening in equal measure. But here’s the thing.  However bad you are at it, you don’t have to go on it.  We do.  So please don’t tell us how much you enjoy it.
  6. Wouldn’t you rather come to zumba? What, ditch the work-out and join the party?  Give me a break.  Rowing is for life, not just for Christmas.
  7. I had a lovely lie-in this weekend. Early starts are a fact of life for most rowers. I have no idea why weekend rowing has to be done at an hour when civilised people are tucked up in bed, but that’s just the way it is.  That being so, we prefer not to be reminded there’s another way to live.
  8. You row? Why? Please, please don’t ever ask this. Because sometimes we just don’t know the answer.
  9. Hey, it’s only a race. OK, I’ll come right out and admit it. I have been known to cry when I lose (just a little bit, and always in private, in the loos).  But listen. If you’re happy to come second, there’s no point racing.
  10. Attention! No matter what the context, saying this is guaranteed to have us flinching and sitting up (and probably sweating and staring straight ahead).  Don’t do it.  It’s just cruel.

So there we have it. My top 10. I’d love to know what comments make you frown.

Patricia Carswell (a.k.a. Girlontheriver)

Read her blog Girl on the river and follow @girlontheriver on Twitter


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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Lydia

    Another one for you: “You must have strong arms”. No No No, rowing is mainly a legs exercise, with the back, upper body and arms in a supporting role. Think picking up heavy shopping bags, or doing squats but in a horizontal rather than vertical plane.

  2. claris

    “So, what do you wear for that — you guys row in bathing suits or something?”

    no lie – I have heard this on multiple occasions.

  3. Rebecca Caroe

    Hey, Lydia – you are so right.. I’ve had that one a lot as well as “surely you never wear sleeveless dresses”? Why on earth not? No bingo wings on a rower!

  4. Mike De Petris

    Wrong link at “Read her blog Girl on the river”

  5. Rebecca Caroe

    Mike – you have eagle-sharp eyes. thanks very much, have corrected!

  6. Tim Kemmer

    #1 all the time. #3 my 10 year old daughter checks my hands every time before she holds them.

  7. Valerie

    My #1, guaranteed to make me do a bit more than growl – “aren’t you a bit too old to be rowing?” You are so right, Rebecca, rowing is for life, not just for Christmas. I didn’t start until I was 52 and it has been the best part of my life ( and the biggest) for the last six years. I’ll never be too old & I’ll be able to do more for much longer than those who think its a sport for the young.

  8. Louise Jones

    Love this so much. I am the mother of rowers who now rows herself. Got into it at 48. Only ‘Rowers’ understand my obsession. Proud to be obsessed. Rowing is my life & my Christmas xx

  9. Viv

    “If your a rower, why aren’t you super muscley?”
    I get this one alot from friends and their parents, and then I have to explain to them that I am a lightweight rower.

  10. Kitty

    I was both privileged and cursed to fall in love with rowing during my first year at University. Unfortunately, life took me to the middle of nowhere with no water deep enough for rowing unless I want to drive four hours (eight hours round trip!)

    I spend most of my gym time on the erg and it’s always a fun time when people tell me I should find a machine that actually gives me a workout instead of something wimpy. Of course it’s a wimpy machine for them- they’re not using it properly!

    Still, there is nothing like the few times a year I manage to make the drive and get to go rowing!

  11. Kiley

    I liked number 5 the best. I’ve heard that a hundred times. It’s not he same sport people, it’s just not. I’ve tried kayaking and canoeing. It’s not that hard, that’s why anyone can go to any beach in the summer and hire a kayak and go out to sea on it. No training, no learning to scull and feather, no need to watch your timing or calls to up the rate or do 20 power strokes.
    I’m don’t do canoeing and it’s not like kayaking. I am a rower!!! I like getting up at 6am when it’s still dark and freezing cold. I love my team, we love to race and even more so we love to win. Enough with the canoe comments ;0)

  12. Ez

    #4 – living in Singapore when I tell people I was out rowing they all say “Ah – dragon boating!” It is NOT THE SAME THING!!!!

  13. Irene

    “Oh yeah, we went paddling last summer, that’s so fun!”

  14. Kat Carlyle

    “I’d love to try rowing, I want to build my upper body strength!” and as someone has already mentioned “you must have really strong arms!” oh and the “so you row – followed my arm bending motion!” and the best one I had “should you be eating that”. Love it.

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