Rowing and Water Safety – learn from Incidents


and Share the Knowledge Around your Rowing Club

Nothing puts a damper on our favourite sport of rowing like common accidents on and off the water. Do any of these scenarios sound all-too-familiar?

  • Slipping in water puddling off boats fresh from the river
  • Dropping boats and breaking them
  • Collisions on the water between boats (watch where you’re going!)
  • Collisions on the water with stationary objects – trees / banks / poles – it happens!

Let’s jump straight into avoiding the mishaps: Rowing and Water Safety

Drying off your boat once you get out of the water is not that hard to do before you put it back in the boat shed.  As a result of wiping it down you’ve prevented big puddles in the shed that could cause someone to slip resulting in an injury, and you’re taking better care of your boat.

Although hitting the odd pole, bank, and tree can be a tad humorous for onlookers, it can result in damaging boats which is not only annoying but costly.  It can also be very harmful to others that are on the water.  For example, Canadian Olympic rower Silken Laumann was doing routine warm ups 78 days before the Olympic finals when a German pair cut across her path. The Germans’ bow tore into her lower right leg, shredding nerves, shearing muscles and fracturing the fibula.

As major accidents like this can happen, rowers need to keep an eye to their surroundings. Not only will this stop equipment breakages by hitting objects but will avoid the unfortunate incidents like Laumann experienced. To become more aware of your surroundings on the water get to know the traffic flows, and take the time to check that nothing is coming up behind you – regularly i.e. every 20 strokes or so.

Safety awareness – step one towards perfect safety

Creating awareness for rowing water safety is paramount to club management.  Here is a video (in English) I found from the MCR,  rowing club in Munich, GER. Very good educational movie. And it is shared within the club.

They turn these exercises and accidents into something positive. You can educate with movies but also with posters and messages on the club message board. Start with  by placing posters around your club on how to prevent such accidents.  You should also review club safety standards regularly and update them. Consider a safety day as the club in Munich does.

Promote water safety with free rowing posters from RowSafe for example, and our own guide It’sNotSafetoRowontheWaterWhen.., or British Water Safety Guide to Good Rowing Practice, which in 2008, replaced the Water Safety Code. The main message in this new guide is that clubs have a responsibility to provide information, education and training about safety, and individuals have a responsibility to find this information and put it into practice – which is exactly what we’re talking about.

Invest in Safety.

When you consider safety in your club, do not forget to invest time in talking to other participants in your rowing environmebt: Water police, coast guards, sail and yacht club, harbour managers. They all have a particular few of us rowers. It is good to know there few about us and how we are seen by theses group. This gives you also the opportunity to talk about our rowing sports. A few years ago I explained the sailing club manager that we are rowing “backwards”. That gave him a very different understanding of our sports. A few weeks later he approached me to have an annual safty day together with the sailing club.

Fitness rowers: Use your life jackets. Be prepared when water gets rough. Espec. prepare for holiday season on the water, estimate motorboat and cargo boat traffic. You do not have to wear the life jackets. Just have them with you in the boat. By the way: On bumpy days, when I expect waves and wake, my Life Jacket VIVO 100 fits between my Filippi Cockpit and the stretcher

More safety guidelines for Rowing in Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand:

Rowing Canada Safety Guide





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