Beginner's Guide to Coastal Worlds

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The World Rowing Coastal Championships 2018, held for the first time in North America!

I think I’m particularly qualified to write a beginner’s guide to the World Rowing Coastal Championships. In 2015, In Lima, Peru, I became the first rower to represent the US in this event. I had no coach or other athlete to give me tips, and I had no idea what to expect--no clue--essentially I was the ultimate beginner!

Even though I’m a very experienced coastal rower, I found myself struggling through the course. There are so many unique aspects to FISA coastal racing. That same year, Olympic rower Angel Fournier Rodriguez also gave the Coastal Championships a shot. Clearly a formidable and talented athlete, in the end he finished higher in the Olympics than he did in the Coastal Worlds-–and that might just tell us something about FISA Coastal racing!

What makes it so challenging? I think it’s the diversity of skills needed to master it. It's sort of like sailboat racing-meets-demolition derby. You need a base of good boat speed. You need to be adept in a wide range of conditions, from flat calm to very rough. You need strong buoy-turning skills and boat placement strategy. Pacing is essential in these difficult mid-distance races. It's aggressive, vocal, lane-free racing. You need eyes on all sides of your head. The start is tricky – it could be on a beach, it could be a floating start where you may even choose to get moving before the gun. Perhaps most intriguing is the need to embrace the unexpected, the random, the chaotic. And the most enjoyable aspect is the madness of it all – the pure fun of careening through a rambunctious race.

All of that could be intimidating, but let’s look at it from another perspective – with so many different skills required, these races are open to a much broader range of athletes than their flat water counterparts. Let's say you just aren’t big enough to make that elite Eight, or your erg score was never low enough to impress a national team coach. Perhaps you are older, and just not as explosive over a 2K course anymore. None of that matters in coastal rowing. Sure, maybe an occasional race will be a flat calm and the big guns will run away with it. Or maybe it will be terribly rough, and the technical rowers will pull a horizon job on the muscle. Maybe the grey-haired old guy with perfect turns will just keep sneaking past everyone. You never know in coastal racing!

While I certainly haven’t mastered FISA coastal racing, now that I have a couple World Championship races under my belt, I at least have a much better idea about how to train for them. With the race coming to North America for the first time this October, there may be others in my shoes-–rowers who want to enter but do not have FISA-style coastal racing experience or coaches. After all, It is a new sport over here.

So the next series of blogs will contain training tips for the novice interested in giving Coastal Worlds a go. And remember, by novice I mean anyone who hasn’t raced this unique format before, be you hardened coastal adventurer or Olympic Champion! 

Stay tuned as we'll be putting out a couple tips a week. Happy training, and yes, you should consider making a run for Victoria 2018!

Check out the race website here:

wrcc2018.com