Adaptive Rowing FAQs

I have a visual impairment; will I be able to single scull?

There is no reason why you should not be able to single scull. Every coach will risk assess the planned activity as part of good practice and would need to do the same in this instance particularly thinking about what other water users there are and what the level of supervision is. You will be able to scull with navigational direction from the coach or a fellow sculler alongside. One way radios are often used for events to aid VI rowers.

I use a wheelchair; how can I get into a rowing boat?

As a wheelchair user, you may or may not require help when transferring from a wheelchair to boat. Some basic guidelines will be given by your coach and this will vary depending on whether you are transferring from a shore or pontoon.

If you intend to row regularly from a particular venue, it may be worth discussing with the club whether they would consider permanent aids to help you transfer. Such aids vary from simple devices such as a sliding board, which is useful where the transfer gap is wide and the seat is at a similar height to the seat of your chair. A simple transfer box will help you transfer from wheelchair to transfer box then onto pontoon, before transferring to the boat. A hoist can be installed on a stable dock; however, this may be unsuitable for a floating pontoon.

British Rowing has published a guide to Adaptive Rowing which you may find helpful, as it illustrates a methodical and safe way of self and assisted transfer to the rowing boat.

Further information is available in ‘Adaptive Rowing: A Guide’.

I have a spinal cord injury; is it safe for me to row?

British Rowing strongly advises that you are classified prior to taking part in rowing activity and complete British Rowing’s Pre-activity health questionnaire. In addition to a set of questions that record pertinent medical history, you can also mention anything that you consider relevant in making your rowing sessions a safe and enjoyable experience. All information is kept confidential, but with your consent may be shared with coaches on a need to know basis to ensure that your needs are met when taking part in a rowing activity.

Depending whether you have a complete or incomplete injury will determine what assistive devices you may require in the boat. These may include stable boats, postural support seats, pressure sore prevention cushions/pads, strapping, pontoon floats to provide additional stability in the boat etc.

Your coach should be able to advise on what assistive devices you may need based on the level of your injury and what parts of your body might be affected by paralysis and loss of function.

I am a rower with limited hand function?

Gloves are available to aid handgrip on the indoor rowing machine or on an oar, such as the Active Hands™ general purpose gripping aid, which consist of a self-closing Velcro glove that tensions to wrap fingers around oar/scull handle. These are widely used by Adaptive Rowers and particularly ideal for those with tetraplegia/quadriplegia, cerebral palsy, stroke recovery, finger amputees or any disability that affects hand function. It works by the tightening of a strap in the upper section, which gently pulls the hand into a fist shape, in order to facilitate an ergometer, oar or scull handle. The wrist strap is also adjustable and the aid is padded to reduce chafing.

I have a hearing impairment; is it safe for me to go out sculling?

Your coach will always need to assess the risk before agreeing on any activity. There should not be a concern as long as you know the rules of the river and are aware of other water users, the environment and conditions. If you are in any doubt, always ensure that you are supervised by a coach on the bank or in a launch, or by a fellow rower in a boat alongside you to warn you of danger

How will I communicate with my coach if I have a hearing impairment?

Firstly, tell your coach; you know your own limitations best.

Some rowers are able to lip read and some may choose to use Makaton. Additionally you could devise a series of symbols and signs that are agreed between you and your coach.

I have a visual impairment; will I be able to row with others when I can't see what everyone else is doing?

I have a visual impairment; will I be able to row with others when I can’t see what everyone else is doing?

Yes – Rowing is a sport that relies very much on feel and once you have been taught the basic rowing technique on a rowing machine and in a sculling boat on a one-to-one basis with your coach you will soon be able to rower with others in crew rowing.

A visual impairment does not constitute a serious problem for performing the rowing movement. In practice a sighted rower does not constantly look at his/her blade or crewmembers, but relies on an instinctive ‘feel’ for the boat.

You will be able to feel how the boat is moving and how others are moving in the boat. You will be able to keep in time with the others in the crew by listening out for clues; one sound at the placement of the oar in the water – as you all do it together – and one at the finish. In addition you may have a cox in the boat that can give specific commends to help you follow the crew rhythm and timing.

I have a visual impairment; how do I know where my oar is in relation to the water?

There are many exercises that coaches use with crews that are relevant to individuals with a visual impairment; simple placement drills and ‘slapping’ the water before the catch will all help you (whether you have full or partial sight) become more aware of where your oar is in relation to the water at the catch. Additional aids could include having straws in the boat at the catch indicating where you need to raise your hands to – this provides a physical and kinaesthetic stimulus. Your coach may also place tactile markers on the oar or scull handles to indicate when the blade is “square” and the correct relation to the water. These can be easily removed, once you have learnt the skill.

How do I keep in time in a crew boat if I have a visual impairment?

If you are in  a crew boat that has a  coxswain, it is their role to ensure that  that the rhythm of the boat is transferred from stroke to bow and that timing is immaculate to aid its efficiency. In crew boats, the cox or if in a coxless boat, another crew member will pay particular attention to timing, rhythm and coaching calls to help the rowers concentrate and enhance the kinaesthetic feel and feedback that you receive from the boat itself. You should be reassured in knowing that many rowers with visual impairments are fully integrated into sighted crew boats.

How do I know if I am eligible to row and/or race as an adaptive rower?

Have a look at the classification process on our classification guidance page for more information.

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