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Rowing across the generations by Gary Gordon, PhD

In 1886, when the Duluth (Minnesota) Rowing Club was formed (1), Grover Cleveland was president, the Statue of Liberty was freshly cast, and Coca-Cola had just been invented. Then, rowing was a sport for young men. Today, rowing welcomes men and women, from ninth graders to centenarians. Some race on a 2,000-meter course (2,187 yards) and others prefer recreational rowing.

You’ve watched rowing as part of the Olympic Games, but perhaps haven’t given it much thought beyond that. To explain, boats with two oars per rower are known as “sculls” (which is also another name for the oars themselves). You row backward, so you can see where you’ve been. Sculls can be an individual or a team-building sport. For example, quads are racing shells that are 41 feet long and 2 feet wide; they hold four rowers. They can be used for competition or recreation. These boats are long and sleek, with seats that slide backward and forward on rails. Fixed sets of “shoes,” called stretchers, anchor the rowers’ feet.

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