17 Warning Signs That Your Rigging Stinks

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If you’ve been at this sport long enough odds are good that you have a handle on your rigging. You’re good with the equipment; you treat it well; and the equipment is there for you when you need it.

But how do you really know your rigging is good?

You’ll never really know for sure, however there are warning signsthat you might have an issue. In fact, more than just an issue, there are warning signs that your rigging may just down-right stink.

A warning sign is a simple piece of information that speaks loud and clear and says “Hey you, there is a problem here!” Often rowers and coaches miss many of the warning signs until it is too late, choosing instead to ignore or discount them. If any of the following warning signs are prevalent in your rowing it might be an indication that your rigging stinks, and you need to clean things up a bit:

1. You spend more time at practice fixing things than rowing

Practice time is rowing time, not fixing-broken-things-time. Yet that is what many rowers end up doing during practice.

Yeah, yeah I know—you don’t have time to pay attention to the equipment and row. But guess what? You will be paying attention to the equipment soon enough, during the time that you scheduled for rowing. So stop whining and aside time for the equipment. It will be a good investment and will save you time and energy, and keep practice time for practice.

2. Broken things just don’t get fixed

If your rigging is good then broken things get fixed. Quickly and correctly. I don’t mean in weeks, but in hours. Broken equipment leads to broken people, and it is certainly an instance of pay me now or pay me a lot more later.

3. Repeat and prevalent injuries

Compared to contact sports rowing is basically injury free. However, injuries do happen, mostly from overuse over a period of time. Keep your eyes open for the following, especially if you see them from more than one rower in the same boat:

  • hands getting infected
  • lower back injuries
  • significant blistering of hands, butt, feet
  • track bites on back of calves

Yes, these could happen due to technique, but also from the rigging. Check it to be sure.

4. You are always borrowing stuff from other rowers at races

At races do you have all the stuff you need? I’m talking about all the little stuff like nuts, bolts and bow numbers. You’re using checklists, right? If not you’re wasting time and energy looking for stuff at the last moment, not to mention annoying the heck out of folks.

5. You replace equipment every year

I’ve written ad nauseum about taking care of your equipment. Are you replacing things left and right? Does a boat or set of oars only last two years? Do the boat makers know you by name and know every time you call they will be making money? If so, your maintenance plan stinks, but at least you’re making the builders happy.

6. You’ve held up more than one race start due to broken equipment

Are you the one that race officials know by name—because of how often they have had to delay a race due to your equipment breaking? That’s a warning sign you need to pay attention to. Listen—broken equipment at races happen. But so many equipment issues can be prevented with a decentmaintenance plan.

Get on a plan, and keep your equipment in top shape.

7. Your boats are rigged perfectly but you are as slow as molasses in the winter

Rigging is one of the critical components of what makes a boat fast, but do you know the other 5, and where rigging sizes up compared to the others? Too often I’ve seen folks go rigging-crazy and miss the top things that can make them fast.

If this is your case then you’ve got things backwards, and although we love to go backwards, we want to do it fast. And you are not.

8. Your oar’s grips are bloody and torn up

There are three places rowers are in constant contact with their equipment: hands, butt, and feet. Bloody, torn up grips and handles are a travesty and a sure sign your rigging stinks.

Here’s why: the grips are one of the most important pieces of rowing equipment and if you are not paying attention to them then all the little things are probably going unattended. It is not hard totake care of them, but it sure is important.

9. Nobody asks you for rigging advice

Do people flock to you at regattas, ask how you rig, and go home and make sure that they never do what you do?

Rigging is art and science combined, which means that nobody has it all figured out. But if rowers use you as an example of what NOT to do, then you’ve got a big issue.

10. You spend less than an hour rigging, per year

Yeah, you can rig a boat in about 20 minutes—but not well. Most successful rowers and coaches invest a significant amount of time on their rigging and equipment. If you are not doing then you are missing something.

11. Your rigging numbers don’t change for different seasons

Head races and sprint races are very different critters, and they demand different rigging numbers. If you aren’t changing your numbers accordingly then you are handicapping yourself, and rowing slower. Now why would you want to do that?

12. Vise grips, hammers, and duct tape are your rigging tools of choice

Those are all solid tools, but they are tools of last resort in the world of rigging. Rigging doesn’t require a great deal of finesse, but it does require knowing how to use a few specific tools and when to use them.

If your riggers are covered with tape residue, bang-marks, and scratches you either need to hire someone to rig for you, or invest some time and learn how and when to use the proper tools.

13. You haven’t washed your boat’s hull since the last presidential election

When is the last time you washed your boat? Not just sprayed it with water, but gave it a nice sudsy bath. If you see grease marks on the back of rower’s legs and the boat makes sounds-from-hell when you row it, then you need to grab a sponge, bucket, soap and get both you and the boat wet.

And this needs to happen about every 5 to 10 times the boat is rowed. Inside and out.

14. You own two straps, and they are as old as dirt

Straps are worth their weight in diamonds—I’m talking about a good healthy strap. An old and worn strap can be a hazard to you, your rowing, and anyone who is driving on the highway near you.Check out your straps and get good ones if they are lame.

And do it right now!


15. You don’t put a flag on your boat when you transport it

There are a few manners we expect others to use, like: using your blinkers when you drive, saying please and thank you, and holding a door open for others. You could include using a flag in that category—but don’t. Using a flag is not a case of manners, it is a case of safety and social responsibility.

Flagging a boat is critical to safety, and in many states if you have more than 3 feet of overhand a flag is mandatory. If you’re not using a flag then there will probably be a whack of trouble waiting out there for you, somewhere. And will probably include a police officer.

16. You think rigging is a waste of time

First, that’s not true, because you wouldn’t have read this far if you thought that. Second, whether you think rigging is a waste of time or not a waste of time you are right.

If you do think it is a waste of time then by your simple involvement with one of the most equipment-intensive sports known to man, you are not connecting the dots. Rigging can save you time, save you money, save you energy, and make you faster. So, uh, why exactly would someone think it is a waste of time?

17. Rowers bend down and kiss the dock as soon as they land.

The row is over, the boat has landed, and the rowers crawl out and kiss the dock (even with goose-poop on it). And they only rowed 100 strokes. Do you see something wrong with this image? I would bet it is the rigging.

The two critical reasons you rig your equipment is for efficiency and comfort. If your rigging is off, then so are these two really important things.

So What?

Wouldn’t it be great if rigging was easy, simple, and quick to do. I hate to tell you this, but it isn’t. It takes time, effort and energy. However, it certainly is something that you will be rewarded for if you do it, and do it well.

And there are ways to get better. Grab a good book on it. Go to a clinic. Get a video from USRowing. All can help.

Especially if you think your rigging might stink.