The Single Life

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Gevvie Stone, USA W1X Silver Medalist at the 2016 Olympics. Photo Peter Spurrier.

I learned to scull out of necessity. It was 1991, and the attrition from junior to senior that year was particularly bad. If I wanted to keep rowing, it would have to be on my own. It wasn’t pretty at first—it still isn’t, my ever-changing release continuing to mess with my set—but I stayed upright long enough to eventually learn how to move the boat.

The single is a great teacher, and I learned other things too that year—how to properly apply power, how to relax and let the boat do the work. But more than anything, I learned how to race. Sure, I’d been down the race course plenty of times before, in pairs, fours, and eights. But there’s nothing like having to make that trip on your own, with just your race plan and that voice in your head keeping you company. It’s a cliché, but there really is no hiding in the single.

I didn’t stay exposed for too long. All told, I spent only a couple years as a sculler, but nearly everything I learned—about technique and about myself—I was able to apply to crew boats. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work the other way around.

This is just one of the reasons why I recommend that people, newcomers especially, learn to scull. Writer Connor Walters offers many more in our cover feature this issue, “Balance is Beautiful” (page 38), along with a road map for how to get there.

Walters talked to some of the most accomplished sculling coaches and athletes in the country for his piece, including Olympic singles silver medalists Michelle Guerette (Beijing) and Gevvie Stone (Rio). Both made the switch to sculling after years in sweep and reached the pinnacle of our sport.

Here’s to more doing the same.