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Sculling offers a complete on-water workout

JUANITA HILL is offering sculling lessons through her new venture, www.learn2scull.net. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
July 26, 2010
TUFTONBORO — In a region with plenty of lakes, water sports often take a front seat in summer activities.

Swimming, canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing and jet skiing are all popular things to do in the summer.

Kingswood physical education teacher Juanita Hill is working to add another sport to the popular summer activities in the area: Rowing.

Hill, a Tuftonboro resident, has begun a new business venture, www.learn2scull.net, which offers people the chance to pick up a sport that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment as well as provide a physical workout for all participants.

Hill, who was a multi-sport varsity athlete at the University of New Hampshire during her college days, has won four national gold medals in lightweight sweep rowing and is an experienced teacher and coach, offering a strong background to get anyone started with rowing.

While Hill was a medal winner in sweep rowing, sculling is a bit different, though it incorporates many of the same techniques.

Sweep rowers row with only one oar per person. Those boats come in twos, fours and eights, with eights being the fastest boats on water. A solid eight can reach speeds of up to 14 miles per hour.

Sculling involves athletes using two different oars, one in each hand. Sculls come in singles, twos and fours.

Hill owns a single scull, which she uses on her regular runs on the lake, but for her business purposes, she uses a double, which has room for two rowers and allows her to instruct someone from just a foot or so away.

Once trained properly, a person in a scull will get a pretty good workout when out on the water. The scull has rolling seats, which allows the person doing the rowing to use his or her entire body to power the boat. The body starts forward, with arms extended and the oars extended out behind the rower. As he or she puts the oars in the water, the hands come toward the body and the body pushes backward on the seat until the oars reach the furthest point forward. At that point, the oars come out of the water and flip flat (parallel with the surface of the water) and move backward as the rower moves forward in his or her seat to the start position again.

The sport is a bit unusual in that a person in a scull can't really see where he or she is going without looking behind. The boat moves across the water with the rower facing backwards.

In sweep rowing, in boats of four or eight, often time there is a coxswain, a person facing opposite the rowers steering the boat. However, in sculling, there is no coxswain, the steering and navigating are done by the people with the oars.

Hill does her instruction with a Maas Double, which is designed as an open water racing shell as well as a club race/trainer for intermediate to advanced rowers. It has a narrow (14.75 inches) waterline beam, but also has excellent stability thanks to a slightly flattened hull section shape and a low center of gravity. The scull is constructed of carbon fiber for stiffness, direct sized 'S' glass for impact resistance, syntactic foam core for panel stiffness and vinylester resin of toughness and ease of repair. The boat is 31 feet long and weighs 65 pounds. It can hold up to 480 pounds of rower. It also contains six air bags, meaning it can act as a flotation device if capsizing occurs. The scull's seats are made of foam core fiberglass, the best design found for long distance rowing. The foot stretchers, where a rower straps in his or her feet, are carbon fiber/fiberglass with neoprene and Velcro straps and are easily adjustable. The oarlocks are adjustable for height, pitch and spread, depending on the size of the person taking the lesson.

A lesson with Hill includes one hour on the water, as well as pre and post instruction, usually totaling about an hour and a half of time. Hill usually launches from 20 Mile Bay in Tuftonboro or Mirror Lake in Tuftonboro, but other locations can be arranged.

Rowers must be able to help Hill unload the 65-pound scull from her car and carry it to the water for launch. Rowers can also provide someone to help with that portion of the job if they are uncomfortable carrying that weight.

Rowers also must be able to swim before taking a lesson, as there is always the possibility, as in any watercraft, of capsizing. The sculls rely on good balance to stay upright, however, and if the rowers keep a good balance, there won't be any problems. (This reporter made it in and out on 20 Mile Bay without capsizing the scull.)

Hill notes that she will reduce the lesson price for the more lessons each person takes, meaning the lessons get cheaper as the rower gets more and more experience.

Anyone wishing to learn the finer points of sculling is urged to contact Hill to set up a lesson. More information on sculling can be found at Hill's Web site, www.learn2scull.net and anyone interested in setting up a lesson can reach her at 568-4831 to set up an appointment.

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