What to Get

I don’t know much about canoes and stuff, but I think rowing looks really cool, like they do in college. I like how you have to paddle with both oars at the same time (unlike kayaking) and I like going fast and getting good workouts, but the racing shell things cost too much.

I was wondering if there’s a cheap boat or something that I could get that satisfies my preferences (going fast and both oars at the same time) that costs less than $500. I’m not gonna be using it but maybe once or twice a week, and I only need room for 1 person, but more is okay.

Does anyone know of such a thing?? Thanks.

A few pointers

– Last Updated: Jul-06-12 10:52 PM EST –

I think it's safe to say that I'm this site's "resident rower", and the guy who calls himself g2d is the site's "resident former rower". g2d knows more about the style of rowing you are interested in. I row fixed-seat, utilitarian boats (though they are not "slow" unless compared to racing designs), not the sliding-seat vessels you have in mind, but I can give you some starting tips.

First, to really get "up to speed" - that is, the kinds of speeds you have in mind, you'll be needing something very long and skinny -- and expensive. Any boat designed for easy use by a beginner will be wider and much more "locked in" by the constraints of the theoretical hull speed, which is a function of waterline length. That speed is calculated as follows: the square root of the waterline length x 1.54 = the "maximum" speed in miles per hour. The more racy (pointy and skinny) the design, the "softer" the effect of the hull-speed "limit", and such boats can go faster than hull speed. With a wider, more-stable boat, you'll need all your strength just to get a few tenths of a mile per hour faster than hull speed. Thus, for easy-to-use boats in the range of 16 or 17 feet, you'll be pretty-much maxed out at speeds of 6.2 to 6.3 mph. But don't worry. As muscle-powered boats go, that's pretty darned fast.

The rest of the news I can give you is that your hoped-for price is too low. You can't get ANY oar- or paddle-powered boat of decent quality for $500. Here's a company known for it's relatively inexpensive rowing boats, many of which are easy to use and quite popular with recreational rowers:


Even their cheapest boat costs several times as much as you hope to pay, and for your price all you can get is a pair of oars. Betcha weren't expecting that! I think the next thing for you is to start researching the topic so you can figure out how you want to get started, and where you might find a used boat to suit your needs. There must be websites devoted to rowing, but I don't need them for what I do and therefore don't know what's out there.

Lots of good stuff for $500
I don’t know about rowing shells but if you look in the used market, and why wouldn’t you, you can gets tons of great (and fast) canoes and kayaks for under $500.

Here’s a real fast one (kayak) but it’s going to have quite a learning curve:



Couple bucks for transport
Put a little money aside for a Transport Rack

  • long boats need secure, snug, no slip, vehicle transport

Kit sculls
I have a friend who built a stich and glue rowing scull. He lives 900 miles away so I’ve never seen it but he loves it. I’m pretty sure this is the one.


What I did was to mount two 2x4
longitudinal stringers on the crossbars of a station wagon. I then added cross braces and uprights at the ends, with fire hose cradles supporting the boat. It wasn’t rock solid, but it worked for some very long trips. The boat was a 27 foot, ~30 pound racing single made of cedar, not one of the modern carbon/Kevlar jobs, which are much more durable.

The danger would be if one didn’t have a long vehicle roof to work with, but only a short rack spacing like on my Accord. I think I would buy a hitch and a vertical assembly in order to move the support points far apart.

Certainly not your foam block improv project. Thing to do would be to hang around the local rowing club and see what others are using.

g2d is the site’s gendarme

I got a three compartment, rubber, blow
up raft with ore locks and two ores for less than $500. NPS says it’s okay for the river.

I agree with guideboatguy
I come from more than 20 years of rowing experience, in everything from singles to 8’s. No offense to kayakers but it’s not something that you can pick up in just one session or two. I don’t know where your from but if at all possible try to find a rowing club near you that can give you instruction.

It’s funny but it seems that every time the olympics rolls around there seems to be a surge in people that want to learn how to row. Unfortunately a very small percentage ever stick with it. Not trying to discourage you because I think rowing is the best team sport on the planet. Friends you make rowing are friends for life.

try a club
You didn’t put your location in your profile so I can’t refer you to specific groups, but all the folks I know who got into rowing and sculling did so through clubs that do it. Most have rental and loaner boats for newcomers and have regular training sessions and outings. I would suggest looking for rowing groups in your city. Check Meetup.com in your area to see if one is listed there. And here is a list of hundreds of local clubs in the US:


very pretty