Just like any activity, rowing is better if you’re properly dressed for it, and for the conditions you’ll be rowing in. Obviously, you’ll wear more clothes in cooler weather, and less in the warmer weather. In consideration of the weather, here are a few tips you can follow:
Clothes (Upper Half & Lower Half)
In cooler weather, you may want a merino wool base layer on top that wicks away sweat, yet keeps you warm even when wet. Layer-up as needed to keep warm, but expect to shed layers as you warm up. Generally, you’ll start with more layers than you’ll finish with.
In the summer, I suggest technical t-shirts that you would wear running or to a work out class. On a cool morning you may start with a second layer, or a wind/rain shell, but will likely shed that pretty quick.
Below the waist, shorts in the summer, or a decent pair of not-too-loose-fitting sweatpants in the winter. I cycle year round so I often wear the same gear for rowing – padded cycling shorts work well rowing, with warmer leggings if it’s cold.
A good pair of runners or cross trainers or even sandals in the summer will suffice. At a minimum, you want reasonable support as you will be bracing hard with your legs and putting a lot of force on your feet. Your feet will be strapped in across the top of the foot and with a strap around your heel, so a bit of protection to avoid chafing in those areas is recommended. I’ve seen a few people pull off rowing in bare feet, but I’ve also seen blistered bare feet.
Whatever you choose to wear, one of the keys is to ensure you don’t have any baggy clothes or loose pockets at the front, top or bottom. You don’t want the oar handles catching on these and disrupting your stroke, or tearing your clothing. Snug fitting clothes are the best, but only if they are stretchy as you’ll be needing a full range of motion for the rowing stroke. You don’t want to be battling your tight-fitting jeans.
This is an interesting one. Personally, I often wear a thin pair of gloves that have a wrist strap to help keep them from slipping. Cross country ski gloves work great as they fit snug yet are thin enough to still give you a feel for the oars. I find gloves especially helpful in the two extremes – very hot days and very cool days. Cold days it makes sense that it keeps my hands warm. On hot days, gloves help absorb perspiration, give me a better grip, and help reduce blisters that happen when sweaty hands are slipping around on the oars. Very much a personal preference.
I highly recommend at least having gloves on board, especially if you’re going for a day-long expedition or multi-day trip. You don’t want to be caught out there with a case of blisters with 30 km still to row.
Hat, Sunglasses & Sunblock
A hat can be for warmth, for protection from the sun, or both. Never underestimate how much UV light is bouncing around when you are out on the water rowing! Good quality sunglasses and high-SPF sunblock are really just common sense.