036 | Coxing Gear
Welcome to CoxPod, a podcast dedicated to coxing topics. I'm Anne. I'm Breana. We're experienced coxswains who continue to learn a great deal from the broader coxing community and from sharing with each other. Our primary goal is to promote ongoing skills development and we're happy you're joining us.
BREANA: We're excited to explore a topic that comes up a lot in conversations among coxswains everywhere - including our listeners. And that is: our gear. This becomes something that you curate over time to fit your individual coxswain needs.
ANNE: I think of my gear as the physical stuff that I have with me that helps me be prepared for common things that might happen and that I've learned - over time and from experience - help me do my job. Like most of us, I've had experiences where my batteries in the cox box die during a practice. And so I've adopted a habit of carrying a spare battery with me. I found this to be a very helpful practice because as I was coxing at the Head of The Charles … as I was crossing the start line with my crew … my battery died. And so I was able to quickly reach into my bag, grab that battery, replace it, and carry on as (again) we were in the first few strokes at Head of The Charles. And I sure was glad that I did not have to cox that entire race without a cox box functioning.
BREANA: I'm stressed out just thinking about you having to do that across the line, Anne, but that really is an indication of how useful gear can be when we have what we need in the moment. When I think about gear, I think about the rowing environment where things can get wet, stained, dropped in the water and lost forever. The list goes on. And my kind of eclectic mix of gear derives from my philosophy of not spending a ton of money on things that can succumb to all of these different fates in the rowing world. So In this episode, we will also share cheap or even free ways to acquire many of the items that we're going to talk about.
ANNE: You certainly live that philosophy. I've seen it in action, Breana. So let's remember that what we carry with us may change on the basis of the situation. We're going to start talking about practice. What do you carry with you for practices?
BREANA: Deciding what to bring may start with considering the brand of boat that you're going to be in. Some boats use the standard or imperial measurement system and others use the metric system, so that's going to inform your decision. And some types of boats have specialty, unique parts that are applicable to that specific manufacturer like a mechanism for locking in foot stretchers that differs from your typical wing nut. If you have that type of shell, you may need to bring that type of extra piece of equipment.
ANNE: The type of boat really does matter a lot. I'd like to urge people to verify on land that what you are carrying with you works for that particular shell. In my boathouse, we have a whole bunch of different brands. And so, I need to make sure that I carry a little bit of everything with me. Now, I don't want to get weighted down. I'm not a toolkit - a walking toolkit - but I do for practices (in particular) carry a whole hodgepodge of items with me that will fit whatever boat I'm sitting in. It's helpful to also talk with the coach to find out, for example, if they bring a toolkit on the launch, because then that will help you to adjust and finesse what you bring with you on practice days. I bring a lot with me because I don't have a coach that carries a toolkit. So let's talk about how I actually carry my gear. I prefer to use a drawstring bag, and other people use other types of containers, for lack of a better word. What about you, Breana?
BREANA: I am a fanny pack user currently – that’s what I like for storing my tools. We know coxswains that like to use a dry bag. This is a container with a waterproof exterior that closes by often rolling the top down and then clipping that to ensure that everything remains protected inside. Some coxswains recommend putting everything inside of a large water bottle. Nalgene is a brand, for example, that makes these large hard shell plastic water bottles and you can store wrenches and tools and things in there and it doesn't matter if they bounce around, everything is well contained in that water bottle.
ANNE: Great idea. I never thought of a water bottle as the container that you carry with you. Brilliant.
BREANA: Yeah, I got to give credit to the ‘Short and Snarky’ coxswains in their book. They cite that as their preferred method. I coached a group of high school coxswains who liked to use a pelican case for their storage. So, a hard plastic box that could also close down and secure to be waterproof and was often clear on the exterior so that you could see what you had inside. And then you could attach a carabiner to the outside of that and carry it easily. So that's... another suggestion of how you could carry your gear.
ANNE: The trick is to actually carry enough but not more than you need. This is what takes time to hone and decide from your experiences what works best for you. You don't want to bring the whole boathouse along with you. You just can't do that, particularly if you're a bowloader and you're going to have your bag on your lap or your chest. You don't want to be weighted down that much. But on the other hand, it is imperative that I carry certain things with me at all times. Something that's really fun is to actually get together with fellow coxswains and open up those bags or containers - whatever you use - and take it apart and say, “Hey, show me what's in your bag. What do you carry? What do I carry?” And compare and contrast what you have. It's a very fun activity that I have done myself with fellow coxswains.
BREANA: Yeah, in preparation for this episode, we had a little show and tell of what each other had in our bags to make sure we were comprehensive in our coverage here and took away useful things … I think both of us … from that.
ANNE: Absolutely. And one of the things that we - and most coxswains - do carry are wrenches.
BREANA: These in particular are something that needs to be sized according to your boat brand, so make sure you're informed about whether you're using standard or metric measurements for your given shell. And like Anne mentioned earlier, your boathouse may have a mix of both. It likely does. So you probably need to own a variety of types of wrenches and then you may choose to vary that on the basis of what shell you're using on a given day. I'll share a little bit about how I store my wrenches and carry them with me. This is inspired by my own experiences at events like Masters Worlds, where I am jumping into different boats constantly throughout the day from all kinds of different brands. So I bring with me a little bit of everything to be prepared for any scenario. I start with a lanyard that ends in a carabiner that I can use to keep all of these things together and around my neck for easy storage. On that lanyard, I have two what I call multi-tools or specialized wrenches with multiple different openings on them that are designed specifically for either standard or for metric shells so that I'm (again) prepared for whatever I might need. And then I also carry one extra 7/16 wrench and one extra 10 millimeter wrench for either of those scenarios if I happen to be rigging a shell or tightening something that is doing that thing where it just spins and doesn't actually tighten down, sometimes you need a second wrench for that. And then critical for me … with the knowledge that we're on water … sometimes we're passing a wrench to a rower and we might be concerned validly about that wrench dropping in the water, for example. So on my lanyard, I have a giant floaty. In our show notes for this episode, I will link the product that I use after much research on Amazon to find basically the biggest, most intense floaty I could possibly find. It's pretty large that I hope, I haven't personally tested it, but I hope is enough to hold up all of these wrenches. And on that floaty, which I just attached to the lanyard, I also write my name and phone number and email address in the event that somehow this collection of equipment was not attached to my person and someone found it, they would be able to return it to me. So that is kind of my full setup as far as wrenches go for practices and races.
ANNE: As a fellow lanyard wearer, I might need to adopt that suggestion about the floaty. And yes, I've seen it in our preparation for this episode and it is large, folks. Yes, I wear the lanyard with wrenches. I have a couple of other things on the lanyard as well. Generally I have some electrical tape on there. I find a downside of wearing my wrenches there is that when the boat is in motion, sometimes there can be sort of a clanging of the wrenches together on my chest. So I like to, you know, tuck it in so that it's quiet.
BREANA: Often what coxswains are carrying as far as wrenches are the typical kind that you could just walk into a store and buy where one end is the box type of end that's a fully closed circle. That's easy to put onto a carabiner and carry on a lanyard and then the other end is an open end. Some people prefer wrenches that have ratchet or socket features that they might find a little easier to use for rigging purposes. You may find that you prefer that.
ANNE: I'm a big fan of having an adjustable wrench in my bag. I usually have a very small one, but you need to oil it intermittently. I do anyway to make sure that it doesn't rust out, but adjustable wrenches are very handy. Another type of wrench that I only recently learned about is a T handle. It looks like a letter T. It's about a seven inch-ish long bar that ends up in a socket and can be very helpful in getting into tough-to-reach spots. I don't have that with me now, but I'm considering it.
BREANA: A piece of gear that I recently added to my collection is a set of Allen wrenches. Sometimes those are really useful if your boat has a certain type of bolt. You may find that Allen wrenches are something you want to carry as well.
ANNE: I'm glad you mentioned the word ‘collection’ because over time, we do get collections. And I've found it a common practice - but if you don't do it, you might want to consider it - to label all of my wrenches and important gear in a personalized way. I personally have used duct tape that has little owls on it as a design. And so when we are sharing the equipment, I can say, please pass me all the wrenches that have owls on them. And people can see right away that they are a set and they are mine.
BREANA: That's super cute. I love all the different duct tape specialty designs that you can pick up and that's really not a big expense. So if you're on a limited budget, that could be something nice that you add on to hopefully get your equipment back if you lend it out. Another option for labeling your wrenches that many people like to use - shockingly I have not used this myself despite having an extensive nail polish collection - is applying nail polish to part of the handle of your wrenches (again) to identify them as distinct.
ANNE: Those are some thoughts about wrenches - one of the key items that most, if not all, coxswains carry with them. I also am a fan of using Ziplock bags. I have all different sizes. So, for example, in one of my smaller Ziplock bags (separately), I'll have nuts and then I’ll have bolts and washers in another one, and wing nuts in another. All sized to whatever boat manufacturer I am sitting in. And I also have a specialty item that I have started to carry because I am in boats that have wing nuts. It's a dowel that someone carved out for me. At the very end, there is a cutout that sits right over the wing nut and allows me - or the rower if they're borrowing it - to actually turn a tight wing nut.
BREANA: That sounds like a really cool device. I need to figure out how to make myself one of those. Sounds like that would come in super handy. Speaking of things that have come in handy, I had an experience in my last rowing season where my stroke seat had an oar button come loose and he asked me, Oh, do you have a screwdriver? We can fix this really quickly.” And I was embarrassed to not have one. So now added to my kit is a screwdriver. And the kinds that we need the most often in the rowing world are a phillips head, which is kind of four little, equally spaced pieces, kind of like a four-pointed little star, snowflake design at the tip, or a flat head, which has one flat piece. You can find screwdrivers that have interchangeable head types where you could get both of these heads in one device. So look out for that kind of product.
ANNE: And screwdrivers have another function that I have used, which is to actually help push a spacer out from an oarlock pin. And speaking of spacers, or sometimes called washers, those are the little semi-circle plastic pieces that will change the height of the oar lock and they're removable. There are full height and half height. And I personally have those also in small plastic bags, you won't be surprised to hear. And I put the half spacers in one little bag and full so if somebody asked me in the dark, I can quickly pull them out and have the right height.
BREANA: The items we've been mentioning so far are more specific to the boat itself and might need to be specialized according to the type of boat that you use. Now we'll talk about some items that are useful in a more general sense and not all of us will carry all of these things but you might want to consider whether these are appropriate items for you to have as part of your gear. So something that I always have with me. is an index card or two and a pen. You may prefer a more full-fledged notebook. There are waterproof notebooks out there that some coxswains like to take in the boat with them. I found this to be a really helpful set of things to have on hand. Even just the other day, my coach asked me for a pen because the one that they had died and I was able to immediately supply that for them.
ANNE: Of course you did, Breana. You're always well prepared. In terms of carrying something to write things on, I actually have a three by five inch plastic sleeve. It's like a name tag or badge holder. That is part of what's on my lanyard. And so what I do is I actually have an index card and I have a pencil or pen inside there. Having it in the lanyard, I find very helpful. It's see-through. On one side, I generally have that day's lineup because our lineups frequently change. And on the other side, I have what the practice schedule is or my race schedule if I’m at a regatta.
BREANA: You may also find it beneficial to carry zip ties or shoelaces or something that can serve as a heel tie if you need to equip your boat with that. I also like to bring a little pair of travel scissors. They fold up super small and fold into themselves so that you don't have pointy scissor parts sticking out anywhere as you reach around in your bag. And they're sized appropriately to get through TSA in the airport. These have been useful if I have a full length shoelace that I want to cut into multiple pieces because I don't really need the whole thing to fix a heel tie and then I can make the life of that shoelace last a little bit longer.
ANNE: Breana, another example of how prepared you are. You're helping the coach with a pen, you've got travel scissors. Wow, you're an inspiration to me. I'm listening and learning.
BREANA: As we set up, that's kind of what we're here to do as coxswains, you know. I look forward to continuing to learn from you and other coxswains as a result of this episode as well. On that note, you mentioned when we spoke in preparation for this episode a specific type of electrical tape that you like to use.
ANNE: Oh yes. Hailing from what might be considered the cold, north country of the United States, I have adopted the use of Scotch Super 88. which is great because it will take cold weather. And I think that actually the specifications say something like from zero to 221 degrees. The zero I see often and it won't crack and so forth. So I always carry electrical tape, even at a regatta. It goes on my lanyard as well. And I'm a fan of the low temperature electrical tape.
BREANA: Tape can be so useful for attaching bow numbers securely. Even if in a pinch you have to change or make your own bow number, like maybe you need an eight but your set only goes up to seven, you can turn a three into an eight with some tape. Who has not had to do that at least once in their coxing life? You can use it to secure shoes if you have an older set of shoes and the Velcro is not staying put anymore. Pass that tape back to the rower and they can get themselves sorted out to be able to successfully row.
ANNE: I've done that multiple times. I've also found electrical tape handy for attaching lights to boats if there is not a good holder or the holder becomes loose. And although we don't hope this for anyone, it can be useful for small punctures in a boat.
BREANA: Another type of tape that you may opt to carry with you is medical tape. You can find this at a typical drugstore and it can be useful for rowers who are experiencing or trying to prevent blisters … track bites. I've had rowers wrap this around an oar handle that was old and kind of disintegrating into their palms as they rowed. And so this was a way to at least give them a little bit of a better grip on the oar - so lots of uses for medical tape.
ANNE: I've had rowers very grateful that I carried medical tape with me. It's a lightweight item and well worth its value in my opinion. A related, sort of medical thing that I carry are band-aids. Again, this is not about necessity, but it sure is a nice thing to have and rowers are very appreciative.
BREANA: I keep these sorts of things in a little emergency first-aid travel kit sort of thing - a little container that closes on itself and again is easy to fish out of a bag if you are asked for those things. You may also carry medication on you … like you might have a little tube of Neosporin if a person gets a cut. I've even had people carry Advil or something like that and have had rowers ask about that type of thing. Or the rowers may ask you - on their behalf - to carry medical equipment that they need, like an inhaler or an EpiPen. That might temporarily - for the outing - become part of your gear.
ANNE: On a side note about the inhalers and so forth, I have been in boats where multiple inhalers were passed to me to carry. So before you put them all into your bag or your kit, make sure people can identify which one is theirs.
BREANA: Something that you might also want to carry that could be useful in that situation is a sharpie … should you need to label something like that on the fly. Another item I like to carry is a hair tie. I have been asked numerous times by rowers. In fact, the one that comes most recently to my mind is a person I didn't even know randomly approached me at a regatta and said, “Do you happen to have a hair tie? I'm desperate”. And I was like, “I sure do”. These are not only useful for the traditional purpose of tying up hair, but I have also - in a pinch - used this as a makeshift spacer. If you are in desperate need, this can be done. You can loop the hair tie around the pin of the oarlock in a way that at least stabilizes it a little bit. So you never know in what way things are going to be useful.
ANNE: That is an amazing hack, Breana. I never thought of that. I'm getting a theme here about preparedness and creative thinking, right?
ANNE: Let's move on to something that several coxswains have mentioned either in person or to CoxPod in an online fashion. and that would be the miraculous sponge. I use a kitchen size that I wet and then I put something on top of it and as it dries it ends up being a very thin, wafer-like size which is easy enough to throw into my kit.
BREANA: That's an awesome hack too. Some coxswains like to carry a more full-fledged, large sponge if they anticipate a lot of bailing out of quite a bit of water … like an automobile type of sponge. So if your situation calls for it, you may have an even larger setup, but I love that kitchen sponge smooshing down hack and for helping that not be a big bulky part of your kit. While you're at practice, you may also opt to carry a water bottle. Often coxswains are asked to carry many a water bottle for the rowers but reflect on whether you'd like to have one yourself for your outing. My recommendation is: choose a type of water bottle where the part that you're going to put your mouth on to drink out of it is fully covered. Again, remember we have these rolling around in foot wells and the bottom of the boat. We have water splashing over onto these. These are going through a lot. There's a lot that this water bottle is going to encounter. So I always advise people - choose a style where the part that you put your mouth on to drink is not exposed to the elements that we deal with in rowing.
ANNE: That's a really important point, Breana - safety and hygiene. A couple of other things that might seem random to some people. And again, this is a situation where you're deciding for yourself what's helpful … could be whistles. I have found them helpful because we're often out on bodies of water where there are not other people around and it's a safety thing. It can also be used at a regatta, for instance, if you need to warn somebody and they're not listening. Also, a cooling towel. Those are lightweight and I've found them helpful. And because I'm (again) often in the dark, I usually carry a flashlight. I have a very cool one that is tiny. It's LED and it's quite bright. And that's another thing that I carry on my lanyard.
BREANA: I always have a bungee or two in my fanny pack. And besides travel, when you might be bungeeing down a seat in the boat, I've also had to use these in practice contexts where we're taking out a seven and you've got to do something with that extra seat that's unoccupied so it doesn't roll around. That's when I'll just pull out a bungee, we'll tie it down, and we'll be able to go out for practice. Anne mentioned a cooling towel - if the weather calls for it, you may opt to bring hand warmers with you.
ANNE: And in our club, we often have a cold weather policy in effect, which means that I need to also carry and wear a life jacket. So that might be part of my kit at certain times of the year. Let's transition now into something that we hope is ubiquitous, which is our technology. And I'm guessing that most of our listeners, Breana, thought that we were going to bring this up first in a gear episode, but no, we took it another direction. But finally we're here. And let's emphasize again that we believe it's essential for every coxswain who is on an outing to have some kind of voice amplification device with them. We know that it doesn't happen all the time, but again, we urge people to have that as part of their gear on every outing. For those unfortunate situations where you might be working without speakers, you might have to come up with a makeshift, low tech option. And what I've had to use in the past - on occasion - is one of those sort of cheerleading style megaphones that's non-amplified.
BREANA: Sometimes it might be that. Other times, a coach might provide you with an extra, powered megaphone that they have that at least could work for you for that particular outing. In ideal situations, we have as part of our gear the traditional Cox Box or cox Orb - whatever manufacturer you prefer or have available to you - and a headset that accompanies that. And like Anne opened our episode by saying, you might want to have a spare battery if that is applicable to the type of device that you have. In addition to your voice amplification device, you may also be equipped with a speed coach or a cox mate or something that is giving you data about the boat.
ANNE: And technology that almost everybody has now with them in the boat is your phone.
BREANA: You can find for just a couple of bucks a floating, waterproof case for your phone. We all know the bottoms of our bodies of water are replete with the phones of people that have not employed one of these devices. I keep my phone in this waterproof floating bag … also on a lanyard on my neck … and that's where I keep my index card and pen that I mentioned earlier. There's plenty of space in there for a phone and a couple of extra things.
ANNE: And I think that's also what some of our listeners to the ‘What Not To Wear’ episode recommended. Isn't that right, Breana?
BREANA: Yes, that's Episode 031 if you're curious - where we talk a lot more about clothing-specific items. So thank you to those listeners for the forethought of knowing that some conversations about gear were coming up. We appreciate hearing multiple people vouch for this phone lanyard option.
ANNE: I have another approach in terms of protecting my phone, which is that I use a food storage bag. It's a little snack bag, but it is reusable and made of silicone. It also helps to provide some cushioning as I do put it into my drawstring bag. A small piece of technology that is 100% part of my gear is my watch. I don't know if everyone does that. Most people will be using cell phones now, but I always carry a watch as a backup plan.
BREANA: Same here. I do not feel right without it in a rowing outing. Now let's talk about a few special circumstances - items that you may not be carrying on a daily basis or you might depending on your context and your team. One thing that comes to mind for me is... something like a GoPro or an audio recording device. When I bring a GoPro out on the water, you'd better believe I'm also putting a floaty on that thing so that there's no way that an expensive piece of technology ends up in the water.
ANNE: I think you're a super user of floaties, Breana. I'm getting that visual. Another piece of technology that you might carry under certain circumstances might be a walkie talkie. Those are often helpful.
BREANA: And put a floaty on them! I know that one personally from having dropped one in the water. I sometimes have a yoga block as part of my gear. If you're in a shell that is really tiny and are uncomfortable during your row, you might sit up for a practice on a yoga block. And where this comes in the most helpful for me is when I'm on a barge. So if we've got new rowers who aren't quite ready for a full-fledged rowing shell yet, we might spend a practice or two in the barge. And the barge at my club has this stippled decking that is painful to sit on but I have to sit there to hold the steering mechanism and safely operate this barge. So I love a yoga block for that. I can just plop it down and sit on a more comfortable surface.
ANNE: Something else that is sort of a specialty item that I wanted to mention is an item to fill the bow of a bow loader to help keep you from sliding in if there's a lot of check. And recently we had a suggestion on Discord about what one coxswain has used for that. She had a custom-made - by her team - device that she put in that she even gave a name to. So go and check out that posting. I personally made a styrofoam plug, so to speak. It was lightweight and worked very well. And I put a ribbon on the end of it so I could easily reach in and pull it out. I actually pulled it out with my feet. So now we've talked about carrying almost everything but the kitchen sink. We can't do this all the time. And again, let's keep in mind that we are listing many things, but we understand that people need to adapt what they carry to their particular situation. And speaking of particular situations, let's now talk about how we can pare it all down for race day.
BREANA: When I think about a racing context, what informs my decision of how much gear I'm going to bring is based a lot in part on the regatta and how much support I expect there to be. If this is a major event where there are coaches and safety launches and people everywhere and you know that a wrench is only a launch away and there's going to be a launch within sight of you at all times, then you might need less. If you're going to a regatta where you have a super long row in an isolated area up to the start of a head race, for example, and along the way - at best - you might encounter one safety launch that ...maybe if you're lucky, the person staffing that launch has a wrench on them … that type of scenario might drive me to have a lot more on me because I have less external support to count on. I also consider my team and our equipment. If I'm borrowing equipment and I don't know anything about it, I'm going to have a lot more on me. If I know that my own team - our equipment has seen a lot of life and a lot of races and practices and could be at risk of falling apart - and I might need to rescue something with some tape or a wrench or who knows what, I might have a lot more on me. If you have brand new equipment that rarely has issues, you're at an extremely well supported regatta and you have confidence that you may encounter fewer issues with your own equipment and be able to resolve any using external support, then you might be able to pare down a lot more. I tend to have a lot still on me in my regatta contexts.
ANNE: I also have probably more than the average coxswain based on the equipment and the circumstances I find myself in, but I definitely do simplify what I have with me. So it's a much lighter kit in general. And one thing that I have decided not to bring during race days is a water bottle. However, there are a few things that we might bring with us on race day, but we don't necessarily have at practice. Why don't you talk about some of those, Breana?
BREANA: I mentioned earlier a GoPro or a way of recording your voice. If you have to carry weight to bring yourself up to weight minimums, that's an extra item that's going to be with you.
ANNE: On race day, let's not forget our credentials. They may be a lanyard or a wristband, but if you are at a regatta that has credentials and that to get actually onto the water, you have to show your credentials - please be sure to carry them. Don't leave them behind because that is a problem.
BREANA: If you're concerned about weather conditions, you might have what we mentioned earlier - a large sponge for bailing out your boat before the race starts.
ANNE: However, I must say that in a pinch, I've used my shoes to actually bail the boat out as it was starting to sink in a very, very extremely heavy rain. But … big sponge, good idea. And in fact, I've been at regattas where we've actually had each one of the team members carry one of those big sponges and they've been used.
BREANA: That is a big sacrifice - to devote your own shoe. But sometimes it's like that at a race. Another thing that you might carry on race day, but not necessarily at practice, might be your lucky item. Something that you might consider almost like a totem, your good luck charm, however you want to phrase it. And I've seen some really fun things that coxswains have brought with them. So I think it would be really fun to hear from our listeners and our fellow coxswains about whether they have such an item. And if so, what is it and what's the story behind it? You could let us know on Discord.
BREANA: We've just gone through the practice scenario and the race scenario and reflected on what we might be carrying on our persons in those different contexts. But there's additional gear related to our roles as coxswains that we may have at our home base, so to speak. So maybe that's our boathouse. Maybe that's our trailer … a team tent at a regatta. Maybe it's your personal vehicle or it's a team bus that you traveled to an event on. This may be where you keep a larger form of storage like a backpack or a duffel bag, and that may contain additional items that aren't coming on the water with you, but might still be useful to you as a coxswain.
ANNE: That's right. Whether it be at a practice where I might have things in my car or at the boathouse or if it's at a regatta where we're putting it with the team trailer, it's great to have those extra things that you are not going to take with you on the water. I usually carry a big backpack. What about you, Breana?
BREANA: Same here. I personally like to, if I know I'm going to be walking around at a regatta for hours, I like to have the weight of everything I'm carrying evenly distributed across my shoulders. So a backpack is great for that. A specialty item that relates to my backpack that I also have as part of my gear is a waterproof cover. I'll link in our show notes to the one that I purchased after a bunch of research. It can cinch up really well. It protects the bag from getting waterlogged while you are wearing it. You might also want a solution for when you're not wearing your bag if it's going to be set on the muddy ground … if it's going to be tossed haphazardly underneath a trailer that water is dripping down. You may want some further waterproofing capabilities. I had a year where I was at Head of the Charles with a team that did not have any kind of tent. It was absolutely pouring rain during our race. I... put my backpack and all of my boatmates' backpacks went in here as well. We put them into a giant trash bag, cinched that up super tight, put that under a tree, and shockingly our stuff survived and was not completely waterlogged when we got back. So you might wanna think about something like that as well if you are not there to protect your bag.
ANNE: I also use that trash bag technique all the time … even if there's no rain in the forecast because you never know where there's going to be mud. My additional tip for everyone is: use clear trash bags so that people who are around know that it's not trash.
BREANA: That is a brilliant tip. Another thing that I have on my bag - in consideration of the fact that you might be out on the water and suddenly your whole team is scrambling to pack everything up or you might not be there to follow up on what's happening with your gear - I put a name tag on my backpack, especially if yours is not a salient color or design. You don't have to spend any amount of money to just make something. It could be a piece of paper with some tape over it that's protecting it from wear that you just attach to your backpack. Again, with your contact information. Should that get left behind at a regatta or lost or anything, people will know that that's yours and it’s associated with your team and how to get it back to you if they find it.
ANNE: Another great idea, Breana, thank you. So now let's talk about what's in this backpack that might be sitting in a clear trash bag and has your name tag on it. What's in there?
BREANA: One thing that probably all of us are carrying is some extra clothing, whether it's layers that we've taken off because it's midday and the day started colder than it is now, or it's an extra set of clothes and/or shoes that we're going to change into after we have been out on the water. As we already mentioned, we had an entire prior episode about clothing that's Episode 31 titled ‘What Not to Wear’. So check that out if you're interested in hearing our thoughts and recommendations when it comes to clothing for coxswains.
ANNE: And in this big backpack, I also bring some race specific items. For example, the race packet … bow numbers if I'm responsible for that. I always have extra safety pins as well as a sharpie at regattas.
BREANA: If you're at a long event, you may opt to bring your own source of food and water. I always operate under the assumption that I'm not going to have a source of clean water to refill my water bottle. So I will have another water bottle or two in my backpack if needed … in addition to some food. Often in my backpack, I also carry some gadgets. One of those might be binoculars. And also, I usually carry the cox box case. Rather than having it loose, I usually carry that in there, too.
BREANA: In terms of gadgets, I like to bring an external power pack to recharge my phone battery should that be needed at a long regatta outdoors. I wouldn't count on having any kind of outlets or way of recharging. Speaking of which, one of the coolest items that I ever saw was a solar charger for a cox box. So it has a cox box plug that you can plug in and then it unfurls and is a little set of solar panels that you can use at the right type of regatta. Not every environment is going to work for this. But if you're at a regatta with plenty of sun, you can actually use that as a way to charge your cox box, again, operating under the assumption that you probably do not have any kind of outlets accessible.
ANNE: That is very, very cool, Breana. I've never seen that. Another specialty item or gadget that some people have at their larger, home base might be a harness and speakers for the boat. Some boats don't have them in there pre-wired. And because we're talking about the larger bag or home base equipment that we might have, I always have in there hand sanitizers or wipes. I have sunscreen, bug spray if needed. Sometimes I will have throat lozenges with me. And almost every time I go to a regatta, I bring tissues and toilet paper.
BREANA: All things that I bring as well and have definitely been needed in regatta contexts. If you are going to be at a regatta for a long time, this backpack storage that you keep at your home base might also be where you store things like books to read or maybe your headphones if you wanna listen to music in some downtime. If you're a student or if you've got a lot going on at your job, you may need to bring some work.
ANNE: And back at home base, I always have some reading glasses since I need those. We sure have covered a lot of different items that we may elect to have either on our person or at what we're calling a home base. But we are sure that there are other items that other coxswains find indispensable. And I personally would love to hear from our community and learn from you and pick up some new tips that I have not thought about. So please connect with us. The easiest way to do that is going to be on Discord.
BREANA: I am looking forward to what people have to share so that we can keep learning. We already got so many great suggestions for gear inspired by our clothing related episodes. So please keep those suggestions coming. As I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, I am a super frugal coxswain.
ANNE: Oh yes, you are. You are, you are, you are. Yes. I admire that about you, Breana.
BREANA: So I wanna talk a little bit about some cheap or even completely free ways to equip yourself with coxing gear. When it comes to technology - NK, the creators of the CoxBox and the Speed Coach … pieces of equipment that many coxswains are carrying with them on the water - they have a grant program where individual athletes can apply to be considered as a recipient of one of these pieces of technology. So check that out. We will link that in our show notes. I have also gotten technology for free through library loans. We traditionally think of books when we think of libraries, but many libraries also have available for checkout technological equipment. So I actually recorded one of my races with a GoPro that I was loaned for several days from my university library in the past. And that was a completely free way to record my race without owning that myself.
ANNE: You are a wizard when it comes to the ways to obtain things free or low cost, Breana. And those are two great examples. Speaking of other ways to score gear, don't be afraid to try the lost and found, whether it be at your boathouse or at a regatta. There are some items there that you just might find fit right into your coxing style.
BREANA: Yep, I found many a thing just abandoned on the ground or handed down from other rowers or things that I've handed down to myself, so to speak. My backpack that I use at regattas, for example, is - I'm pretty sure - the first ever backpack I got as a kid. It's seen a lot of life. I've had to sew it up multiple times as it gets holes in it, but it's still working for me. Once I upgraded to a different backpack, that one became the rowing backpack and it's still going strong and it's probably decades old. So don't be afraid to repurpose things in your own life.
ANNE: And on the other hand, you might be the lucky recipient of a gift from your family … from your teammates. I've been very fortunate. My teammates have generously supplied me with several pieces of gear that I now have with me and treasure, by the way.
BREANA: For cheap options, you can also check out stores like Goodwill or other thrift stores, charity shops, yard sales, estate sales. Maybe a person's giving away a whole handful of wrenches. They don't care about them anymore. You can take those in and make them part of your gear. Another free way that I have acquired a good amount of my gear is through picking up corporate merch. If you are at a conference, if you are at a regatta with vendor tents, or you're at a college info fair, those things are always laid in with pens and lanyard … sometimes even those little flashlights … so many of the random little items that we need. Who cares if it's branded with some random company that maybe we're never gonna think about again? Pick that stuff up. So whenever I go to conferences and things like that, I've always got a mind to consider what kinds of items I might wanna pick up that could help me as a coxswain.
ANNE: The forever coxswain - that's what you are, Breana. Heart, soul, and in the way that you keep an eye open for the future. Speaking of being thrifty, You can't beat me in terms of doing things like saving plastic bags that I have used for food at one point, washing them out and reusing them. I'm also famous for taking shoelaces out of retired sneakers and so forth.
BREANA: Another example of repurposing something that was at the end of its life anyway - we had a listener write to us to share that one item that they actually treat as their lucky item is an old rope from a steering mechanism in an 8 that completely fell apart at a race and now they carry on them and that can double as (again), a heel tie, …whatever you might need a piece of rope for.
ANNE: Very creative. Very thrifty.
BREANA: Our key points in this episode have been having what you need - possibly using that to save the day in the boat - and doing that with an eye towards frugality. An example that comes to mind for me is a year that I was racing the Head of the Charles. I was launching out of CRI, so a different boathouse on the river much further away from the main race course and not in an area where there were a lot of teams. And our race packet had no safety pins in it, so I'm running around desperately trying to find any to get the bow number on my bow seat. We were doing sad, sad things, like trying to tape it on her shirt. It was a bad time. After that, safety pins became part of my kit. I keep them in little groups of four. I've had times at regatta's where either my own team or even a neighboring team has said, “Oh my gosh, we don't have any safety pins”. I've just pulled out a little grouping of four, handed them over and “No worries. I don't need to see them again.” I've helped someone else out who is in the situation that I was once in. And all of those are things that I have acquired for free. If I'm taking a bow number off myself or another rower, I'm packaging those safety pins up in a little grouping of four, they go in my bag and we've resupplied.
ANNE: That is a great story and thank you for sharing because it really does combine the key concepts that we wanted to convey in this episode.
BREANA: Since we're now at the close of this episode, we want to thank you for listening. If you like what we're doing, please consider financially supporting us on Patreon. We're excited to bring you more content soon, and until next time, I'm Breana.
ANNE: And I'm Anne, signing off for now.