Flow Sculling

What is FLOW sculling?

(with acknowledgement to Jimmy Joy; see “Hanlan’s Spirit: Training for Flow” or “The Quantum Sculler”)

This is the approach to training single scullers that makes most sense to me from my own experiences in the single over many years, and from coaching the single for the last 5 years. Jimmy Joy describes Training for “Flow” far better than me, but here’s a much abridged summary of what ‘flow’ is about:-

  • It is the ultimate objective of the training (achieving the ‘flow’ state)
  • It’s also a philosophy and approach to developing as a sculler

In Jimmy’s words:

‘Flow’ is the integration of efficient bodywork combined with fluid blade-work throughout all phases of the stroke cycle.

Each stroke must form a unity and all strokes must be blended fluently and harmoniously

At best, it’s a sense of effortless speed and sustainable energy:-

  • Flow denotes the holistic sensation present when we act with a total involvement

And you need an open, creative mind … to explore, to fail, and to achieve.

The philosophy and approach – the 5 stages of FLOW

  1. Slow down and meditate and develop mindfulness
  2. Create a relaxed posture starting with the hands on the handles
  3. Establish a consistent stroke length
  4. Focus on the 3 major elements in the cycle: Trunk Swing; Leg Drive; Draw of the arms
  5. Practice and drill until the movements are reflexive, intuitive, and instinctive


Think of your development as a sculler as akin to crossing a bridge, starting with the basics, and progressing to the ultimate objectives, on the other side, of ‘flow’ and shell run.


At times we work on the WHOLE, at other times, on THE PARTS, whilst recognising that sculling is not 5 mechanistic parts, welded together. We work on the parts to achieve a ‘rough feel’ for each part, and later striving for more subtle movements to perfect each part. Returning to the WHOLE, as each part affects the others, to integrate the sculler, the blade work, and the boat, contributing to flow and shell run

WHOLE        – PARTS          – WHOLE


In other words;

First – A rough feel for the movement – leg drive, trunk movement, arm draw

Later – Specific parts – strive for subtle and economical movements

Finally – Whole movements – integrate the body action with the blades and shell run

MENTAL APPROACH (‘Meditative’)

Develop a relaxed, quiet and focused mind

SLOW MOTION – and perfect – eventually move more quickly. (maximum run per stroke)

Absentee Coach – learn to think independently and judge the pace of the boat

Develop MINDFULNESS – the ability to stay in the present moment – ‘Reality of the NOW’ – Knowing what you are doing while you are doing it