Fort Worth

Sculling the Trinity River with serenity and speed

He walks to the river with a long, pointed tube slung over his shoulder.

On a small wooden platform east of Beach Street, Patrick McDonough carefully sits down in what is now an unstable boat, puts the oars in the Trinity River and sculls west toward downtown. If he was in a boat with other people and just handling one oar, it would be called rowing.

“I like to say I found the one sport I’m good at,” he says, “so I stuck with it for 33 years.”

He is a member of the Fort Worth Rowing Club, which uses the Trinity as its home base.

The benefits of this endurance sport are aerobic conditioning, core strength and a low impact workout for the legs. There are mental benefits as well.

“I’m a lot kinder person and a lot more patient person to be around if I’ve had a good heavy training session,” he said. “But I do focus my training around a handful of races every year.”

The ultimate goal of sculling or rowing, after all, is speed over a long distance.

Though he is alone on the water, McDonough said he can hear his coaches and former rowing partners in his head, reminding him how to make every stroke efficient.

“I’m listening to see if I can take a quiet stroke, oars in, oars out, without touching the water on the recovery,” he said.

The perfect stroke, he explains, has moments of quiet where only water dripping off the oar should be heard and just leaves a trail of small circular ripples in the water where the oars enter the water again.

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