A Delicate Problem and a Possible Solution

Those who have started rowing longer distances have started to find that the repetitive movement can cause some discomfort where body meets boat.  Craig Strachan writes the following review of a gel seat pad designed to deal with this problem:

Despite its name, the condition “Skiffbot” is no laughing matter. The chafing, blistering and rawness that can occur when the delicate anatomy of the rower comes into prolonged contact with the unyielding crew accommodation of the St. Ayles skiff is a pain in the… a source of discomfort for many coastal rowers. There are as many preventative measures and remedies as there are sufferers and from the chat on the beach, it would appear that most of them don’t work very well.

Now, from Gelsport  comes possible salvation in the anatomically correct shape of a range of seat pads designed, according to their website, for those who like their sports wet. They offer products for all kinds of water-borne activities from kayaking to dragon boat racing, including one pad especially designed for rowing. The sample I was given to try out came with no accompanying documentation other than a label exhorting me to ‘cush my tush’ (whatever that might be) and to ‘stop hiding my spectacular @ss in padded shorts’ but after careful examination, I believe that the example I have to hand is the adventure racing Gel Pad designed for transatlantic rowers taking part in 5-8 week long races. Admittedly, some of the regatta races this year felt that long at the time but this still seems a little like overkill for our purposes.

The Gel Pad is made from  silicone gel and nitrogen foam covered in neoprene. It has a non-slip surface on its lower side and Gelsport claim that it is both waterproof and will float, claims which I did not put to the test. It’s dimensions are 30 x 20 cm, just the right size for a St. Ayles seat and It feels rather like an upmarket bicycle saddle. With a derriere still feeling the effects of the North Berwick regatta two weeks before, I was keen to find out if the Gel Pad could really provide the protection it claimed and so a circumnavigation of the Bass Rock, a distance of some 6 or 7 nautical miles was hastily arranged.

After a bracing row (made markedly more bracing by the realization that we had lost track of the time and only had 25 minutes to get back to the beach if we were to avoid incurring the wrath of the next crew waiting for the boat), I was impressed. The Gel Pad remained comfortable all through the row and showed no signs of slipping or moving about on the seat. Better still, once back on dry land, close inspection of the relevant area showed that only superficial damage had been caused, certainly nothing like the carnage I would have normally expected from such a row. I believe the Gel Pad really might be a cure for the dreaded Skiffbot and I look forward to the opportunity to test it further.

The Gel Pad is available through the Gelsport web site  and at time of writing cost $39.99 though they have a promotion on at the moment and will knock 20% off the price of two pads, something which might be of interest to clubs. The Rowing Pad, which doesn’t contain the silicon gel is $24.99 and the same offer is available. There is also a UK distributer for the Gel Pad (details available on the Gelsport web site) who are selling the Gel Pad for £31.95.

Craig Strachan.

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