Helen Glover

My first experience of the beach sprint format was a little by chance. I wasn’t deciding to make a transition or switch over. It was just a WhatsApp message that went round saying "who wants to try this out? It sounds fun."

That message was what got me started, taking up the offer and going along to the occasional session, just to try a new fun type of rowing. 

This carried on a few times through the summer, but I never necessarily had competing in my sights, or thought this would be my new sport. 

I just really enjoyed the new experience, and every time I turned up there were more opportunities to try it again.

The opportunity came for me to compete at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals, hosted on home soil at Saundersfoot Harbour, which was incredible to be a part of. 

We enjoyed an amazing atmosphere with so much local support - a special thank you to the coaches, boat handlers, and my team mates who made the event so enjoyable,

Major competitions always do so much to inspire the next generation and capture new audiences, and I was delighted to come away from my first Coastal Rowing World Championships with a silver medal - albeit we were unable to compete in the final races due to adverse weather.

I’ve never had an event cancelled midway through due to conditions - so it was a strange feeling heading home full of adrenaline as I still had more racing in me! That just shows how unpredictable the format is, and what you have to contend with as part of the competition.

The news that beach sprint rowing is to be included as part of the programme for the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria is a fantastic moment for the sport, and a significant milestone as the discipline continues to grow rapidly.

This will be the first time in Commonwealth Games history that the discipline has been featured. For those who aren’t familiar, the format involves a head-to-head elimination style of racing. 

You sprint along the beach, climb into your boat, row like mad for 250m before completing a 180-degree turn, rowing back to the beach and sprinting back to a finish line.

It’s extreme, and it’s unpredictable - which is why I think it’s such an engaging and exciting form for the sport. 

Helen Glover in action at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Championships in Saundersfoot ©Benedict Tufnell/British Rowing
Helen Glover in action at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Championships in Saundersfoot ©Benedict Tufnell/British Rowing

There are new challenges to contend with, compared to flat water rowing which is already an incredible feat of strength and endurance. 

If the water is rough your strength and fitness can sit there unused, and you can be beaten by those who manage the conditions better.

You can't quite row the same. It's little technical things, but you just pick things up after spending time on the water - like how to ride a wave rather than just getting spun and flipped over!

Everything's happening at once, at crazy speed. It’s manic - but it's all good fun.

I used to rely on the numbers - if I was going fast on the rowing machine, or lifting well at the gym, you know you're going fast. 

But here, all those things could be true, but conditions might be tricky and it could totally flip the race on his head. It makes the results far less predictable.

Since my introduction to the discipline, I think the most surprising thing for me has been how brutal it can be. Even getting out of the boat, you've got this moving boat, you’ve got to time jumping out of the boat while you're in waist deep water, to try to get into a sprint towards the finishing line.

It doesn’t just test your power and strength, you have to be able to navigate the water and recover quickly - as you progress in competition, you race multiple times in a short time frame.

The sport no doubt has an exciting future ahead. As well as the 2026 Commonwealth Games, we can look forward to seeing beach sprints at the 2023 World Beach Games in Bali, and the 2026 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar. 

Britain already has an established and proud tradition of rowing in the Olympic Games, and the opportunity to add to this would be excellent for the sport.

I think accessibility has always been an important aspect of Olympic sports, and beach sprints does have this in a really strong way. 

For example, at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals, the racing boats we used are all set boats, pre-determined, which means no one is at a disadvantage and it’s just up to you to focus on performing.

Beach sprint rowing involves competitors sprinting to and from their boats at the start and end of races ©Benedict Tufnell/British Rowing
Beach sprint rowing involves competitors sprinting to and from their boats at the start and end of races ©Benedict Tufnell/British Rowing

I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it did end up at the Olympic Games. I think events like the World Championships will prove to be extremely important because it showcases what the sport can do.

Even for me personally, up until this competition I couldn’t say I’d seen the sport in its full glory, even though my experience getting involved as a complete newcomer has been amazing.

In terms of a transition, it's been easy because the community of people involved have always been so welcoming and open minded. 

Everyone's trying to learn about this sport because it’s just so fast growing, people want to make it work and make big things happen.

What gives coastal rowing its strength is that strong sense of community that is powering the sport. My experience has been so positive, you can see that in everything people do, they are basing the discipline around enjoying it and everyone is just having a great time. 

Our role going forward is to continue making rowing as accessible and welcoming as possible, helping people learn about this new sport as quickly as they can.

Grassroots participation will continue to drive the sport forward, and I think this is an amazing sport to take up. If you have rowed before, most likely on flat water, it takes a lot of the skills and the fitness that you will already have, but it'll just challenge you in different ways. 

Something about rowers like that challenge, they look for that challenge, and coastal rowing is the perfect opportunity for people to embrace their adventurous streak.

The sport is based on a welcoming and passionate community, and now part of the Commonwealth Games programme, it will only go from strength to strength.

You can’t help but get excited - after an amazing two weekends in Saundersfoot, this is still only the start of coastal rowing’s journey.