Challenging the 2K Format

summarized by David DeWinter
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Dan Garbutt – Coastal Coordinator, USRowing; Head Coach of Women’s Rowing, Old Dominion University
Liz Soutter – Sport Manager, World Rowing

The 3-Sentence Summary

Coastal rowing and indoor rowing have proven successful in drawing people to the sport of rowing that flat-water rowing has not. They both challenge the traditional 2k format in ways that excite and engage spectators, and they also have lower barriers for people to participate. Capitalizing on competitions in these different formats is a viable way to continue growing the sport, both from the top-down through World Rowing and USRowing and from the bottom-up in clubs across the country.


0:25 2021 Beach Sprint Female Athletes of the Year: Hannah Huppi and Britt Wotovich


3:51 Introductions

  • Liz Soutter – Sport Manager (Indoor, Coastal, Para)
    • Former D1 rower
    • 10 years working in rowing governing bodies
    • Perspective on inclusion: removing barriers is good, but what about changing the sport itself?
  • Dan Garbutt – Coastal Coordinator
    • 14:05 Former ocean competitor

Change Making at Governing Bodies

7:14 Should you be the first mover?


  • Create the standard
  • Time and market advantage


  • You need the proof of concept
  • Higher start-up costs than competitors
  • Maintain reputation – lots of stakeholders to consider

Beach Sprints

10:05 Principles of Beach Sprints

  • Affordable: Boats are shared; less customization and lower costs
  • Consideration of the environment: Lower impact venue infrastructure
  • Fast-paced/Dynamic: 500m head-to-head format
  • Attractive: beautiful beach venues
  • Inclusive and Accessible: Mixed crews, viable competition for island and coastal

12:26 Video overview of beach sprints

17:52 Coastal Rowing in the US

  • We have a lot of coastline…which means lots of flexibility in venues and more opportunities to racing
  • Lower club startup costs for equipment and buildings
  • Equipment is very stable – people can learn quickly

26:07 Coastal Timeline in the US

  • Past 5 – 7 years: Coastal Rowing community was building
  • Past 8 months: First national team, expanded coaching education, clubs have stepped up
  • Looking ahead: Develop coaches’ education platform for the US, including safety concerns. Annual competition calendar

31:53 Coastal rowing is not just about west coast/east coast. We can leverage coastlines at lakes, too. Clubs have tripled in size based on this activity.

Indoor Rowing

35:20 Status quo

  • Most accessible part of rowing
  • Single distance/timed race (2000m, 500m…)
  • Onsite events or online challenges
  • Lots of age and race categories
  • Boat tracker graphic – even though, most people will never get into a boat

38:37 World Urban Games – a platform to innovate

  • Multi-challenge competition
  • Small group of athletes competing after a big qualification process
  • Custom TV graphics
  • Outdoor event with varying erg layout
  • Unpredictable events -> Unpredictable results, more exciting – didn’t tell athletes beforehand
  • Much more fun

41:20 Competitor recaps: elite rowers, indoor rowers mixed together in the same venues, breaking through language and culture barriers.

45:15 Challenge innovation:

  • Instagram poll to determine rate caps or floors
  • Head to head sprint races
  • Elimination Race (every 5 minutes the slowest person is eliminated)
  • Team 10k (mixed teams of highest and lowest scoring athletes, switching every 250m)
  • Blind Race

Why change?

47:29 Inclusion gets more people to our sport!

Follow the mission: (World Rowing) To make rowing a universally practiced and globally relevant sport in all its form.


50:12 What do you say to the skeptic who says, “Why change the 2k?”

  • Liz: Have a dialogue to share the vision. Rowing’s place in the Olympics is important to the health of the sport, so sometimes we have to adapt. (re: 1500m in LA 2028)
  • Dan: Ask, “Why not?” Consider all the obstacles that 2k presents. Number of soccer fields in the US vs number of rowing venues. Why shouldn’t we be able to row more? Rowing needs to keep itself exciting for spectators, too.

58:46 What’s next for the US?

  • Liz (Indoor): We want to see this format at international events in the future. The more grassroots you are, the more flexibility you have to try this on your own.
  • Dan (Coastal): Build out a calendar and race experiences. Build awareness. (Fantastic to get ODP kids in coastal quads rowing on the square with no previous sculling experience.)
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