Frontrower Rowing Facing Forward Modified for Restricted Hip Motion or Rower with a Hip Replacement and The problem with rowing at night.

Gail Ferris


The Frontrower is a solution for problem with rowing at night and paddling into the wind.

I have rowed and I have kayaked, and I just can't be bothered any more with rowing backward or paddling without levers. I'm interested in achieving two goals. I want to have the better-balanced, more complete exercise that rowing offers and I want to be able to travel longer distances and tolerate stronger winds and bigger waves.


Frontrower in Alden Ocean Shell single

I've been pushing my luck with my single Alden Ocean Shell. It is well-designed versatile hull with plenty of lift in the bow, and if I time my stroke and control my direction, I can manage a steep 2-3 foot chop. However I want something more capable of handling higher waves, and I have two requirements. I want to row facing forward, and the secondly I want to be able fly the oars as need be.

A better hull is the Klepper Aerius II because it is decked over leaving only the cockpit open and has a rudder which could be modified for hand operation.

I don't want to sacrifice the pleasures and advantages that I know so well from kayak paddling.


Alden Starr at the pull showing normal rowing facing backward


Whats wrong with traditional rowing is that when I row facing backward making me feel that I am entering into the crystal ball aspect of boat control. I am relegated to being the victim, and my response to a wave is just a secondary correction.

One of the biggest advantages of being a kayak paddler is that because I am facing forward I can see and evaluate the waves and interact directly with them.

I prefer to be on the water at night because at night I avoid the harshness of bright sunlight, and can take special pleasure in solitude with the wanton freedom I savor on the nighttime sea.


Alden Starr at the catch showing normal rowing facing backward


Facing forward while on the water at night makes being able to see where I are going and what I are lined up to crash into much more difficult than during daylight conditions. Perspective vision disappears as the sun drops below the horizon, and rowing facing backward at full tilt is no longer just challenging.

I found that while facing backward and turning to see what is behind me not only wastes time but I do not have the visual perspective to my two eyes. Trying to see what is behind I while rowing facing backward becomes a harrowing, neck-wrenching ordeal.

What about kayaking? With a kayak I face forward, but I find the kayak paddle really is inefficient because there no mechanical leverage other than what I are capable of giving it. When the wind speed increases, I experience that undeniable decline in your capability to paddle against the wind, which ranges from just slightly diminished to your being completely overwhelmed. My first twenty years of paddling the limitations of strength during paddling against the wind has gotten to be a little boring. Paddling can cause the usual litany of shoulders, elbows, wrists, or hands ailments.

When I can't take the stress of paddling anymore, I have to resign myself to some alternative. And the same is true for those who scull as they age because over time rowers loose the necessary spine-twisting flexibility that enables them to look where they are going.

I can watch the approaching waves closely. I like being able to fine-tune my stroke to coincide with the wave faces. I am able to enjoy experimenting with more complex wave structures. I feel less threatened and can enjoy my Alden or Klepper Aerius II in more challenging water.

The mechanical advantage rowing has over paddling is that rowing offers symmetrical, more efficient, propulsion, because propulsion can be applied on both sides at the same time. There are times when propulsion on alternate sides is useful too.



I can row with just my legs or alternate. Do I ever become bored with the limitation of propelling your boat with just your hands? Maybe you'd like to read a book or a map, take sun sights with a sextant, troll, read your course on your GPS, cruise next to the other guy and talk with your hands. After all, one of life's greatest pleasures is being able to talk with your hands. I have had the pleasure of cruising past the town dock while rowing with just my feet and eating an apple. This demonstration is always good for those people who come down to the dock every day to see what's going on out on the islands and to make sure that all is well with Stony Creek, the little town that time almost forgot.


In quiet waters, to get in close along the rocks, I like to row with one leg and paddle on the other side. I take a short canoe paddle for last minute approaches to beaches and very quiet paddling for viewing wary sea birds. The Frontrower system, with a slight modification, can be used in large-cockpit double kayaks, such as the Long Haul Mark II, Klepper Aerius II, Pouch, and Folbot, as a self-sufficient, car top-able boat and propulsion system. It can also be used in the Alden Ocean Shell.

Coming down the wave sets, I find that I can make the Alden hull surf in the same way the Alden surfs with my Oarmaster and Douglas FeathOars.

With the forward-facing rowing rig, it helps if I extend my stroke and increase my thrust as much as possible by setting the seatback aft several inches and executing a stroke similar to a horizontal squat thrust.

I do have limited range of motion in my hips and I have further modified my Frontrower to allow for a longer stroke.

The bow has become elevate during the stroke with have a foot of air along its length it to get up on a plane and surf down the waves.

Timing in relation to the wave and application of the stroke is very important. I generally surf either straight down the wave sets or off at no more than 45 . The flat bottom Alden tends to want to get off on a severe broach if she falls off any farther.


Aquamotion Engineering, Ron Rantilla, 30 Cutler St, Warren, RI 02885 phone 1-401-247-1482 designed the Frontrower a Front Facing Rowing mechanism which enables disabled to row with hands, legs separately or in various combinations.

original design of Frontrower by Ron Rantilla


I have modified the Frontrower to accommodate my hip limited range of motion and to get a better surge of power when surfing downwind.

Even though I have a hip replacement my hip cannot flex more than 90. Before I had my hip replaced I lost the normal mobility in my hip due an osteotomy and to dysphasia and the resulting osteoarthritis

While rowing I noticed that I was unable to comfortably execute a full sculling stroke in sliding seat and also with the Frontrower. Through experimentation I found that I could execute not only my most powerful stroke but also my quickest stroke by adding a length of line threaded through semi-flexible tubing such as irrigation or garden hose tied off on the oar loom and to the handle.



drawing of modification of original front rower note the flexible hand holds and the low seat back inclined about 45

I developed a stroke, which integrated both flinging my arms forward, but also flipping the oars forward with a snap provided by my wrists.

The length of my stroke was sufficient to provide suitable propulsion in concert with my legs. I would start my stroke with my arms and finish off with my legs.


For people without use of their Ron has also designed a canoe entry system that utilizes launching from a dock into a canoe or an Alden at cockpit level from the dock. Similar in concept to how I launch my kayak he utilizes a platform structure that extends to the cockpit and Frontrower which the user slides his body over. how to launch with leg prosthetics especially hip replacements.


Gail Ferris 11/15/94