For Challenge 10, our team is attempting to reinvent the pogie. The pogie is essentially a mitten that is used by rowers during the winter season. While rowing in the freezing rain doesn’t sound like it should be an accepted practice, rowing coaches tend to disagree. Especially in the variable Boston conditions, the pogie is a rowing necessity. The mittens slip onto the oar, and then the rower places their hands into each pogie. This allows for them to maintain their hand-to-oar grip, while also surrounding their hands in warmth.
During the field time for Challenge 10, our team went to Weld Boathouse. We tested two different types of pogies, one was from JL racing and was made of a black fleece material. The other pogie was made of a polar fleece and it was from Sew Sporty. Most pogies are made with a fleece material; while this allows for the hands to get warm in ideal conditions, the pogie is not protected from the water or much wind. There are some variations in the material used; JL Racing and Vespoli provide a lightweight shell on the top of its’ fleece pogies. This allows for some of it to be waterproof, but any waves or rain would go through the fabric. RegattaSport and Sew Sporty have pogies that are solely fleece. All of the pogies available are virtually the same shape, material, and they all lack any sort of visual design.
While using the pogies, we noticed that is is very awkward to get your hands in and out of the pogies. The cuffs are tight, so that the warmth stays in the pogie, but this results in clumsy and frustrating attempts to use the pogies. As a result, we have considered improving upon the pain point of having to take the hands on and off the oar frequently. Rowers usually have small breaks in between races or practicing to get water, fix things in the boat, etc. Therefore it is necessary to have quick and easy use of the hands while using the pogies; the current design doesn’t allow for this.
Another major issue, if not the most important issue, is that rowers associate wearing pogies with being uncool. The idea of an elite level rower wearing pogies is somewhat comical. While this is an apparent problem, it appears that no pogie manufacturers have attempted to address it. The gear that a rower wears demonstrates their status in many ways. A rower will constantly wear their national team gear if they have gone to World Championships; they will wear the betting shirts of teams they have beaten around campus. When going out to race, a rower takes pride in the uniform they wear; this includes everything from the lucky socks to the Oakley radars. Therefore, the idea that the pogie has not been designed to aesthetically compete with the rower’s other accessories is quite surprising.
The way in which the pogies are displayed on websites hints at the fact that the gear is not considered to be special or coveted. A common expression is that gloves and pogies make the rower look “soft”, or that they don’t understand the dress codes on the water. Accordingly, we believe that we can improve upon the aesthetic design of the pogie by incorporating elements of other rowing gear that has a more visually appealing look.
Our main goals moving forward will be to improve the fabrics that are used in creating the pogie, changing the visual design and the marketing of the pogie to make it more appealing to elite rowers, which will in turn make the less elite rowers want to wear them as well, and reworking the shape of the pogie to make it easier to remove hands from the oar quickly and put them back on quickly.