Five Reasons to Try Rowing  

By Dana Kerr 

Dana showing us her joy in water activities.

In my experience, no other sport combines power, mindfulness, unity, and serenity quite like rowing. Whether you’re an avid paddler or a curious novice, consider learning to row this summer with the Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club! Here are five reasons to inspire you:

1: Feeling connected with your body and mind. 

Rowing bids you to pay full attention to all parts of your body. From your nose to your toes, rowing will teach you to feel the subtle connection of your feet in the foot stretchers, your fingertips on the oar, and your center of gravity gently balanced over your seat. This level of body awareness also welcomes a practice of mindfulness to the quiet tune of oars skimming above the water and the river peeling open beneath the boat.

2: Crew is the ultimate team sport.  

Rowing by yourself is called “single sculling” whereas rowing with other teammates in the same boat is referred to as “crew.” There are two kinds of rowing: “sweep rowing” is when each member of the crew operates one oar. “Sculling” is when you row with an oar in each hand.

Dana straps a boat to a trailer.

Depending on the type of boat, or shell, that you row, you may also have a “coxswain,” or a designated person who faces forward and steers the boat. Busting the myth that coxswains just bark out “row, row” commands, coxswains navigate the river, updating the crew on their pace, rate and pressure. They also provide encouragement and instruction for each rower and the team as a whole.

With or without a coxswain, the team dynamics inside a rowing shell can feel very cohesive and trusting. Each rower works carefully to sync up every movement they make in the boat with their teammates. Unity of movement allows the boat to balance and cut through the water more efficiently. When you are synced up with your fellow rowers, you can feel in your body a unique connection to the team and a sense of belonging. If you choose to join a crew, you can know you are a valued member given that they cannot row without you.

3: Simple experience of nature. 

Dana sculling on the Columbia River.

When I first pushed off the dock on the Connecticut River and began my rowing career, I was surprised by how close I was sitting to the water. Rowing shells sit low on the surface of the water and allow you to feel like you’re a part of the landscape, rather than just passing by. Rowing requires minimal gear and clothing, creating a feeling of lightness and freedom. It can feel silly at first to just be in your socks and athletic clothing climbing into a boat without a bathing suit or bulky PFD. Yet I love this about rowing – the simplicity of it.

4: The option for a high-intensity workout. 

Don’t let the word “simple” understate how rowing can be a rigorous workout! Rowing is a full-body, low-impact workout that, contrary to popular belief, draws more power from your legs than from your arms. Much of the rowing stroke is pushing with your legs and being explosive off your feet, rather than a static, isolated, pulling movement with your upper body. When you can increase the rate and pressure of your stroke, you will be amazed at how fast your human power can propel you through the water.

5: Great sport for people of all fitness levels to learn. 

Dana’s oar on the water during a sunset row.

Rowing is great for learners of all ages and abilities. When I joined the crew program in college, I didn’t know anything about rowing. I found it was easy to pick up the basics and so fun to continue learning and mastering the nuances of the stroke. Advanced rowers are always working to improve their stroke and to contribute more power to the boat. The learning process relies on getting a feel of how the boat moves, observing the technique, and receiving instruction from coaches or your coxswain. What better place to learn than on the beautiful Columbia River.

How to learn and get involved: 

The Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club Boat House or “Barn” off of the Apple Loop Trail. Photo by Dana Kerr.

The Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club offers access to their fleet of boats for affordable yearly costs that can be found on their website. You can try out crew for free for your first couple of practices before you decide to join the program and pay the additional cost. The Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club offers “learn to row” practices for sculling and crew that are coached by volunteers. From personal experience, the yearly costs and the volunteer coaches are extraordinary! The volunteers are so knowledgeable, supportive, and excited to share their passion for the sport with anyone curious to learn. If you have prior rowing experience, the club also offers the “Masters Rowing Program.” Practice times vary depending on the type of rowing that you want to try. Visit the W.R.P.C. website to learn more and to get connected with their volunteer coaches.

Gear to bring:

The Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club provides rowing-specific PFDs, boats of a wide variety, oars, and welcoming volunteers to help you get set up. Be sure to wear tennis shoes, socks, high-visibility, neon-colored athletic clothing, a hat, visor, or sunglasses and sunscreen!

This post was originally published on 5/2/2022. 

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