National Learn to Row Day 2023

Each year USRowing affiliated organizations host a National Learn to Row day. It is a free event to get more people out on the water and introduce new people to the sport of rowing. This year FVRA had planned to hold two sessions but the second had to be canceled due to increasing winds. Early morning participants arrived on an overcast day to be greeted by a group of current FVRA members who would take them from stroke basics to rowing all eight over the next 2 and a half hours.

New rowers started with a stroke walkthrough on an erg to get the general motion down. All of this year’s participants had some previous experience with the motion, having used a rowing machine. They took some strokes to get a better understanding of each position and the related terminology. Arms, body, legs, legs, body, arms – each taking turns rowing arms only, arms and body and then incorporating their legs. 

Once everyone had a chance to take a few strokes they moved onto learning about the boat, getting it out into slings and adjusting their foot stretchers. Then it was on to a quick dock talk where the stroke and boat were reviewed again this time on the water. Oars were put in their oar locks, ports and starboards took their seats and they shoved off the dock. 

Everyone made their way through a progression of fours rowing downstream lead by an experienced FVRA coxswain and rower in the stern, rotating back and forth through bow four and stern four as their minds had a few minutes to process the new motion they were experiencing – and they picked it up quickly! After only having just learned the stroke an hour or so beforehand, participants took their first full strokes as a group of the middle six rowers supported by experienced rowers in bow and stern to keep the boat set.

Sonja Bell learned about FVRA through the website a few years ago but wasn’t able to make the schedule work at first. She was recently reminded of the organization and National Learn to Row day by her friend Diane (also an FVRA rower) and was excited at the opportunity to jump in a boat. When asked about her favorite part of learn to row day she said, “Instructors are great. The voices, patience, and encouragement with each task are great for newbies” and “meeting people with similar interests.” It’s a, “great activity for people with joint issues which is my thought in the future after running. Lastly, the scenery is beautiful. Jumping fish, blue herons and a chance to get it right with the next stroke.” Sonja hopes to continue working on her technique as part of the Recreational Sweep programs this June and July. National Learn to Row day was a great event this year and FVRA plans to add additional learn to row programs coming up later this month and into early July.