Bainbridge Island Rowing
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National Learn to Row Day

25 More Rowers Get in the Boat on National Learn to Row Day

Twenty-five people gave rowing a try for the first time during National Learn to Row Day last Saturday, June 2nd, with Bainbridge Island Rowing. These new rowers joined the ever-growing cadre of people on Bainbridge who have taken a step closer to improved fitness and greater connection to the marine ecosystem that surrounds us.

The day was sunny and cool but gradually it warmed, and there was little wind, making the perfect conditions for rowing. People showed up at Waterfront Park throughout the morning and were directed first to the Bainbridge boatyard—the future home of the Stan Pocock Legacy Rowing Center—for orientation.

Next, the rowers tried out the erg machines to practice their stroke, supervised by a Bainbridge Island Rowing coach. They were then given a brief introduction to a boat and its parts. Finally, before leaving the boatyard for the water, they took turns trying out the box rowboat, which is like an erg machine but with oars.

The National Learn to Row Day learners’ first experience on the water was in a very safe and stable rowing barge, formed by connecting two eight-person boats together side-by-side. The dozen learners were joined by four masters rowers at a time. Once they got the hang of rowing on the water, the new rowers then had the opportunity to try out an eight-person rowing shell, again with experienced rowers in the boat. Rowers were on the water in the eight for a good three-quarters of an hour. Throughout the morning, BIR volunteers enthusiastically supervised three barge trips and three eights rows, many of them taking a moment to recall their own introductions to the sport.

National Learn to Row Day

Barbara Shane, one of three coordinators of the BIR Learn to Row program, said that “People love the progression from erg to box rower to barge to eight, as it helps them master the complexities of a good stroke.”

Shane also thanked the many volunteers who came to help out. These included two former principals, Jo Vander Stoep and Mary Alice O’Neill, who Shane described as “excellent at organizing people.” Vander Stoep and O’Neill sat at the registration table and on the fly created boat lineups for the new rowers as they arrived.

In fact, there were so many great volunteers for the event that when one young couple showed up at the boatyard with their baby, masters rower Donna Trost offered to babysit so the parents could go out in the boat together. The new mom then signed up for the next Learn to Row class. Other volunteers brought snacks, fruit, and coffee to welcome people to the Bainbridge boathouse.

Shane and her two colleagues, Kathy Maher and Kirsten Fitzgerald, hope more people will attend a Learn to Row day and then become members of BIR, embracing the opportunity for ongoing fitness and fun.

BIR is offering a weekend Learn to Row intensive in July on the 12th, 14th, and 15th. The times are Thursday evening, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm + Saturday and Sunday mornings, 7:30 am – 12:00 pm. The intensive costs $195.

It doesn’t have to be National Learn to Row Day for you to get in the boat. Shane said if there is more demand, they will organize another one-day Learn to Row class for later this summer or early fall. If interested, email


Photos by Stefan Goldby