Autumn in the District is perhaps the most stunning season in our city, conjuring up vivid images of fall foliage and breathaking views of the Potomac River. But there is nothing quite like being out on the water, gliding past sightseers, with the singular sound of four oars pulling in complete unison as your sole focus. Whether you’re in search of a new sport or just want to enjoy the view during one of many fall regattas, read on to get the inside scoop on the DMV’s rowing community. We caught up with six rowers to get a sense of why people fall in love with the sport, why it’s so popular in the DMV, and how newbies or returning rowers can get involved.
Alexandria Community Rowing Club
Jennifer Bright, Rower
On Tap: How has the DMV’s rowing community changed in recent years?
Jennifer Bright: The variety of rowing clubs and programs has grown over the last decade, and residents in the DMV can find a program that fits their skill level, competitive interest, time and location needs.
OT: Why do you row?
JB: I love the community of rowers. This sport brings together men and women from so many disciplines. The common factor is love of the sport and commitment to pursuing the perfect stroke.
OT: Any opportunities for rowers this season?
JB: Starting in November, ACR will begin the winter training program. Community members [can volunteer or compete on] February 17-18 at the MidAtlantic Erg Sprints, the second largest indoor rowing competition in the world.
Anacostia Community Boathouse Association
Jennifer Ney, President
On Tap: What makes rowing both challenging and rewarding?
Jennifer Ney: Rowing is the ultimate team sport. It demands both power and finesse to achieve boat speed. Rowing demands balance, synchronicity and coordination, and every member of the crew must work together. I love the challenge.
OT: What’s unique about the ACBA?
JN: The Potomac River [is] considered [a] hotbed for rowing and paddling. The Anacostia Community Boathouse has placed the Anacostia River on the map.
OT: How can we get involved?
JN: Check out one of our three clubs who host a wide array of programs. All three host on-the-water programming from March through November: Capital Rowing Club, DC Strokes and Prince William Rowing Club.
Learn more about ACBA at www.anacostiaboathouse.org.
Capital Rowing Club
Heidi Scalzott, Learn to Row Rep
On Tap: Tell us about CRC’s Learn to Row program.
Heidi Scalzott: The next [Learn to Row] class session begins September 30.
OT: What other programs does CRC offer?
HS: Rowers who have some experience but haven’t rowed in awhile sometimes feel more comfortable joining intermediate rowing. Capital also has sculling classes, an adaptive rowing program and a juniors’ program. For more experienced rowers, we also have a competitive men’s and women’s team. Finally, Capital offers a “Your Team” rowing for private rowing sessions.
OT: What do you enjoy most about being in the CRC community?
HS: Capital is as much a social club as it is a rowing club: both a.m. and p.m. meet for happy hour and plan other social events both at the boathouse and throughout DC. Many good friendships and even a few weddings have emerged as a result of rowing with Capital.
Learn more about CRC and the next Learn to Row session on September 30 at www.capitalrowing.org.
DC Strokes Rowing Club
Brian Forehand, President
On Tap: What is DC Strokes’ mission?
Brian Forehand: We are the oldest LGBTQ+ rowing club in the world. Inclusion is an important part of our mission, and we welcome gay and straight rowers of diverse backgrounds. DC Strokes was founded on the belief that everyone should have access to the sport of rowing and its many benefits.
OT: Has the club made any changes recently to promote inclusivity?
BF: This season, DC Strokes proudly adopted our “Statement of Inclusion and Transgender & Non-Binary Identity Policy” that reinforces our support and advocacy for all LGBTQ + Ally athletes, and creates a safe and supportive environment for transgender and non-binary individuals at a time when we startlingly see the rights of these individuals infringed upon throughout the nation.
OT: How do we join?
BF: We welcome individuals of all levels – no prior experience necessary! We offer two Learn to Row sessions. Folks with at least one year of prior experience are welcome to join our competitive program or our club program.
Learn more about DC Strokes at www.dcstrokes.org.
Prince William Rowing Club
Al Wilson, President
On Tap: Any PWRC events this fall for beginners?
Al Wilson: Come check out one of PWRC’s free Learn to Row events! We’ll give you a tour of the boathouse and a history of our club, teach you the basics of the rowing stroke using a rowing machine, then give you an opportunity to try rowing on the water with some of our members. We plan to offer one Learn to Row on September 17.
OT: Any other opportunities to get involved in the coming months?
AW: In November, our annual membership meeting will be open to the public, and we welcome all who are interested in learning more about our club and about getting involved in the sport of rowing.
OT: Why would you recommend PWRC to local rowers?
AW: Here in the DC and Northern Virginia area, we have amazing water to row on and a big diversity of residents who work hard and are looking for a way to be fit, have fun and relax in the great outdoors. We love to teach people to row, compete in regattas, relax on the peaceful Occoquan Reservoir and have fun off the water with social activities.
Learn more about PWRC and the Learn to Row event on September 17 at www.pwrc.org.
Rachel Freedman, Founder
On Tap: What inspired you to launch RowSource?
Rachel Freedman: My goal was to create a resource for athletes who came into the sport later in life, did not have a high school and/or college rowing pedigree, and did not have their sights on training to make the national team.
OT: Tell me about your experience rowing with Capital Rowing Club.
RF: I learned to row with Capital Rowing Club in 2001 at age 23, and remained a member of its morning club program for seven years.
OT: What about with DC Strokes?
RF: I stepped into a dedicated coxswain role and from the first practice I attended in 2010, I knew this team was different. And a kind of different I wanted to be a part of.
OT: Different how?
RF: DC Strokes has influenced my ever-growing understanding and support of the LGBTQ+ community. I’ll never forget the first time one club member asked me, “So, how do you identify?” and I was clueless about what she meant. No more. I’m thankful to Strokes for helping me become a passionate, outspoken ally.
Check out www.RowSource.com for more information on all things rowing.