Notes from a Reluctant Crew Member – learning to row at the Minnesota Boat Club

A while back I was walking along the Mississippi River with a friend. As we passed the Minneapolis Rowing Club’s building, my friend mentioned the St. Paul version of the rowing club, Minnesota Boat Club, on Raspberry Island. While she was lost in reminiscing about hot summer nights, partying at the River Serpent bar, I was distracted by her offhand mention of Learn to Row classes that she said would be starting up soon. This got me thinking about rowing. I’ve always been an athletic person and while most of my pursuits have been more solitary, the idea of being in sync with a group of people gliding across the Mississippi River certainly held some appeal. Thank the internet for turning a whim into reality; before the day was over, I had Googled Minnesota Boat Club’s website and signed up for the first session offered in May.

My first class was last Tuesday evening. We were greeted by our instructors, Kerry and Bruce, and given a tour of the Boat Club building. In short order our instructors had us in the workout room and onto the rowing machines or ‘ergs’ as they are referred to.

Now, as I mentioned, I’m a pretty athletic person. I trail run, I ride dressage competitively, I’ve had personal trainers blah, blah, blah – so as I’m watching Kerry demonstrate proper rowing technique, I’m thinking ‘no problem’. Um yeah; I climbed aboard that machine and felt as if someone had just asked me to pat my head and rub my tummy while jumping on one foot. But eventually I got into the groove along with everyone else in the class. We all got several turns on the machines, recieved individual feedback on our form and worked on some drills.

Next we were taken out onto the training barge tethered to the dock on the river. The training barge isn’t the sexiest boat on the river, let me assure you, but it was stable and built to withstand our clumsy first-time attempts at rowing. Before we actually got to row, I discovered that they don’t untether the boat from the dock. Once we got into position and were instructed how to row, I understood why. Good call.

I learned a surprising amount in a short time. And while mostly I felt like a total spaz, the instruction was solid, Kerry and Bruce were patient and we all did show improvement by the end of the evening. Like anything else, practice makes perfect.

My next class is Thursday night. I’ll let you know how it goes.