Spend time on the water, get exercise & make new friends by learning how to row

Spend time on the water, get exercise & make new friends by learning how to row

NORFOLK, Va. — Do you want to spend time on the water, get in some exercise and make new friends? Thanks to the Hampton Roads Rowing Club, you can accomplish all of those by participating in its “Learn To Row” program.

I gave it a shot and it starts, not on the water, but in the club’s boathouse at Norfolk’s Lakewood Park, on an actual rowing machine, like the ones you see in a gym.

Scott Smith, the coach of Learn To Row, instructed one of the club members to hop on for a quick tutorial.

“He’s compressed to the front and basically, he’s ready to spring back. As he comes back you’ll see he’s holding, the body forward, cause the power comes from the legs,” Smith said as he provided instruction.

After a few minutes, it was my turn. Smith helped me with my form as I began rowing.

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“And I just want you to row with your arms, keep your shoulders behind your hips,” he instructed. “You’re gonna come halfway up the slide, you’re just gonna come halfway. Keep the hand out, body forward, now come forward.”

Learn To Row is a six-day training program. Virginia Beach attorney Paige Melton is really enjoying it.

“It’s been a lot of fun. Everyone is super friendly,” Melton said.

This was day three for Melton, who says rowing is both fun and challenging.

“I have been interested in rowing or having some sort of water hobby, and this is perfect,” said Melton. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s definitely much more difficult than it looks.”

I found that out as I continued practicing on the rowing machine, following Coach Smith’s instructions.

“Slide everything forward, just bend your knees, but don’t bend your arms. Keep everything straight, and now push back with the knees,” he said.

After a few more rows on the machine, it was time for the real thing.

It was a team effort, and anyone who was heading out on the water grabbed a boat to carry down to the Lafayette River.

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This experience, provided by the Hampton Roads Rowing Club, is an opportunity for those who are interested in the sport of rowing, including folks like Romy Rayin who decided to join the club.

“I generally thought it was interesting,” Rayin said. “I was particularly prompted because my son rows in high school.”

Before we pushed off, Coach and Safety Officer Jay O’Brien gave us some quick reminders.

“Our arms are straight, we got a good forward angle with our body, we set the oar,” he said. “Then we push with our legs, our back, then the arms.”

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Easing out on the Lafayette River, O’Brien encouraged me to try a few strokes. It was indeed harder than it looks, and O’Brien spotted something I did.

“So you noticed Kurt, if your oar is not quite perpendicular, then when you put it in the water, it’s gonna go straight down. That’s called ‘catching a crab,’ and that’s not a good thing,” he said. “It can potentially throw you out of the boat.”

Fortunately, with cameras rolling, that didn’t happen.

If you’re curious, another set of Learn To Row classes is coming up in July. The cost is $250 and includes a membership to HRRC for the remainder of the calendar year. You’ll have access to the club boats, open rows and coaching. For more information, click .

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