I pause and take in the surroundings: sky, water, light, boats, buildings. The word that most often comes to mind is "amazing." Energized, I resume rowing.
I learned to row nine years ago during a summer session for new rowers offered by the Humboldt Bay Rowing Association (HBRA). I learned in an eight-oared shell, practicing what is called "sweep rowing," where each rower handles one oar. It was my first experience of a team sport. The camaraderie in the boat made it special.
From the beginning, I liked that rowing engages my whole body in the effort, and my mind, too, which means rowing takes me away from whatever is going on in my life and makes me focus on the moment. I like the physical feeling of gliding, the grace of it, as I draw the oar blades through the water.
After sweep rowing, I learned sculling — rowing with two oars — and nowadays that is what I practice, on a single boat, early in the morning. Again, the effort leaves me energized. I try to carry through the day the sense of wonder, the peace that descends upon me when I am sandwiched between water and sky.
In my first Get Out column of the year ("Make a Wish Instead of a Resolution," Jan. 5, 2023), I noted that HBRA normally hosts Learn to Row Day the first Saturday in June. This week, I have more details regarding the event, which is part of the National Learn to Row Day, about which you can learn more at usrowing.org. On Saturday, June 3, rowing clubs around the country participate in welcoming and encouraging newcomers to the sport; this year's theme is "Opening the Boathouse Doors."
Rowing is a total-body workout: It engages every large muscle group in the body. Most of the power comes from the legs pushing, with back and arms wrapping up the stroke. You may have tried the rowing machine (aka the erg) in a gym. But imagine being outdoors, in a boat, on the water, with birds taking off and landing around you, and harbor seals surfacing to say, "Hi."
On Learn to Row Day, you can get a taste of the above for free, in a festive environment alongside people also interested in the experience and in the care of HBRA rowers eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm.
The first session starts at 7 a.m., the last at 10:30 a.m., and you can expect to spend two hours at the boathouse. (Earlier in the day there is a better chance of calm water.) After a quick introduction on basic technique, participants will row on Humboldt Bay in an eight. The rowers move in concert to propel the vessel, while the coxswain takes charge of navigation and steering.
Adults and teens aged 12 and up are invited to sign up online at eventbrite.com/e/2023-national-learn-to-row-day-registration-632267207237 . Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Participants under 18 must be accompanied by a parent.
Whether you attend the June 3 event or otherwise, if you wish to learn to row, there will be an adult summer session for new rowers the last week of June, while new and returning junior rowers (12 to 18 years old) can join one of three two-week sessions planned for July and August. The HBRA website hbra.org has information on those programs and on private lessons in sculling.
HBRA's main boathouse is located at 1063 Waterfront Drive in Eureka, just south of the Samoa Bridge, and has free parking available. The building is hard to miss, thanks to the stunning rowing-themed mural artist Ben Goulart painted last summer on the eastern wall of the building.
Hope to see you on the water. It is amazing.
Simona Carini (she/her) shares photographs of her outdoor explorations (and of food) on Instagram @simonacarini.