Row boat

UFV rowing program’s Learn to Row lesson series returns, offering training for athletes of all skill levels

By Valerie Franklin (The Cascade) – Email

Row boat

Image credit: UFV Cascades / Flickr

Always wanted to learn how to row? Here’s your chance to get your feet wet.

The UFV rowing program’s Learn to Row lesson series is returning this fall for its 15th year. An information session will be offered on Thursday, September 10 at 5:30 p.m. in room D213, Abbotsford campus. All students are welcome, from rowing experts to those who have never set foot in a boat before.

“We offer [the rowing lessons] to everybody on campus because it’s fun, and everybody’s learning together, whether you’re a previous athlete in another sport or you just want to get to know people and learn something different,” says Liz Chisholm, head coach of the rowing team.

The lessons will take place on the rowing team’s home venue at the Bedford Channel in Fort Langley. Although much of the training will take place on the water, students will also learn the basics of safety, equipment, and technique by using an indoor rowing machine called an erg, which helps them to understand the body movement required.

“When you can call to them a certain movement, they understand a bit better once they’ve learned it on the machine,” explains Chisholm.

Although the rowing lessons are team-oriented, Chisholm also describes them as social, fun, and low-pressure. The lessons are coached by the varsity athletes, allowing new students to connect personally with more experienced rowers as they learn the sport.

“The varsity team just loves teaching it. It’s something they obviously enjoy doing, and they’d like to pass that on to their peers,” says Chisholm.

After the lessons, rowers will have an opportunity to try out for the varsity team. Chisholm estimates that 10 to 15 per cent of the students who go through the Learn to Row sessions stay on to row competitively with the varsity team. While the sport may be fun, that doesn’t mean there isn’t commitment involved; rowing is not only a physically demanding sport, but one that requires its athletes to work independently, especially during competitions.

“It’s not like the coach is walking on water to coach you,” Chisholm says, laughing. “[The athletes] know what they can do on the water, but I just see them at the finish line coming in at the end of a race.”

The rowing team recently delivered a series of strong performances at the Head of the Fort Regatta in March, where they achieved seven top-two finishes. After completing a training camp at the beginning of September, the rowing season is back in full swing.

“Now we’re ready to go,” says Chisholm. “We have two sort of exhibition races in September and then we’re right into the university two-km Olympic distance.”

Information about upcoming competitions will be posted on the UFV Athletics website, and Chisholm encourages curious students to attend, not only to cheer on UFV’s athletes but to see what the sport is like.

For those who are interested, the rowing lessons will offer students a chance to get a taste of the sport in a low-pressure environment — although it doesn’t have to stop there. Several UFV rowers have gone on to the Canadian national team in the National Rowing Championships, and Chisholm notes that one student who came through the UFV rowing program is currently in the Olympic qualifying trials in Europe.

“We can go from just having fun and being a social experience to as far as you want to take it,” she says.

If you’re interested in making it onto the varsity rowing team, the Learn to Row lesson series is a good place to start.