WENATCHEE — Working with a local after-school program, Jane Turner often lets students try soccer or takes them for a hike.
But adults focus more on their jobs and don’t often get to just have fun, she said.
“Adults don’t have enough opportunity to be engaged in their environment,” she said. “We don’t have enough opportunity to learn new things, and we don’t get the chance to be on teams.”
The Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club is changing that with a rowing class for adults. Two students signed up for the club’s first-ever course, which started June 8 and ends Wednesday, but organizers hope to offer it again.
Turner, who started rowing in college, is coaching the class. There’s a lot of information to take in, but it all comes together in the end.
“My goal as a coach is to just keep them from being so totally overwhelmed so that they’re actually progressing and having fun at the same time,” she said.
Previously, the club only held single-day events for National Learn to Row Day in June. The new class has been meeting on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings.
Turner said rowing is simple in theory, but being in an unsteady boat on the river with several other rowers complicates matters. Mental preparation and confidence play a big part, she said, and she hopes the students get a sense of camaraderie and achievement.
“It’s the ultimate team sport,” she said. “It’s all about trust. When you’re in the middle of a race and you feel like you’re dying and you look up and realize there’s eight other people in your boat who are putting their heart and soul into it, you go further than you ever thought you could on your own.”
The two students are Kelly Silva and Chelan County Fire Marshal Bob Plumb. Neither had rowed before the class, though they’d done water activities like canoeing, kayaking or fishing.
Rowing is a lot more technical than Silva expected.
“When you first start, it just feels like nothing is working at all,” she said. “I’ve pretty much got the order of motions down, and I can row. I’ve learned the fundamentals of how to do it; now it’s just a matter of making it work.”
I thought I would just get exercise and learn how to do this, like, ‘Oh, I’ll be proficient.’ I didn’t realize it’s much harder than that. It’s not something you can learn in a week. Now I have this new mental challenge I didn’t expect to have.”
She said she knew it would be physically challenging, but she’s also learned terminology and teamwork. She expects it to be months before she’s proficient, but she’s considering joining a race eventually.
Plumb said he’s always wanted to try the sport. He’d like to be able to row on his own in a single-user boat, but he’s also trying to get better at working with others.
He said he didn’t know any parts of the stroke at first but now has an idea of how they fit together.
“There are so many little pieces of technique that fit in all the different stages of a stroke,” he said. “I’ve got a long ways to go. There’s a bunch of physics that go on. In the last class, with all of us rowing together, it was how to make the boat start to feel stable when it didn’t when we first started. I’m still trying to figure that one out. It feels really tippy and awkward, especially if not everybody’s there together.”
Brooke Saari, a Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club member, is also working with the class. Like Turner, she started rowing in college.
Students start out with a rowing machine to learn the movements before getting into a boat. They learn both types of rowing: sculling with two oars and sweep rowing with one.
“You have to teach the language of rowing,” Saari said. “We have our own commands, our own words, and then you have to teach the mechanisms, the body movement. Once you get the body movement down, then you get into the finessing — applying your power and matching up.”
She said the $150 course cost goes toward the initiation fee for joining the club.
“For this class, we’re actually focusing on on-land work as well as in the water, so they’re going to get more than just a cursory introduction to the water,” she said. “By the end of this class, they’ll be able to join the team. They could row in a race if they would like to.”
They could also choose to just row recreationally.
Part of the club’s mission is to be involved with the community, Saari said, and the Columbia River provides the perfect opportunity. People can learn rowing at any age and do it as long as they’re physically able, she said.
“A lot of people who wouldn’t normally be together, it brings them together in this unifying manner, which is one of the great things about rowing,” she said. “You’re forced to be a team and you learn this sport that is beautiful when it comes together, when everyone does the same thing and you really get that stroke. When you can go to a race and you do really well at the race, regardless if you medal or not, there’s no other feeling like that.”