Shore to Shore, National Rowing Day Was Most Informative

Who knew a workout could be this peaceful?
Who knew a workout could be this peaceful?
Photos by Nikki Lott

Last Saturday morning at 10 a.m. I headed off to cover National Rowing Day. It truly is a national holiday, you know, like all over the United States, or at least in cities and towns with bodies of water fit for rowing boats. I expected to find a bunch of snooty toots with sweaters tied around their shoulders, talking about caviar, José Eber and other super-relevant-rich-people things.

What I actually found were free cookies and bottled water, and, oh yeah, a group of people that love their sport so much they'll gladly suffer a 100-degree day just to tell yahoos like me all about it.

One of the volunteers was Anja, a rower for four years. She described being in the middle of the lake as "delicious," and I think that's just about the greatest adjective ever. The way she talked about gliding across the water with nothing but your thoughts to keep you company made me want to buy a boat that day, or at least a membership, which is way more affordable than you'd think.

A one-year membership to the White Rock Boat House is $360. It spans February to February and the fee is pro-rated if you join later in the year. All you have to do is take three or four lessons and once you're certified they'll loan you a skiff and turn you lose.

Erg's the word.
Erg's the word.

I learned that rowers call a rowing machine an erg, and a mustachioed interloper named Scott continued to wear his life jacket on land and asked more questions than even I did. The girls from White Rock Rowing Team answered them all, fortunately not all at once, with ease and contagious enthusiasm.

Turns out rowing is growing and not just because it rhymes. Highland Park High School has a team, and White Rock's is open to all students in the metroplex. They have kids from 18 schools that suit up and erg out.

My only regret for the day? Not wearing a sailor hat and calling everyone "cap'n."

Here's some more boat stuff I learned:

  • Sweeping is rowing with both hands on one oar. Sweep boats can seat two, four or eight people.
  • White Rock Lake is one of two lakes in the area large enough to sweep.
  • Skulling is rowing with two oars - one in each hand. Skulling is limited to individuals and teams of two or four people.
  • A coxswain (pronounced coxin) is typically a small person that works the oar and directs the crew with encouraging words like, "Square up, Four," and "My grandma could row better than you." (I find myself highly qualified for this job.)
  • There are three parts of the boat : seat, rigger and oar locks. The rigger is the mechanism that lets you push back with your legs. Unsurprisingly, oar locks are metal brackets that hold the oars.
  • When you erg you push back with your legs, then with your back and arms. It's pretty much exactly like they do it in movies and stuff.
  • Don't wear flip-flops when you're on an erg.

For m'oar info head to

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