Coastal rowing has been on my mind a lot recently. Apparently I am not alone.
A few weeks ago, the FISA World Rowing Coastal Championship (WRCC for those in the know) wrapped up in Thessaloniki, Greece. By all accounts it was a highly successful event, with great participation and exhilarating conditions on the last day.
US Rowing is “going coastal”, announcing plans for up to 10 coastal regattas in 2015, including the purchase of a fleet of boats and creating a new responsibility for the program within its staff. Likening coastal regattas to NASCAR racing, US Rowing feels that the excitement of the sport will attract attention to rowing generally, and coastal rowing eventually may itself become an Olympic sport. There are many kilometres of coastline in the United States, offering a multitude of opportunities for the growth of clubs and events.
Rowing Canada is also seeing potential for growth, with a recent news articleand coverage of coastal regattas in Quebec and Ontario. North America seems to be catching up to what the Europeans have known for a long time.
Coastal rowing has been labelled the “mountain biking” of rowing. On their website, FISA describes it as “the extreme version, the adventure side of rowing.” This can be true and is definitely part of the appeal. There is also an extra component to coastal rowing. Additional skills are needed, such as being able to read tides and currents and even learning to surf the swells and waves.
The opportunity is not exclusively in racing, however, and it does not always have to involve overcoming adverse conditions. Coastal boats are wonderful for rowing travel. I already use coastal boats in Bellagio on my Italian & Swiss Lakes Rowing trip and for several rows during the California Dreaming – San Francisco Bay area. The coastal boats allow us to enjoy destinations and conditions that would not be accessible with normal recreational or Olympic class shells. The FISA Development Tour – Maldives 2015 will exclusively use coastal boats – combining recreationally exploring coral reefs and the great adventure of the Zero Degree Channel crossing – rowing 70 km to cross the equator. I am investigating full coastal tours in Québec, Canada and Brittany, France for 2015. Others are already offering coastal day or longer trips. The volunteers of Coastal Rowing Australia seem to have a lot of fun on their tours – who wouldn’t in such lovely locations!
Maryellen Auger of Little Harbor Boathouse in Marblehead MA (has found that a big barrier for people trying coastal rowing is fear. Flat water rowers can be intimidated by the water conditions, the size and weight of the boats and just the concept of launching out onto the great huge ocean. This will start changing as knowledge of the sport grows.
Maybe coastal rowing can really become like mountain biking – which not only features daredevils, death-defying single track and wild, heart-stopping descents, but is also a sport that many recreational cyclists enjoy on a Sunday with the kids. Let’s catch this rising tide.