By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer
On the placid Ohio River, boats of all speeds and sizes glide back and forth across the dark currents. A sleek, smooth figure slides slowly across the surface, its oars moving in tandem. The rowers look like seated dancers as they glide forward in unison, then back, then forward again.
This is the sport of rowing, a workout on water powered by human spirit and muscle. The boat, called a "shell," is propelled by one rower or a crew with either one oar, (a "sweep") or two oars, (a "scull"). To encourage more Tristaters to try rowing as a sport or a way to get fit, the Cincinnati Rowing Club invites the public to two events this month: a Learn to Row mini-class Friday and Saturday and the Head of the Licking Regatta Sept. 27.
IF YOU GO
What: Introductory Learn To Row weekend
When and Where: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday at the Rowing and Fitness Center, and 9 a.m.-noon Sunday at the Licking River Boathouse.
Sponsor: Cincinnati Rowing Club
Cost: $50, reservations required
Information: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Head of the Licking Regatta
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 27
Where: Races finish at Frederick's Landing Park, Wilder
Sponsor: Cincinnati Rowing Club
Information: Web site
"This is a great opportunity to learn something new," says Tim Royalty, the women's rowing coach at the University of Cincinnati. "Rowing is kind of an unknown sport to most people, but the Midwest is a powerhouse in the sport."
This weekend's Learn to Row program gives a two-day short course on the mechanics of rowing. The first class meets 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday, at the Rowing and Fitness Center under the Montgomery Inn Boathouse downtown for an introduction to the mechanics and terminology of rowing. Sunday, also from 9 a.m.-noon, the class will be held at the Licking River Boathouse in Newport on Riverboat Row. Participants will actually row on the river under a coach's supervision.
Club members are quick to point out that the weekend's events are not a replacement for the fall classes held annually, but rather a primer to help those interested get a feel for the sport.
And don't worry if you're not already in shape.
"The best thing is that it's a low-impact activity," says Royalty. "This is not a sport where there's a lot of impact on the body. People think it's all upper body, but it's not. Rowing uses all the major muscle groups, from the rowing motion with your arms to the sliding of your body on the seat. It's a full-body workout."
Royalty also says it's never too late to start.
"You can row your whole life," he says. "Plus, rowing is something you can pick up at any time of your life. A large number of Olympians picked it up in college, but a lot of them started after college."
Locally, interest in rowing starts as early as high school. More than 100 students from 22 Greater Cincinnati schools participate in the junior rowing program. This year, the junior women's and junior men's teams of eight won first place in the USRowing Youth Invitational, held here June 7-8.
In addition to the invitational, the Cincinnati Rowing Club also hosts the Cincinnati Invitational in April and the Midwest Championship Regatta in May. Those annual events take place at Harsha Lake in East Fork State Park.
On the collegiate level, Miami University has men's and women's rowing clubs. The University of Cincinnati has a men's rowing club and women's team. UC alum Kelly Salchow competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics and is in training for the 2004 national team.
The ninth annual Head of the Licking regatta takes place 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 27, with launches from the Licking/Ohio River confluence. The best place to watch the regatta is from the viewing stage at Frederick's Landing Park in Wilder. The race begins at General James Taylor Park near the confluence and winds three miles upstream, ending at Frederick's Landing Park.
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