Giv­ing row­ing a go

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - Melissa Jenk­ins

It was for­tu­nate I grabbed my sweater from my closet be­fore head­ing out on the evening of Sun­day, July 5.

When on the road or vis­it­ing a dif­fer­ent town for work, dress­ing in lay­ers or hav­ing ex­tra cloth­ing handy is al­ways a good idea. I also keep a jacket in my truck in case it gets cold.

On this par­tic­u­lar evening at Lady Lake — site of the his­toric Har­bour Grace Re­gatta — the sun was hid­den be­hind the clouds and the 18 C tem­per­a­tures from ear­lier in the day had cooled down dras­ti­cally.

A hand­ful of kids were pre­par­ing to get into a rac­ing shell for a row on the lake by run­ning around to keep warm. A few brave ones wait­ing for their mother were swimming and catch­ing lit­tle fish near the shore.

I stood at the rail­ing that acts as a safety bar­ri­cade be­side the wa­ter. I had on a tank top, a zipup hoodie, a pair of capris and my sneak­ers. This was go­ing to be my first time row­ing.

Coxswain Amy Durn­ford agreed to take me out with her six-woman crew so I could see and feel what a rower ex­pe­ri­ences on the wa­ter.

“I got this,” I kept say­ing over and over.

I used to be a com­pet­i­tive swim­mer, so the wa­ter didn’t bother me. If I can use a row­ing ma­chine at the gym, how hard could this be? The an­swer? Very. I am a self-pro­claimed clumsy per­son, but I have great bal­ance. Be­cause of this, my co-or­di­na­tion is some­times a lit­tle wonky, and that’s the num­ber one ne­ces­sity as a rower.

Putting on my fin­ger­less gloves to grip the oar, I climbed into the mid­dle of the boat to as­sume a stroke po­si­tion — with the help of Amy of course. I had no idea what to ex­pect at this point.

“Just pull the strap around your feet as tight as it will go,” Amy told me.

The other mem­bers of crew in­cluded Bar­bara Ann Crane, Melissa Bursey, Tracy Seymour, Lori Reynolds and Lisa Neville. Cas­san­dra Bartlett was nice enough to give up her seat for the evening.

“OK, I got this,” I re­peated one fi­nal time.

Once we were si­t­u­ated in the shell, we lightly pushed off the float­ing wharf. This was it. I was go­ing to start row­ing, but not with­out a few warn­ings first.

“You will lose your oar,” Amy warned me. And she was right.

There’s a method to row­ing, an art re­ally. It’s steady, con­sis­tent and can be beau­ti­ful. But not the way I did it.

Af­ter a few strokes, we paused to get re­or­ga­nized. Over my right shoul­der was a group of young girls. They couldn’t have been more than 10 years old and they were row­ing in per­fect uni­son.

“Way to make me look bad, kids,” I laughed, mak­ing fun of my­self to Amy’s crew.

But ev­ery­one was en­cour­ag­ing. Amy said the proper tech­nique for pulling the oar through the wa­ter was to not go too deep. The force is what made me lose my oar the first, sec­ond and third time. But ev­ery­one kept push­ing on.

It was phys­i­cally drain­ing, us­ing ev­ery part of my body and mind to row. It’s not an easy sport, although many of the teams that par­tic­i­pate in the re­gat­tas each year make it look sim­ple.

If I hadn’t been keep­ing fit and ac­tive since Jan­uary, I likely wouldn’t have lasted five min­utes.

Dur­ing the last few strokes on the wa­ter, I be­gan to get my rhythm. This was the point I no longer needed that sweater.

Be­ing in my job, I of­ten get the op­por­tu­nity to take part in cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties many oth­ers don’t — like the time ear­lier this year I took a ride on a garbage truck. But row­ing is some­thing any­one can take part in, and I might try to join a team next year.

Even though it was ex­haust­ing and dif­fi­cult, I am ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­ity of do­ing it again.

But the high­light of the sport from my per­spec­tive is not the amaz­ing work­out, the com­pe­ti­tion or head­ing out on the lake. The great­est part is the feel­ing of sports­man­ship and com­radery from ev­ery­one in­volved. From the crews and the coxswains, to those on shore watch­ing, ev­ery­one plays a part, and ev­ery­one sup­ports one another.

Thank you Amy and your crew for tak­ing me out on the wa­ter, and for let­ting me ex­pe­ri­ence the amaz­ing sport of row­ing. Now go get ‘em on July 25th.


Amy Durn­ford (far right) is the coxswain of two crews at Lady Lake this year. She in­vited Com­pass re­porter Melissa Jenk­ins to try her hand at row­ing. Mem­bers of the team are, from left, Lisa Neville, Lori Reynolds, Tracy Seymour, stand-in Melissa Jenk­ins, Melissa Bursey and Bar­bara Ann Crane. Miss­ing from photo are Cas­san­dra Bartlett and Ge­orgina Adams.


Com­pass re­porter Melissa Jenk­ins went for a row on Lady Lake with a crew that will be com­pet­ing in the Har­bour Grace Re­gatta on July 25.

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