SWFL Row­ing Keeps Grow­ing

All are wel­come at Caloosa Coast Row­ing Club and Row­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of Naples

Gulf & Main - - Contents - Bill Levy is a free­lance writer based in Odessa, Texas. He pre­vi­ously resided in Fort My­ers.

Whether you have been row­ing for years and are look­ing for a place to con­tinue do­ing so or are just in the ex­ploratory stage to see what the sport is about, there are a cou­ple of op­tions for you in South­west Flor­ida. The Caloosa Coast Row­ing Club, or CCRC, op­er­ates out of Cape Har­bour in Cape Coral, and the Row­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of Naples, known as RAN, calls An­thony Park and the Gor­don River its home.

Founded in 2007, the CCRC has pro­grams for all ages, ac­cord­ing to the club’s past pres­i­dent, Jon Hart. “We have adults’ and kids’ pro­grams—which in­clude mid­dle school and high school kids,” he says. “The adults are more of the ‘Learn to Row’ or recre­ational type, while the kids are more geared to­ward com­pe­ti­tion.”

RAN formed in 1993 and is will­ing to ac­com­mo­date row­ers at any level. Pres­i­dent Chuck Roth says, “We are a small, in­for­mal or­ga­ni­za­tion. Most peo­ple, how­ever, have had some ac­cess to row­ing be­fore [ join­ing].” He notes his club’s pri­mary fo­cus is to pro­vide boats for its mem­bers, num­ber­ing about “40 peo­ple.” Roth adds that they of­ten get vis­i­tors from out of town who have an in­ter­est in row­ing.

“We have had peo­ple who are close by and some from as far away as Ar­gentina and Swe­den,” he says. Row­ing “at­tracts all kinds of peo­ple. Some may fly in on a pri­vate jet while some need to hitch a ride up [In­ter­state] 75 to get here.”

“We will of­fer a ‘Get Ac­quainted’ les­son for $50,” Roth ex­plains. “If they find they want to join the club, then that will be de­ducted from the $150 mem­ber­ship fee.”

He ad­mits, how­ever, that row­ing may not be for every­one. “It is like weightlift­ing on a gym­nas­tics beam. You have to beat your­self up [to get what you want].”

Roth, 76, has been in­volved in the sport since 1961 and was a mem­ber of the 1971 na­tional team. He’s quick to men­tion why he loves the sport: “It is good fit­ness.” The Naples res­i­dent, who grew up in the Bos­ton sub­urb of Welles­ley, adds, “It is also very med­i­ta­tive.”

Be­ing in South­west Flor­ida, you can also do it year-round.” —Row­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of Naples of­fi­cer Steve Jaron

Steve Jaron, also a RAN of­fi­cer, is hooked on row­ing as well. “I got in­volved with row­ing later in life,” says Jaron, who hails from Drexel Hill, Penn­syl­va­nia. “It was ’86 or ’87. I was headed to grad school. My friend asked if I’d row with him on the Schuylkill River [in Penn­syl­va­nia]. I got into it then but didn’t row for a few years when I got trans­ferred to North Jersey. I picked it up again when I moved here in 2004.”

Jaron doesn’t see him­self tak­ing any more breaks from the sport any time soon. “It is a to­tal body work­out. You can com­pete at any age group and in any class. Be­ing in South­west Flor­ida, you can also do it year-round.”

The CCRC’s Hart is just as quick to point out some of the fea­tures of row­ing. “It is an aer­o­bic sport. It is low im­pact, with no jump­ing, and you don’t tear up your knees or other body parts. It is a to­tal body work­out, and it helps women build bone den­sity.”

Hart also sees other ad­van­tages of row­ing, in ad­di­tion to fit­ness. “You can row with only a cou­ple of peo­ple but gen­er­ally you need a group,” he says. “It is a so­cial sport. I came here from Pitts­burgh in 2007 and didn’t know any­one. Af­ter I got in­volved in this club, I had an in­stant so­cial net­work.”

And al­though Hart men­tions that row­ing “is the old­est col­le­giate sport in the United States,” both lo­cal clubs would like to ex­pose even more peo­ple to the sport. “We work with the schools,” says Hart, whose club has about 60 mem­bers. “Be­sides the ‘Learn to Row’ pro­grams, we also do a lot with Meetup [meetup.com].” Jaron ex­plains that RAN is try­ing to use so­cial me­dia as part of its plan to at­tract more row­ers.

For some, the sport can turn into much more than a recre­ational and so­cial event. “There are op­por­tu­ni­ties to get fi­nan­cial aid [for col­lege], par­tic­u­larly for women,” Roth notes. “Row­ing is equiv­a­lent to foot­ball in that re­gard.”

To find out more about each club, visit rowc­crc.org and naplesrow­ing.com.

Pho­tos show mem­bers of Cape Co­ral­based Caloosa Coast Row­ing Club, in­clud­ing Joe Gut­tieri (top right) and Irene Balm­forth (be­low right).

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