30for30: Learning to Row

Andy Waiters is the head coach of the Learn to Row Program. He has also coached with the Juniors Program, and rows with many of the programs at Capital. You can usually find him out in his single whenever he has a free moment.

Capital recently ended its first Learn to Row class of the year, after ten days of introducing the basics to people who had never sat in a boat or touched an oar. This day was very similar to other tenth days, as we set lineups, got boats down, warmed up on the water and headed toward the big tree, the starting line we use for our Learn to Row races. After getting boats aligned, Coach Nicole and I went over general things they should be thinking about at this point, then got ready to trail the boats in the launches. I called “Attention, Row,” and they were off! To both our amazement the boats were moving pretty well, matching swing timing and best of all finding pretty good set, allowing for some really clean strokes. Those folks have now moved on to Intermediate Novice and are continuing to find their stroke.

I never would have imagined that I would have become a Learn to Row coach when I was going through the program with Coaches Bob Brady and Megan Silke in 2011, but the opportunity arose and here I am. One of the coolest parts of the class is getting to hear a little about where the new rowers are coming from, geographically and athletically. After we go around the group for introductions, we pretty quickly set all that aside. There is too much to cover over the ten days. Learning this sport also levels the playing field for everyone because it requires so much physically and mentally and includes concepts that are different than anything they’ve ever done before.

I also love hearing how people ended up in the class. When we go through introductions on the first day, we ask everyone how they learned about us. We always get a wide range of responses. Some heard about the class from a friend or coworker who went through the class, and some are former runners or swimmers who were looking for another competitive outlet.  I think my favorite response is and will always be “my mom made me do it.”

As registration fills for these classes, I always like to keep an eye on it just so I can get a general idea of what the makeup of the class will be. I’ve found that over the past three years the range of ages that are showing interest in rowing has increased. We’ve had middle schoolers and high schoolers looking to get a jump start on the season with their school or the Capital Juniors, but we’ve also had folks in their 60s and 70s looking for a way to stay active. It has been so rewarding to be able to work with people from so many different walks of life.

People find us in different ways but they keep finding us. As a short, black, gay rower, I am really encouraged by the traction the sport is getting in our small city and by how much more inclusive it has become over the years. There are so many opportunities for people to learn to row in DC, especially at the Anacostia Community Boathouse. Whether it’s one of Capital’s annual classes, DC Strokes’ Learn to Row program, We Can Row DC, Athletes Without Limits, Capital Adaptive, Capital Juniors, or DC Strokes Youth, people are spreading the word!

30for30: Feel It

Karen Zareski is a member of Club PM. She signed up for Capital’s Learn to Row program on a whim, and was lucky enough to find a community and a passion.

Five years ago, I learned to row at Capital. I am still—and always will be—learning. My body does not always respond rapidly to the coaches’ direction; I grind in improvements season by season. In winter, I convince myself to stay on a rowing machine with the promise of spring.  In spring, I am overjoyed to be back on the water. I recommit to fixing imperfections and count the weeks until our first regatta.

It is summer now, and we sweat as we lift the boats into the water. Sometimes there is whining about the heat and humidity. Often I am the one whining. Shortly after we launch, however, we settle into the rhythm. The only way to make progress is to focus on the fundamentals of timing, technique, and power. There is no space left to worry about to-do lists or tomorrow’s meetings.  Each practice is an opportunity for a mental and physical reset.

We pass kayakers and canoers, novice sailors and party boat cruisers. A home run cheer from Nationals Stadium can provide heady impetus for a touch more swing from the hips, more power from the quads. We focus on the back of the rower in front of us, striving for the ineffable swing that takes a row to the sublime. In the last few strokes of practice, our boat surges forward. We return to the dock at twilight, ready for happy hour and ever more discussion of rowing.

In autumn, the river is ours alone. The quiet is broken by our cox and our coach. The catch of the oar, the slide of the seat, the solidity of the finish. When we row well, the water rushes beneath us. In the dark, we must rely even more on what our coaches have taught us:

Strength matters. Timing matters more. Row through the waves, the wakes, the wind. Stay solid through the core. Relax your shoulders, and pull through each stroke’s finish. Let the boat come to you rather than rushing forward and checking its progress. Find the water with your blade. If you miss a stroke, fix it on the next. Feel the boat. Focus on the teammate in front of you. Sit up.  Feel it.

30for30: A Pox on the Cox No More

By Mark Lance

I discovered rowing 8 years ago when my partner Amy Hubbard dragged me out of bed to try this new sport. (Amy rowed in college; took a brief 30 year vacation, and then discovered we lived a mile from the boathouse.) That was roughly the same time I discovered that I had a genetic disability that had led to emphysema. I actually forced my doctors to acknowledge that something was seriously wrong by way of careful tracking of my training on the erg. That discovery and subsequent treatment, as well as the aerobic training of rowing with Club AM 5 days a week since has likely added more than a decade to my life. (Seriously. I have data.) So there’s that.

But I’m here to talk about coxing! Yes, it’s that thing that we all have to do. Many rowers come from college rowing, while some, like me, come from Capital’s Learn To Row, but we generally learn to row before we learn to cox. But coxing is easy, right? You just sit there while everyone else does all the work. Aside from the steering – i.e. not destroying the boat – and commands, and listening to the coach, and looking at timing and blade height, and finding the best course in head races – or Satan’s own race the Occoquan Challenge – and pulling up to a stake boat, and docking . . . but mostly just sitting there.


Easy as it might be, Amy and I were both super-anxious coxing our first time, confident we’d do everything wrong, piss off our coach and teammates, and probably cost the club 10k. We managed, and got tolerably good at it, but then discovered that we were not alone. We knew people who actually quit over coxing anxiety. We saw panic attacks over the years. I think Amy threw up her first time. We saw people who would literally hide at warm-ups to avoid being called on. And we thought: “you know, we could actually train people to do this!”

So, in the spirit of an all-volunteer, jump-in-and-do-it-without-waiting-to-be-an-expert club, we offered beginning coxing classes. We’ve been holding these once a session for 2 and a half years now. Over 75 people have come through them and consistently express that it’s a huge relief.

My main point is that Capital is that kind of community. We all pitch in whenever we see a need. We help each other out to be our best. I’ve learned so very much from people at this club that it’s a joy to give back in a small way. I’ll never be the fastest rower, with half my lungs, but I can help newer rowers and coxswains in lots of ways and always feel a part of this team. (Not being on supplemental oxygen or dead, like most people my age with my disease, is cool also.)

RaceRoundUp: Virginia Boat Club Regatta 2018

Thanks VBC for hosting a great day! We love the opportunity for some local rivalry done in Richmond.

  • Womens Open 8+ – 1st
  • Mens Masters 4+ – 1st & 2nd
  • Mens Masters 1x (A-C) – 2nd (R. Best)
  • Womens Masters 4+ (A-B) – 2nd & 3rd
  • Womens Masters 4+ (D-E) – 3rd
  • Womens Masters 1x (A-C) – 2nd (S. Acerra)
  • Mixed Masters 4+ (A-C) – 1st
  • Womens Masters 8+ (C-D) – 3rd
  • Mens Open 1x – 1st (R. Best)
  • Womens Open 1x – 2nd (S. Acerra)
  • Mixed Masters 8+ (A-C) – 1st & 2nd

RaceRoundUp: Stonewall 2018

Stonewall is usually a favorite, but the rain didn’t let it happen this year! Thanks for the effort putting it together DC Strokes.

A few races did go off before the regatta was called. Congrats to the Capital boats that got out on the river. Here are some of the results:

  • Womens Open 1x – R.Hollins, 2nd
  • Womens Open 8+ – 2nd & 3rd
  • Mens Masters 1x – B. Reichart, 2nd
  • Mixed Masters 4+ – 1st & 2nd