Augusta Rowing Club draws novice rowers to event

Kathee Sample was all smiles as she pulled on the handle of her oar and glided down the Savannah River, along with the eight other people in her boat.


Sometimes she was off pace with the other rowers. Sometimes her oar turned the wrong way. She just laughed and tried again.

She loves being on the water, and Saturday was her first rowing experience.

The Augusta Rowing Club introduced the sport to dozens of novice rowers for the 11th annual National Learn to Row Day. For a donation to the Golden Harvest Food Bank, anyone interested in learning about rowing was invited to tour the Boathouse and take rowing lessons.

“It was so fun!” Sample said as she climbed the bank to join her friend Nancy Young.

“Good,” said Young, a rowing club member who volunteered to be a coxswain for the day and invited Sample to come out for a lesson. “There’s a regatta in three weeks. See you there.”

Sample said she would definitely try rowing again, but not in a regatta anytime soon.

After a lesson on indoor rowers, called ergometers, groups were put into boats – generally a team of eight, at least two of whom were experienced rowers – and pushed off into the river, where they were given instructions on how to hold and move the oars. They practiced in groups of two, then four, then six until all eight were rowing.

“That’s the goal, for every boat to get up to eight (people rowing) and then come back in,” said club member Leslie Sprague, “which is a new experience because you’re all possibly tippy and (the boat) goes faster.”

She said last year’s event drew nearly 80 people.

Some teams seemed to have a livelier nautical experience than others.

Michael McAdams, a new member of the Augusta State University rowing team, encouraged his sister Mary Kate McAdams to try the sport. She said she had a lot of fun.

“We did have a water moccasin incident, but it was fast and over with quickly,” she said. “It just kind of climbed up onto one of the oars. There was a dead fish incident, too. One of our brand new rowers was caught off guard by the dead fish floating on her oar.”

McAdams said the experience made her want to be out on the water more.

Michele Meddings rode in a motorized boat with instructor Thomas Evans and snapped pictures of her sons Justin, 10, and Carson, 8, as they rowed.

“They wanted to see what rowing was about because they saw it on TV for the Olympics,” she said.

Though they rowed for nearly an hour, the boys remained attentive and seemed to enjoy their time on the water. Both are involved in the Augusta Swim League, and Justin is looking for a sport to participate in when he gets to middle school next year, Meddings said.

“I think it’s definitely sparked an interest in them,” she said. “This is something that’s available to them that you don’t get to see every day.”