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While you were sleeping, we were rowing

By Merrill Eppedio, 11/16/19, 9:45AM EST

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Inaugural Fall Master's Season

While you were sleeping, we were rowing. 

Mount Arlington, NJ. It’s 5:30 am, and in the silence of the pre-dawn hours, 12 adults, with boats overhead, begin their steady march toward the water. Wielding newly acquired skills, and under the practiced eye of their coxswain, they gracefully flip a 50-ft racing shell from overhead into proper alignment along the dock. Locking-in oars, gingerly settling into seats, and strapping-in shoes, they pushing slowly off into the dim early morning light of Lake Hopatcong. 

These twelve brave souls, representing the inaugural Master’s team, are breaking new ground for Row New Jersey. Established in the spring of 2019 with experienced rowers, and progressing in September for all experience levels, these individuals have come together to learn the art and technique of rowing. 

The Row New Jersey’s Master’s team, with ages ranging from the’40s-’60s, met three days per week near dawn, greeting the sunrise while learning about the sport of rowing. Begining on land, they discovered the essential terminology, safety, and stroke basics, using the stationary ergometers (rowing machines). They then progressed to learn proper boat handling, and on-the-water rowing, while refining skills and building fitness. While they may have set foot on the Lake Hopatcong shore as individuals, they have clearly come together as a team.

Recounting her experience, Sharon Gruber shared what an enriching experience it was to become a novice team member for Row New Jersey. “I had never participated in any team sport before. We learned to work together from day one, rather than take an unexpected dip in the lake or - heaven forbid, drop the boat! It was a real growth experience for me. I had such a good feeling about our group’s dynamics from the very beginning”. 

Another team member Julian Bonifacio, having recently recovered from a health issue, said it was “really nice to have a group of people who were depending on you to come down here and be part of a team. At the beginning (of my recovery), it was hard to work out on my own, and I desperately needed something like Row New Jersey. This experience was more valuable to me than I can ever fully express”.

Barbara Infante, a Row New Jersey Board Member and mother of two rowers, said she was “inspired to give rowing a try based on my kids’ experiences with the program over the last few years. I thought the 5:30 am start time would be a challenge, but instead, I looked forward to those days and catching up with my new team-mates. Learning a brand new sport was humbling, exciting, and peaceful all at the same time - and the sunrises on the lake were a gorgeous perk!”

Rowing Director, Robert Welsh reflecting on the new team said, "many people don’t realize that unlike most sports, rowing is one activity that you can continue into adulthood, year after year, with significant health benefits.  You can start anytime and row for pleasure or race into your eighties.” 

The Master’s program rounds out the Row New Jersey offering, which also includes a high school racing team, open to boys and girls grades eight-12, of all experience levels, as well as an introductory middle-school program for grades six through eight.

The Row New Jersey Master’s program has now wrapped-up for fall but will begin again in the spring. This team will be open to new and returning adults of all ages, experience and fitness levels. To learn more about Row New Jersey, visit www.rownj.org or contact Rowing Director Robert Welsh at rwelsh@rownj.org.