Rowing on Lake Purdy- how you can learn to row, keep fit and meet new friends

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Rowing requires great posture and even greater concentration (Photo via LPRA)

Did you know that you can row in the greater Birmingham area?  The ultimate team sport-demanding the complete focus and effort of every team member – is a favorite hobby of mine. I sought out a rowing group when I moved to Birmingham from Wales last year.  Fortunately I found one! Find out what it’s about and how you can get rowing too.

But rowing is also a fun recreational activity where you can complete a great workout and just enjoy being out on the water. 

Lake Purdy Rowing Association, less than 15 miles away from Downtown Birmingham, has been provided this opportunity since 2013. Find out more about learning this great sport.

Lake Purdy Rowing Association

Lake Purdy Rowing Association were formed in 2013 (Photo via LPRA)

The Lake Purdy Rowing Association was formed in 2013 to give people throughout Greater Birmingham an opportunity to experience the joys of rowing.

Their vision is “to bring individual rowers, high school and collegiate athletes and teams, public entities, and corporate sponsors together to build a robust community rowing program.” 

They hold adult Learn-to-Row classes each summer (see details on their website), and have year-round recreational and competitive training opportunities for members. They’ll even help you hold next corporate training day.

Junior rowing on Lake Purdy (Photo via LPRA)

LPRA sponsors the Samford University Crew. Did you know that a high percentage of youth rowers receive athletic college scholarships? Read more about Magic City Rowing Juniors.

Jackie Major, Head Rowing Coach

Jackie Major, Head Rowing Coach, and Olympic bronze medalist at the Montreal Olympics 1976 (the first Olympics with Women’s rowing), told me about rowing on Lake Purdy. 

“This is such a great club situation to be part of at Lake Purdy. Rowing is not easy – it takes a lot of practice and dedication to get right, and you’ll use every muscle in your body. We cater for all levels, from beginners, to more competitive training. I really love seeing the camaraderie between everyone that rows together, no matter what their skill level or experience. They appreciate one another and recognize how difficult the sport can be.”

‘Easy oars’ Taking a break on the lake (Photo via LPRA)

On the rowing options offered at Lake Purdy, Jackie told me:

“There’s sweep rowing. This is where, as part of a team, you’ll be handling one oar on a particular side of the shell (the boat), and then there is sculling, this is where you’ll be using two oars to propel through the water. A lot of our members like sculling, as once they are competent, they can go out on a single seat boat whenever they want, which is great if there’s not a complete crew available.”

On the members, Jackie explains,

“We have a group of about 25 regular rowers and they are all very welcoming! It’s a very social thing to be part of. To experience the lake together. We’ve seen some spectacular sunsets and it’s always nice to get out on to the flat calm lake in the early morning.” 

Who wouldn’t want to row on lake conditions like this? (Photo via LPRA)
Another day of rowing comes to an end (Photo via LPRA)

So why is rowing so much fun?

This is something I have personal experience of, having competed in coastal rowing championships in Wales and Europe, there are so many reasons why I think rowing is fun!

Bham Nower, Jon Eastwood on his final social row in Wales before moving to the USA (Photo via Jon Eastwood)
  • It gets you fit – both physically and mentally. You’ll need to use every single muscle in your body to its maximum potential!
  • You get to be part of a team,  people you might not have anything else in common with apart from rowing, and you can make lifelong friends.
  • You get to be out on the water after work, on the weekend, or on a day off. It’s addictive!

New Rower, Karin Fecteau

I spoke with new rower at Lake Purdy, Karin Fecteau to find out what attracted her to the sport.

Karin (centre in purple) and her crew (Photo via LPRA)

“I was looking for a fun new sport to try, something I can do for years to come. I love the water and the outdoors, so I thought I’d give rowing a try. It’s been such a great feeling to learn how to row and then be able to go out with a crew and glide elegantly across the water.” 

Karin explained how rowing is about more than just exercise, “not only did I learn the basics for a new sport that will keep me active, I’ve met some amazing friends who are all from completely different backgrounds and we’re connected through a love of rowing!”

Learning to row is fun! Karin Fecteau and Coach Sherry Colgin (Photo via LPRA)

What is a rowing stroke?

The coxswain keeps an eye on timing and rhythm (Photo via LPRA)

There are four main components of the rowing stroke, which is the process of using an oar to drive the boat forward. 

Each member of the crew will follow the stroke rhythm of the rower who sits closest to the stern of the boat and they are referred to as sitting in the stroke position. 

Timing and rhythm is key, so the crew member in the stroke position must maintain a consistent stroke rhythm, and the crew members sitting behind must keep in consistent time with each element of the stroke.

 As well as steering the boat, the Coxswain (who sits facing the rowers) will act as an on-the-water coach for the crew. They can make sure the crew member in stroke keeps a consistent pace and can let other crew members know if they are not keeping in rhythm (or time with the stroke).

Early morning misty row on Lake Purdy (Photo via LPRA)

Breaking down the stroke

Catch:  The moment the blade enters the water and initiates the drive.

Drive:  Portion of the stroke that propels the boat through the water. The drive starts at the catch and ends with the release.

Release:  The end of the drive, when the rower removes the oar from the water and then feathers. Also called the Finish.

Recovery:  The portion of the stroke after the rower releases the oar from the water and returns to the catch position.

Ready to give rowing a try? 

Getting the crew onboard (Photo via LPRA)
Row on Lake Purdy until the sun goes down (Photo via LPRA)

Of course you are! What are you waiting for?

Lake Purdy Rowing Association has a website and Facebook page where you can find out lots of information about their Learn to Row program, as well as joining them as a member to enjoy rowing on the water all year round.

There’s an upcoming Learn to Row program, beginning July 13. Spaces are very limited.

For more information about rowing on Lake Purdy and Learn to Row, contact:

They look forward to hearing from you!

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Jon Eastwood
Originally from Wales (UK) and a fluent Welsh speaker. Longtime sustainability and recycling champion. Former county recycling manager in the UK. Career highlights include introducing innovative recycling systems and achieving a point where households throw out trash just once a month. Competed in international coastal rowing championships and followed Wales throughout Europe in their Rugby and Soccer endeavours.
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