Intrigue and curiosity are aroused when the Caloosa Coast Rowing Club is mentioned. What? A rowing club here in the Cape? You mean anyone can join? You go out in those super long skinny boats with 9 people in them (8 rowers, 1 coxswain)? In the canals? All year long? Yes! Yes! Yes! and Yes!
CCRC began in 2006-2007 in downtown Fort Myers but because of impending development the newly formed club had to find another home and lucky for us and anyone in the area interested in learning, they found a good samaritan in Will Stout, the original developer and owner of Cape Harbour. He provided a space and now the club has a “yard” and small clubhouse across from the marina. It’s the perfect spot to launch the boats. The club has grown from 18 founding members to nearly 80. There’s plenty of room to grow being it owns five 8-person boats, 4 quads, 4 doubles and 5 singles.
If you live and/or boat on the canals west of the Cape’s only loch you’ll often see rowers of various experience. You’ll hear the coaches and or cox calling out “On Two, Row……. One!…Two!…Row!!” or “Ports row hard! Starboards keep it light!” as we navigate around the bends of the spreader canal. It’s challenging this time of year when there are various motorboats with captains of various knowledge. The most important thing we hope everyone keeps in mind is the canal is a “No Wake” zone. There are multiple reasons for this but as rowers we appreciate all boater adhering to the rule so we don’t capsize!
The camaraderie and enthusiasm for the sport is infectious. It’s all about precision and working as a team so no calling out to the fellow who you think is doing something not quite right, that’s the job of the coaches and the coxswain and it keeps you focused on doing what you’re supposed to be doing which is catch, pull, legs, back then arms, quick arms away, back then slow slide up to catch. Got it? One would think it’s very simple but there are many different factors. Oh yeah, and you’ve got that 12 foot paddle in your hands that you may never let go of, going in and out of the water. Don’t forget to breathe and focus, focus, focus!
The rowing club offers “Learn to Row” classes a number of times during the year. If you are willing to commit 3 Saturday and Sunday mornings in a row (haha) and you can tread water for 10 minutes you’re basically fit enough to go through the rigors of the program. Or you may want to participate to brush up on your skills before you join the club.
The coaches teach you how to sweep row: one paddle in an oar lock on the port or starboard side of the boat. Once completed you can hone your skills on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings with coached rowing sessions. Rowing is a study of technique and takes consistent practice and is an excellent all body workout. For those who are skilled, organized rows happen nearly every day of the week, most often before sunrise on the weekends or after 5pm on the weekdays. If you own your own boat and want to join the club and have a place to keep and launch it you can become a member and store it at the yard and go out anytime!
Depending on the season, the number of boats on the water at any one time will vary. It’s pretty neat to see sweep boats with 9 people in them along with a quad or two, or people sculling in singles, doubles or quads. It is peaceful, rhythmic, intense and exciting (when we race!) and propelled only by manpower.
Rowers sit backwards to the direction of the boat. So talking is discouraged while rowing, it’s important to listen to the coxswain who steers the boat and calls out commands. But there’s a social aspect because you become part of a team if you row in anything other than a single. And even then the camaraderie often continues after weekend practices when we gather for breakfast at local eateries. Maybe you’ve seen us? It’s a fun and welcoming group from all around the world. Some club members live here year-round, some have second homes here and some are vacationers. It’s a wonderful and eclectic group of people who enjoy being outside while exercising.
The club demographics are a reflection of those of Southwest Florida: most everybody is from someplace else, some stay longer than others, some are here all the time, some are middle school aged students and some are middle aged adults! There is no elitism here!
Caloosa Coast Rowing Club is fortunate to have Stefen Sztancsa from Brazil, 3rd generation elite competitive rower as coach for the scholastic program teaching middle schoolers and high schoolers the nuances of the sport. His enthusiasm is contagious. Look for his new rowing center and gym this Spring, he adds music into the challenge of rowing on an “Erg” while you’re pulling as hard as you can with first your legs, then your back and then your arms while focusing on proper form and technique, then repeat in reverse order and do it again! It’s down right fun and an amazing workout and is great practice for when you get out on the water with your teammates to enjoy our waterways that never freeze. It’s also a beautiful way to witness the sunsets and sunrises and to fly on the water!