ROWONTARIO is recognized by the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion as the not-for-profit governing body for rowing in the Province of Ontario.
We are a volunteer-led organization consisting of 60 member clubs and some 8000 individual members.
Rowing has been practiced competitively and recreationally in Ontario for over 150 years. The increasing urbanization and prosperity of Upper Canada in the mid-nineteenth century, combined with the advent of the press and the telegraph, created a class of men who were at leisure to practice rowing and to gamble on the outcomes of races between professional scullers.
Clubs began to be formed in Ottawa, Toronto, Brockville and other centres, largely for the members of the business classes in order to engage in healthy amateur sport and to further develop social bonds. At the same time, sculler Ned Hanlan of Toronto captured the national imagination by claiming the world rowing championship in 1880, thus becoming Canada’s first world champion of anything.
By the turn of the 20th century, rowing in Ontario had expanded sufficiently to allow for the development of major inter-club regattas such as the Dominion Day Regatta in Toronto and the Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catharines (later to receive Royal designation). Through the first half of the 1900s, Ontario rowers took the lead in representing Canada internationally at the Olympic Games, an indication of the Provinces primacy in Canadian rowing.
Following the Second World War, Ontario clubs started to organize themselves more formally with the creation of the rowing associations in the Eastern, Central and North Western regions of the province. With increasing government interest and involvement in sport in the 1960s came the inception of, in 1969, an Ontario Rowing Championship and, in 1970, the formation of the Ontario Rowing Association. This coincided with the hosting in St. Catharines of the World Rowing Championships that year.
At its inception, the Ontario Rowing Association (whose trade name became ROWONTARIO in 2001) had nine member clubs and some 500 active rowers. The intervening three decades have seen the steady increase in the number of member clubs (more than one per year on average), the addition of womens rowing, and a broadening of the sports reach beyond competition to include recreational, adaptive and touring rowing.