Getting to Know the Barrie Rowing Club
Club Profile/ Mar 3

Getting to Know the Barrie Rowing Club

To honour the history, dedication and current initiatives of each rowing community, Row Ontario will be producing a series of profiles on member clubs across Ontario. Today we get to know more about the Barrie Rowing Club!

Barrie Rowing Club
Established: 1987
Location: Barrie, Ont.

Founded in the winter of 1987-88, the Barrie Rowing Club has a history of providing excellent rowing programming for the residents of Barrie and the surrounding Simcoe County area.

The club was founded by a small group of rowing enthusiasts who had a dream of establishing a permanent rowing club in Barrie. The club got its start by acquiring two old rowing shells from the Cornwall Rowing Club, which they stored in an old storage shed that the club rented on Victoria Street in Barrie.

“From the stories I’ve heard, they had to carry the boats across Victoria Street and the railway tracks and through the park to do a wet launch when the club first started,” said Matt Gleben, current President of the Barrie Rowing Club. “The original location of the club was closer to Centennial Beach. We’re now located on the south shore of Kempenfelt Bay.”

The original location of the club lasted approximately five years before they outgrew their humble beginnings. The number of members and their inventory of boats was too great for the old storage shed to handle, so they embarked on an ambitious partnership with the city of Barrie and several other local organizations, including the Barrie Canoe and Kayak Club, to construct a permanent home on the south shore of Kempenfelt Bay. The project included restoring and renovating an old CN maintenance building and extending the basement in order to house both the rowing and canoe and kayak clubs. A floating dock was also installed, a huge improvement which meant the club members no longer had to get their feet wet to launch the boats. Upon completion of the project, the building was renamed the Southshore Community Centre and remains the Barrie Rowing Club’s home to this day.

Members of the club have plenty of space to row on Kempenfelt Bay. The setting is very picturesque and on a calm day 10-15 km of water can easily be covered. With any large body of water, there are sometimes days where the water is rough, but rowing in less-than-ideal conditions has its advantages as well. Rowers at the club learn to follow the weather patterns and become adept at adjusting their rowing styles depending on the conditions. The club typically starts up in April and is usually on the water until early-November.

“In a regular year, our high school rowers are on the water as soon as the docks go in, which is usually at the end of April,” said Marian Filo-Carroll, a current member of the club’s Board of Directors. “From there we’re on the water until the end of October or early-November. The high school programming goes from the beginning of May until June, and then the public rowing starts after that point, from June until we get off the water for the year.”

Barrie has a long history with its high school program and has hosted the Barrie Sprints regatta for many years to provide a local racing opportunity for high school rowers in the area. The regatta is held on a short course, about one kilometre long and is usually held during the last few weeks of May. The regatta features a few different boat types, and the competitors are mixed and matched within the boats to help create a fun and welcoming environment for everyone involved. At its highest point, the regatta featured nearly 300 rowers.

“The Barrie Sprints is a nice regatta for people who have only been rowing for a year or two,” said Gleben. “The bigger and more serious regattas can be quite intimidating when you’re just starting out, ours is a little more relaxed and it’s a good venue for more inexperienced rowers. It’s usually near the end of the high school season, timing can be a bit of a challenge and finding the best date to host it, allowing enough time from the start of the rowing season, avoiding the high school exam period and holding it before the CSSRA’s. But it’s something we’re quite proud of and we look forward to hosting it every year.”

While the high school program is the focus for the club throughout the spring, it’s far from the only successful program they run. The Barrie Rowing Club is truly a full-service club and runs programs for all segments of the rowing population.

“Our programs run the full gamut,” said Filo-Carroll. “In addition to the competitive high school program we run a junior scullers program two days per week for youths in grade six to eight. It introduces the sport to that age group and many of them tend to follow through and continue rowing in high school. We also run a learn-to-row program for both adults and high school-aged students. We have a youth competitive team that encompasses U17, U18 as well as U23 which provides a local option for university students returning home for the summer. Our club also has a small competitive adult masters program, where the rowers will travel and attend regattas throughout the summer. In the winter we also run an indoor erging program, some people just come for the indoor program, but we’ve been able to convert a few to our on-water programs as well.”

The club also runs an extensive recreational program where members can sign up for a full membership or participate on weekends or for a few weeks in the summertime. They have also branched out to groups outside of rowing, as they’ve run team building exercises with local hockey teams in the area. Both women’s and men’s teams have participated in the exercises which see them get into the club’s eights and take them out on Kempenfelt Bay to work on team building. There is also a big annual dragon boat festival in Barrie and some of the teams have utilized the club’s indoor erging programs in the winter.

Throughout the years there have been many key contributors to the Barrie Rowing Club’s success. Elaine and Peter Bursztyn, who are current board members and have been with the club for many years, were instrumental in helping the club construct its current home at the Southshore Community Centre and have been very active in many club initiatives over the years. Long-time club member Mark Potter was also very active in the club’s early years and was also a key figure in helping the club find their new home. Cheryl Arends has also been an active member for many years and her two daughters, D’Arcy and Mikayla, have come through the club and gone on to compete internationally for Canada at the World University Games. Other long-time members who have made major contributions to the club include David Collacutt, Kate Wilson, George McCullough, Mike Smith, Cathy Edney, Jürgen Schubert, Derek Vair, Leah Penny, Beth Bashford, Mona Turnbull, who has been with the club since it first began and Georgia Hess, who rowed in a boat with Silken Laumann in the 1980’s. There are also countless other volunteers who have helped maintain, develop and promote the club through the years.

The Barrie Rowing Club is in its 34th year of operation and despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is looking forward to continuing its well-versed and well-run programs well into the future.

“As a club we really do try to offer something for everyone,” said Gleben. “We have members from the age of 12 all the way up until their late 70’s. We offer a competitive environment for people who want to pursue that, and we have group sessions for people who want to row with more of a social component in a less competitive environment. We haul equipment to regattas for those who want to compete, and we really try to offer a way for people to stay active for their entire adult lives. Rowing is a great sport to be involved in. In Barrie, we typically row early in the morning and where we’re located, the sun comes up over the water and we row right into the sunrise. It’s a great way to start your day in the morning.”

Thank you to Matt Gleben and Marian Filo-Carroll for their generous contributions and help in completing this profile. Photos are property of the Barrie Rowing Club.