Kingston Rowing Club Goes Coastal
News/ Nov 18

Kingston Rowing Club Goes Coastal


Over the last several years coastal rowing has gained popularity and been incorporated into the rowing landscape in clubs across Canada and throughout the world. The Kingston Rowing Club is one of those clubs, as they’ve made a concerted effort to introduce coastal rowing to the Kingston water sports community.

“We’re trying to build excitement around coastal rowing and introduce more people to that side of the sport,” said Iain Wilson, the Kingston Rowing Club’s current Community Outreach Coach. “While coastal is different than flatwater rowing, it still shares a lot of the same fundamentals. It’s the same basic rowing motion, but the boats are much more stable, allowing people to jump in and get the hang of the sport faster.”

In a nutshell, coastal rowing represents the adventure side of the sport of rowing. Unlike flatwater rowing, it usually takes place on rougher waterways where the water is less predictable. Coastal rowing has become one of the fastest growing segments of the sport in the world, particularly in Europe, where many countries have taken advantage of the nearby rough waters in seas, lakes, and rivers. While it was first introduced in Canada several years ago, the hosting of the 2018 World Coastal Rowing Championships in Victoria, BC brought a renewed interest in the discipline.

In Kingston, the club is looking to build up coastal rowing and offer different journeys through recreation and high performance. The club sees recreation as the first step before delving into high performance. They plan on introducing and growing the discipline by forming a base of participants and once the base of participants is strong, they will roll out high performance programming for those who are interested in trying to take their performance to the next level. This past summer the club began in earnest to build its base of participants through several community-based events aimed at introducing coastal rowing to the Kingston community.

“Once we got the green light to get on the water, we looked for ways to get more people involved who otherwise wouldn’t have found the opportunity to participate in the sport,” said Wilson. “We ran a series of events to introduce coastal rowing to the community. Several were held at our boathouse, including the National Come and Try It Day, and we also went on a mini road show where we took our coastal boats to other parts of the city and offered an opportunity for the public to participate. We gave them a brief overview of coastal rowing and sit them in the boats and have them try it out for the first time and encourage them to join a learn-to-row program and become part of our community that way.”

For the club’s Come and Try It Days alone they had 110 people sign up and try coastal rowing for the first time. The Kingston community also hosted coastal rowing competitions this summer, as the RCA Beach Sprint Trials were hosted with the Kingston Yacht Club. The event in Kingston was one of three trials in Canada for the World Beach Sprint Finals which took place in Oeiras, Portugal in September. The other two trials took place in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and Cadboro Bay, BC respectively. In addition to the Trials, the club also helped organize a coastal event tied in with an Easter Seals fundraising regatta at the Kingston Yacht Club, which featured coastal rowing, sailing and paddling all in open water. Wilson is quick to mention that the sailing community in Kingston has been very supportive in helping to grow coastal rowing and that the strong ties in the watersport community have made the process of introducing the discipline a lot smoother.

The Kingston Rowing Club’s leadership group have also invested a lot of time and energy over the last few years strategizing and organizing coastal related events. Coaches John Armitage, Katie Bruggeling, and Rami Massarani as well as current Club President Michael Vandenburg have all played key roles in introducing coastal rowing to the Kingston community. The club’s hard work is not yet over as they have several initiatives planned for next year and beyond, including enhancing their rowing touring program and debuting a coastal rowing league.

“This year we launched a touring program that runs out of the rowing club, using touring boats which leans into the endurance side of coastal,” said Wilson. “We find the real growth opportunity for coastal will be in our Beach Sprint League format. In rowing, we often miss the league side of the sport, where people are rowing a little bit more casually. The plan is to run youth, adult, and recreational leagues for five weeks with two nights of time trials and then a quarterfinal, semi-final and final. It can all be done with low infrastructure, really only requiring a few coastal boats, buoys, and a shoreline of water. We’re looking forward to formally launching our Beach Sprint League in 2022.”

In May of this year, the Kingston Rowing Club was named by RCA as one of three clubs who were selected as recipients of the Grow Rowing Pilot Program, which has helped fund its coastal initiatives. The goal of the program is to pilot new programming at rowing clubs that can be delivered nationwide that will diversify rowing in Canada and drive a significant increase in the number of Canadian rowers by 2025.

While the club has been investing in coastal rowing, they have no plans to alter any of their flatwater programming. Wilson believes flatwater and coastal rowing can both thrive in the same space and will complement each other nicely.

“Flatwater rowing will always be a part of the rowing community and the Kingston Rowing Club,” said Wilson. “We see coastal as an addition to flatwater rowing. We want this to be an opportunity to help grow the sport and incorporate a wider, more inclusive range of offerings.”

Photo’s are property of the Kingston Rowing Club