When you think of sports in Gainesville, rowing is probably not what comes to mind. However, if you want to enjoy a new recreational activity while strengthening your body and mind, rowing is a local opportunity. At Gainesville Area Rowing, people are taught how to row as both a fun exercise and a benefit to their health.
“Don’t worry about your age, physical condition, disability or if you have a fear of the water. We all work around it so rowers can get the most out of their experience,” said Cory Conzemius, the rowing director of Gainesville Area Rowing.
Rowing offers something for everyone as a low-impact sport that still provides the rower with a full-body workout. There’s little risk of injury for rowers, making it a great recreational opportunity for all ages. Children can learn about teamwork and showcase their talents, while adults can get outdoors and stay in shape.
“Rowing teaches people to use what they learn in rowing, like time management and patience, and apply it to their everyday life,” Conzemius said.
There are two forms of rowing: sweep and sculling. Sweep requires only one oar and sculling is a two-oar form of rowing. Participants have the choice of both recreational or competitive rowing at GAR.
Not every student can be the star of their high school football team, but they all can become stars in rowing. At GAR, once someone is placed on a rowing team, they are never cut from the team or forced to sit out.
Chloe Soncrant, a senior student from Buchholz High School, is a member of the women’s team. Encouraged by a middle school classmate, Soncrant has rowed with GAR for over five years.
As a coxswain, who helps steer the boat and motivate their teammates, Soncrant gives commands and encourages her crew.
“Rowing definitely gave me a voice and pulled me out of my shell,” she said.
As an all-inclusive sport, athleticism and previous experience are not required by GAR. Unlike most sports, rowing does not have physical limitations that may prevent participation. Conzemius has coached blind rowers, as well as a few without an arm or a leg.
Although it is possible to row in a one-man boat, rowing is rarely a solo sport. Rowing requires everyone to work together on the water and follow each other’s cues to maintain timing and balance. The boats, called ‘shells’ in competitive rowing, range in size from a one-man shell to an eight-man shell, not including the coxswain.
In addition to being a coxswain, Soncrant credits her love of rowing to the supportiveness of the other rowers. Because rowing is a teamwork sport, every member must work together to succeed. For Soncrant, the teamwork and the rowers have had a far greater impact on her than her accolades in rowing.
To start rowing with GAR, Conzemius recommends asking questions, attending an open house event at GAR and being open-minded to the possibility of rowing.
“Give rowing a chance,” Conzemius said. “It’s a great opportunity to try something new!”
Photography by Stefanie Crockett