Hit the Water: Where to Row in Philly

Learn the sport and get in shape with these camps, classes and private instructors

If you’ve ever walked along Kelly Drive in the fall, you’ve probably gazed with envy at the lone sculler paddling gracefully down the Schuylkill. Deceivingly serene, his exercise is actually ridiculously effective. Rowing is a total body workout that uses your legs, back, shoulders and arms to propel your boat through the water. The wide range of motion increases flexibility, and the lack of pavement pounding will give your joints a break—plus, you’ll burn major calories in the process.

If you’re ready for a new routine, head to Boathouse Row for fall camps and private lessons, or check out an indoor erg class before you hit the water.

Rowing 101 at Lloyd Hall
For $165, you get eight two-hour sessions on the water with coach Ann Marie Kuvik. Because the class is tailored for beginners, there’s no need to fear that you can’t keep up. Sign up for Monday and Wednesday evening practices starting October 3rd, or Tuesday and Thursday practices starting the 4th.

When: Mondays & Wednesdays starting October 3 or Tuesdays and Thursdays starting October 4; 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lloyd Hall, #1 Boathouse Row
Cost: $165
Sign up: Call Coach Kuvik at 215-901-8052.

Mt. Airy Learning Tree
Among dozens of fun course offerings, Mt. Airy Learning Tree is hosting an all-levels rowing class this fall. Meeting once a week for six weeks, the course allows you to learn the basics of the sport without burdening your schedule. Each class runs for an hour and a half down on the Schuylkill.

When: Sessions begin on September 17, 20 and 22 and run through October
Where: Pennsylvania Barge Club, #4 Boathouse Row
Cost: $180
Sign up: Find the course on their site and enroll online with a credit card.

Bachelors Barge Club
This club, the oldest rowing association in America, offers private adult lessons for beginners and new members. Be sure you’re serious about the commitment, though: On top of a membership and accompanying new member fee, classes run $40 to $60 per hour.

When: Times are set up between the student and instructor
Where: Bachelors Barge Club, #6 Boathouse Row
Cost: $40 to $60 per hour, plus $75 new member fee and cost of regular membership
Sign up: Email the club here for enrollment info.

Philadelphia Girls’ Rowing Club
This club offers an all-female novice program, but is very selective, demands serious dedication to learning the craft, and requires a minimum one-year membership. After a six-week training period, graduates can join the technical rowing program. Dates vary, so check with the club to find out when the next program will be available.

When: Dates and times vary; check with the club.
Where:Philadelphia Girls’ Rowing Club, #14 Boathouse Row
Cost: An adult-novice rowing membership is $500, plus a $250 initiation fee.
Sign up: Send a letter expressing your interest and suitability as a member to the clubhouse for review

If you’re not feeling confident enough to hit the water but still want the workout, try a class at RowZone. The 45-minute ergometer workout claims to blast up to 800 calories, build lean muscle, increase core strength and flexibility, and boost endurance. Check out classes at their locations in Rittenhouse, Manayunk, and Newtown Square.

When: Schedules vary, but RowZones typically offer three to five classes per day
Where: Newtown Square: 6 Saint Albans Avenue; Rittenhouse: 1717 Chestnut Street; Manayunk: 4401 Main Street
Cost: $20 per class (memberships also available)
Sign up: Visit the RowZone website to reserve a spot.

Paddle Pool USA
It’s not rowing. It’s not quite kayaking. It’s Dragon Boat Racing, where a team of paddlers seated a long, narrow boat push through the water, switching oars from side to side. Main Line Health and Fitness is offering group classes and individual practice slots at their paddle pool,  a “stationary paddle environment in a long narrow pool,” the first to debut in the U.S.

When: Classes offered daily
Where: Main Line Health and Fitness, 931 Haverford Road, Bryn Mawr
Cost:$20 per class, $10 for individual time slot
Sign Up: Register online here.

Private Lessons
For an introduction to the sport without a long-term commitment or the pressure of a group class, seek personal instruction. Many boathouse members and coaches are willing to provide private lessons upon request. Two such capable coaches:

World Champion and Olympic rower and U.S. Rowing Hall of Famer John Riley definitely has the credentials to get you up to speed. He offers private lessons Mondays and Fridays from 5:30 to 7 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 to 10 a.m. It costs $85 per lesson, and you set out from the Penn Athletic Club’s boathouse. To set up a session, contact him at 267-971-8336.

Jeff Cutler is a Malta Boat Club rower offering group or private lessons in sculling (where one person handles two oars instead of just one) for about $50 a session. “Everything is provided. All the person needs to bring to the boathouse is themselves,” says Cutler. To book a lesson, call him at 215 776-2447.