Where to Learn to Row in and Around Philadelphia

Get an introduction to the sport with these camps, classes and private lessons.


learn to row

Learn to row in Philadelphia and beyond. / Photograph by Madeline Kuntz courtesy Philadelphia City Rowing.

If you’ve ever walked along Kelly Drive, you’ve probably gazed with envy at a sculler paddling gracefully down the Schuylkill. Deceivingly serene, the exercise is actually ridiculously effective. Rowing is a total-body workout that engages your core, 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.

If you’re ready for a new routine, here’s where to learn how to row in and around Philly.

Bachelors Barge Club

When: Times are set up between the student and instructor.
Where: #6 Boathouse Row
Cost: $15 to $60 per hour, plus the cost of membership

This club offers private adult lessons for beginners and new members. Here, you can buy classes à la carte after you’ve paid your membership fee. New members will be privately trained by a coach for five or six lessons, and afterwards, they’ll be evaluated for further upper-placement and training.

BLJ Rowing

When: Ongoing
Where: 2200 Kelly Drive
Cost: $325 annual membership fee, with pricing for individual sessions varying by program. Their Learn to Row event is free with no membership required.

The first Black-owned and operated rowing organization in the country, BLJ Rowing works to make rowing an accessible sport within Philadelphia. At $35 per class, join the indoor erg classes. Feel comfortable enough to go out on the water? Novice youth programs are available, as well as corporate teamwork programs. However, BLJ’s Learn to Row event is a no-cost must-try for anyone, especially those with little to no experience.

 

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Cooper Rowing Club

When: Summer sessions run May through September.
Where: 7050 North Park Drive, Pennsauken, New Jersey
Cost: $365

If you live in South Jersey and are tired of schlepping over the bridge for rowing, check out the Cooper Rowing Club, which meets at the Camden County Boathouse. The club’s Learn-to-Row program is open to adults — no experience necessary — and includes six two-hour lessons.

Crescent Boat Club

When: The novice program begins Monday, June 24th, and ends Thursday, July 25th.
Where: #5 Boathouse Row
Cost: $600

The Crescent Boat Club is dedicated to improving the skills for a wide variety of rowers. With programs ranging from intermediate development to novice courses, there is something for everyone here. For those who have no rowing experience, you’ll be taught the fundamentals of the sport Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. from late June to July.

Penn AC Rowing Association

When: Dates TBA, and will be posted here.
Where: #12 Boathouse Row
Cost: $325

Have you ever driven past the Schuylkill River, seen the rowers, and just wished that was you? Make that wish a reality with Penn AC’s Learn to Row classes. A membership to Penn AC is not required to participate, and everyone is welcome — no matter what skill level. You’ll focus on the fundamental skills of rowing, including boat handling, sculling basics, and boathouse etiquette.

 

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Philadelphia Adaptive Rowing

When: May through October; 5:30 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
Where: 1233 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
Cost: Contact PAR

As part of the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports, Philadelphia Adaptive Rowing is said to be the oldest adapted rowing program in the world, offering athletes living with disabilities the opportunity to get out on the water and learn the ins and outs of the sport. Many of PAR’s rowers end up competing in the BAYADA Regatta, which is held every August in Philadelphia, and the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta in October. To get started, contact PAR here.

Philadelphia City Rowing

When: Enrollment begins in late July/early August for the fall programs and programs begin the week after Labor Day. Summer camp enrollment will be announced soon.
Where: Lloyd Hall, #1 Boathouse Row
Cost: Free

Philadelphia City Rowing is here to turn your middle schoolers and high schoolers into rowing pros. Depending on the program, PCR meets on the Schuylkill several times a week for sessions. The middle school program meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for two-hour sessions; while high schoolers meet five days a week for two hours. PCR also offers two-to three-week-long summer camps for up to 60 kids per session.

 

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Philadelphia Girls’ Rowing Club

When: Summer dates TBA, but the training program typically begins after Memorial Day.
Where: #14 Kelly Drive, Boathouse Row
Cost: An adult-novice rowing membership is $550, plus a $250 initiation fee.

While this club offers an all-female novice program for all ages, it’s not intended for the casual rowing enthusiast — the club requires you join as a member (it’s selective), and you’ll be expected to show up to three-hour classes, three days a week. But if you’re serious about learning, you’ll have the choice to join the club’s other rowing programs after you complete the six-to-eight-week training period. The club is open to novices once a year (at the end of May). Start dates vary, so check with the club to find out when the next program will be available.

Rowing 101 at Lloyd Hall

When: Summer dates TBA
Where: Lloyd Hall, #1 Boathouse Row
Cost: TBA

You will get four two-hour sessions on the water from this class tailored for adult beginners and intermediate rowers, so there’s no need to fear that you can’t keep up. Pricing and dates are to be announced shortly, so keep an eye on the website. For teens, Lloyd Hall offers a two-week rowing camp for students ages 13-17 starting July 5th ($25).

RowZone

When: Schedules vary, but there’s usually four to six classes per day
Where: 4401 Main Street, Manayunk
Cost: $20 per class; memberships available

If you’re not feeling confident enough to hit the water but still want the benefits of a rowing 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. The Manayunk-based rowing studio offers indoor, outdoor, and virtual classes to work around your schedule.

 

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Whitemarsh Boat Club

When: All year
Where: Hines Rowing Center, 801 Washington Street, Conshohocken
Cost: Memberships vary by program

Whitemarsh Boat Club is an inclusive club that caters to a wide range of rowers (ages 11-100). They train young athletes looking to compete in college, provide breast cancer survivors a space to exercise and have fun together, and offer older rowers the chance to engage their muscles and enjoy their passion.

Wilmington Rowing Center

When: May through June. See session dates here.
Where: 501 A Street, Wilmington, Delaware
Cost: $300

Test the waters at the Wilmington Rowing Center on the Christina River, where each summer they offer a novice course to prepare you for smooth sailing in the fall. The Learn to Row program consists of six two-hour sessions in which you’ll learn safety training, boat handling, and proper stroke form, and then join more experienced rowers in an eight-person shell on the water.

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:

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 seven days a week and timing is flexible based on your schedule. The cost of lessons ranges from $85 to $100, 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 $60 a session. “Everything is provided. All the person needs to bring to the boathouse is themselves,” Cutler says. To book a lesson, call him at 215-776-2447.

This guide has been updated, and includes additional reporting by Louis Platt.