Where to Learn to Row in and Around Philadelphia
Get an introduction to the sport with these camps, classes and private lessons.
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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.
When: Times are set up between the student and instructor.
Where: #6 Boathouse Row
Cost: $50-$100 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, and afterwards, they’ll be evaluated for further upper-placement and training. You can also book private lessons for groups of two, four, and eight.
Where: 2200 Kelly Drive
Cost: $335 annual membership fee, with pricing for individual sessions varying by program.
The first Black-owned and operated rowing organization in the country, BLJ Rowing works to make rowing an accessible sport within Philadelphia. Private lessons cost $40 per session, but there’s a $5 discount if you opt in for 25 sessions from the get-go. 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 program is a must-try for anyone, especially those with little to no experience.
When: Summer sessions run May through September.
Where: 7050 North Park Drive, Pennsauken, New Jersey
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.
When: Various time frames throughout the year
Where: #5 Boathouse Row
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. through the club’s Novice Program.
When: Various time frames throughout the year, but typically during the summer season
Where: #12 Boathouse Row
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.
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.
Where: Lloyd Hall, #1 Boathouse Row
Cost: Free of charge to any Philadelphia public or charter school student
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. PCR also offers two-to three-week-long summer camps.
When: Accepts new members in the spring
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, and start dates vary, so check with the club to find out when the next program will be available.
Where: Lloyd Hall, #1 Boathouse Row
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. This year’s summer dates are July 25th, July 27th, August 1st, and August 3rd, but stay up-to-date on future dates here.
When: Various times throughout the week
Where: 7 Lock Street, Manayunk
If you’re not feeling confident enough to hit the water but still want the benefits of a rowing workout, try a class with RowZone. The 45-minute ergometer workout claims to blast up to 800 calories, build lean muscle, increase core strength and flexibility, and boost endurance. Both of RowZone’s brick-and-mortar studios closed, but the team is still hosting outdoor sessions at the PADELphia court in Manayunk.
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.
When: Varies by program
Where: 501 A Street, Wilmington, Delaware
Cost: Varies by age and program
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.
This guide has been updated, and includes additional reporting by Louis Platt.