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Gulf & Main Magazine

SWFL Rowing Keeps Growing

Photo courtesy of Shelby Russell.

Whether you have been rowing for years and are looking for a place to continue doing so or are just in the exploratory stage to see what the sport is about, there are a couple of options for you in Southwest Florida: The Caloosa Coast Rowing Club, or CCRC, operates out of Cape Harbour in Cape Coral, and the Rowing Association of Naples, known as RAN, calls Anthony Park and the Gordon River its home.

Founded in 2007, the CCRC has programs for all ages, according to the club’s past president, Jon Hart. “We have adults’ and kids’ programs—which include middle school and high school kids,” he says. “The adults are more of the ‘Learn to Row’ or recreational type, while the kids are more geared toward competition.”

RAN formed in 1993 and is willing to accommodate rowers at any level. President Chuck Roth says, “We are a small, informal organization. Most people, however, have had some access to rowing before [joining].” He notes his club’s primary focus is to provide boats for its members, numbering about “40 people.” Roth adds that they often gets visitors from out of town who have an interest in rowing.

“We have had people who are close by and some from as far away as Argentina and Sweden,” he says. Rowing “attracts all kinds of people. Some may fly in on a private jet while some need to hitch a ride up [Interstate] 75 to get here.”

“We will offer a ‘Get Acquainted’ lesson for $50,” Roth explains. “If they find they want to join the club, then that will be deducted from the $150 membership fee.”

He admits, however, that rowing may not be for everyone. “It is like weightlifting on a gymnastics beam. You have to beat yourself up [to get what want].”

Roth, 76, has been involved in the sport since 1961 and was a member of the 1971 national team. He’s quick to mention why he loves the sport: “It is good fitness.” The Naples resident, who grew up in the Boston suburb of Wellesley, adds, “It is also very meditative.”

Steve Jaron, also a RAN officer, is hooked on rowing as well. “I got involved with rowing later in life,” says Jaron, who hails from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. “It was ’86 or ’87. I was headed to grad school. My friend asked if I’d row with him on the Schuylkill River [in Pennsylvania]. I got into it then but didn’t row for a few years when I got transferred to North Jersey. I picked it up again when I moved here in 2004.”

Jaron doesn’t see himself taking any more breaks from the sport any time soon. “It is a total body workout. You can compete at any age group and in any class. Being in Southwest Florida, you can also do it year-round.”

The CCRC’s Hart is just as quick to point out some of the features of rowing. “It is an aerobic sport. It is low impact, with no jumping and you don’t tear up your knees or other body parts. It is a total body workout and it helps women build bone density.”

Hart also sees other advantages of rowing, in addition to fitness. “You can row with only a couple of people but generally you need a group,” he says. “It is a social sport. I came here from Pittsburgh in 2007 and didn’t know anyone. After I got involved in this club, I had an instant social network.”

And although Hart mentions that rowing “is the oldest collegiate sport in the United States,” both local clubs would like to expose even more people to the sport. “We work with the schools,” says Hart, whose club has about 60 members. “Besides the ‘Learn to Row’ programs, we also do a lot with Meetup [].” Jaron explains that RAN is trying to use social media as part of its plan to attract more rowers.

For some, the sport can turn into much more than a recreational and social event. “There are opportunities to get financial aid [for college], particularly for women,” Roth notes. “Rowing is equivalent to football in that regard.”

To find out more about each club, visit and

Written by Bill Levy, a freelance writer based in Odessa, Texas. He previously resided in Fort Myers.