Is Rowing For You?

By June Ramli

Two Sundays ago, on Valentine’s Day to be exact, I decided to volunteer my time to help manage a rowing competition that was held by the Balmain Rowing Club in Sydney, Australia.

It was an interesting experience that I thought I’d share with everyone here.

First of all, I’d like to say I’ve never been an athletic person, but since moving to Australia and to a suburb in the Inner West some years back, I decided to give rowing a go in 2017 as the club was situated just down the road where I was living then.

It was never in my life plan. It was just something that happened along the way. 

The Balmain rowing club is a beautiful quaint club with stunning views overlooking the Parramatta River.

I remember going rowing every weekend in the mornings and on Tuesday nights, we would work with a coach who taught us the techniques with a rowing machine. 

I must concede that the sport was not easy for me to grasp at first. In fact, I struggled a lot as I couldn’t row on my own for quite some time.

I am pretty sure that I might have pissed some of the other students off with my slowness in learning the sport but the instructors at the club were patient enough not to discourage me.

My boat was led around by an instructor with a rope until I had the confidence to row on my own. 

Another reason why I think they used a rope to lead me through was that if I ever did lose my balance or worst trip and fall into that shark-infested river, at least help would be there for me almost immediately.  

It took me three whole months to learn how to row. But as soon as I was able to, I had to stop classes due to work commitments.

The writer finally learned how to row. Video taken in 2017.

Fast forward, four years on, I decided to rekindle my love for the sport again by volunteering my time to help run the rowing competition.

There, I met other fellow rowers who had been doing the sport for a long time. Try 40 years!

Rowing is not an expensive sport to dabble into but it also cannot be done everywhere because you do need a river and a rowing club with all the necessary types of equipment to be able to partake in the sport.

In Sydney, there are four rowing clubs that I know of and fortunately for me, all four are quite close to where I am at the moment.

A little bit about the competition, the participants who were competing that day were mainly from the surrounding clubs and the event was held at the Parramatta river next to the Bay Run, a popular jogging spot in Sydney.

I was tasked to mend the finish line at the UTS rowing club with a couple of other volunteers, whereby I had been given duties to hold a red flag to indicate to rowers that they had reached the finish line and to give out medals to the winners at the paddock itself. It was an interesting experience, indeed.

A little history behind the clubs’ medal which was given to the winners on that day.

It was a replica of a design made by a renowned Sydney engraver Harold Berthold in 1892 as pictured above. 

Berthold had designed that medal as a one-off, for a special event, with only five medals being cast at the time. 

One of the medals presented to winner Charles McNeill in 1892 survived and is currently being housed at the Maritime Museum in Sydney. 

Those interested to learn rowing can email with the next intake beginning in May.

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