Rowing is one of the world’s oldest and most historic sports, having been around since ancient Egyptian times. Many countries around the world compete in crew, which is featured in numerous international competitions including the Olympics.
In the United States, more states than ever have introduced rowing at the collegiate and high school level and crew teams have been slowly on the incline over the last decade, whether it be at the varsity or club level.
Although crew has evolved and expanded at the high school level in other parts of the country, the sport is still relatively new to Rhode Island. Rhode Island has two high schools that compete in rowing, and those are Bay View Academy and Barrington.
Bay View Academy senior Anna Beaulieu, who rowed for the Bengals throughout her high school career, believes that the sport is on the rise and has seen a handful of schools look into the idea of introducing a rowing program.
“I would say that it is definitely growing in the state. La Salle was trying really hard to get a crew team, Hendricken was trying to get a crew team. We share (boats) with them at Narragansett Boat Club. They’re going to expand and I think it’s because more people have been joining lately,” said Beaulieu.
Beaulieu never planned on being a rower when she started at Bay View. However, friends of hers convinced her to give it a try and she immediately fell in love with the sport.
Although rowing is challenging and requires a great deal of physical strength and technique, Beaulieu enjoyed the test and loved the competitive atmosphere that was created each day.
“I used to dance, I never really did team sports because I was never really good at them. But with rowing, that camaraderie, you literally have to all work together because if one person messes up then it messes up the whole boat. It’s a big team effort,” said Beaulieu. “It’s a lot of work but it’s actually quick to learn, it’s easy to pick it up. Our coach threw us in the boat right away and we picked up the stroke and the technique pretty easily. It’s a combination of strength and technique.”
Why are there so few crew teams in the state? Especially considering the access to water and the state of the art Narragansett Boat House facility located in Providence?
Beaulieu believes that it is primarily a matter of money. Between boats and equipment, prices to introduce the sport and provide the necessary amenities are so great that many schools have shied away from bringing it along.
“The thing is is that it’s such a costly sport. It’s hard because boats alone are like 40,000 dollars. It’s insane the amount of money,” said Beaulieu.
Beaulieu enjoyed her career as a rower for Bay View, and also liked being a part of a sport that is sparse throughout the state. She also believes that it is worth giving a shot for anyone that is considering joining the sport and expects more school in Rhode Island to emerge in the rowing community.
“Well at first people are like, ‘wow, your team does that?’ It’s actually pretty cool because it’s not common at all. A lot of kids think that it’s a canoe but it’s not. It’s kind of cool to get that reaction from people in Rhode Island. It’s not too common in Rhode Island,” said Beaulieu. “You’re rowing for yourself because there’s competition within the team to see who will get the best seat in the best boat but you really need to push for your team. Our teammates are all super supportive of each other.”