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It was BC Day weekend, the sun was out, and it was a perfect time for the beach. In conjunction with the Cascadia Beach Sprints regatta, Rowing BC supported a Come Try event on Locarno Beach and helped Cascadia introduce dozens of people to our sport.

As well, many competent rowers came down to try their hand at coastal rowing for the first time. Some just wanted to experience the added dimension of rowing on waves, but others were there to learn more about beach sprint rowing before they competed in the regatta the following day.

And what a day of competition it was! Ranging from new rowers to National Team Alumni, athletes in their twenties to seventies came from the lower mainland, Vancouver Island, and Washington state to race head-to-head in this exciting format.

28-year-old Dexter Fichuk had been a spectator at the Western Canadian Beach Sprints in Colwood, BC this past June. He’d found that event so inspiring he immediately signed up for a Learn to Row and set his sights on Cascadia, where he became part of the community.

There is a bond amongst competitors at a beach sprint regatta. With a shared boat pool, everyone steps in to help with equipment. There is more to a race than the athlete or athletes who are rowing. Entering and exiting the boat at the beach requires two boat handlers. Whether it’s a community event like Cascadia Beach Sprints or an international event, you will see team members from competing clubs or countries helping each other out.

The challenge of rowing on waves, even in the more stable coastal boats, attracts an adventurous spirit. 72-year-old Helen Healy from Delta Deas Rowing Club knows that adventure doesn’t have an age limit.

“I don’t think about age. I just do want I want to do. It’s by doing things like this that keeps you from aging,” said Helen. She was all smiles as she approached the end of her final race and exclaimed “I did it!” as she hit finish button with conviction.

August may have started with beach sprints, but it ended with the epic Race Around the Rock endurance regatta. RAR consists of an 88km relay race around Salt Spring Island. Some experienced endurance crews do the entire 88km together, however most teams utilize the relay format, swapping out rowers every 8 to 25 kms.

An athlete’s perspective on Race Around the Rock – by Michael Strumberger:

In six short months since my chilly midseason learn-to-row in February, I found myself at the heart of an extraordinary challenge — the Salt Spring Island Rowing Club’s annual ‘Race Around the Rock.’ This daunting 88 km Coastal Rowing Relay event promised to test endurance, teamwork, and determination. Seated aft of my competent crew mate, Grey, we embarked somewhat frantically, ready to conquer the final 16 km leg of the race around Salt Spring’s rugged south-eastern coastline—each of us with our socks stuffed into the leg of our unis. A couple minutes in, we laughed at the realization that we were both still barefoot and it was going to be okay. 

As the stroke seat, I set the rhythm and pace that would guide us through the most undulating waters of the whole race. Months of intense summer training fueled my stamina, but I was not prepared for the surge of adrenaline we experienced as we launched from Beddis beach. Our team’s Coastal 2x, “Pépe”, was cutting through the first waves at a snappy 2:10/500m pace, faster than either of us thought we were capable of sustaining, though we eventually settled down a bit for the long haul. With Grey’s precise steering, we charted a very efficient route along the coastline, wasting very few meters. 

Surpassing our own expectations, we completed our 16 km leg in a blistering (literally) 1 hour and 13 minutes, almost 20 minutes ahead of our estimated time. This was my first racing experience and I understand now, racing isn’t like training! We pushed ourselves beyond limits, drawing on hidden reserves of strength, knowing we had a chance to pass other teams. Economical communication synchronized our efforts to overtake competitors, one at first, then another, and then one more! The finish line drew closer, urging us—despite the pain—to playfully dig even deeper. We were hurting, we were going fast and it felt good! 

In the final kilometer, we were having too much fun to let up. We cranked it to a zany rate 28 and a 2:05 split across the finish line. The elation was intense as we knew we had just surged from fifth place to secure a triumphant second for our whole team. The sense of accomplishment was pretty moving — not just for the medal, but for the camaraderie, belonging, and shared achievement. This event has ignited a passion that I’ll carry forward, and I believe has brought our whole club—novices, juniors, masters and coaches—a whole lot closer as a team. 

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