by Emma Keates
It was an average Wednesday morning; gray, foggy, 7:00 AM. Not a time that most New Yorkers would dream of being awake during the summer. But by the time I arrived at the Harlem River, the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse was already buzzing with activity, laughter and excitement. Clearly, an average morning is a bit different when you’re at Row New York.
Not having had the chance to visit one of the boathouses before, I couldn’t wait for my alarm to start buzzing at 6:00 am. An hour later, I was walking onto the dock just as the masters were coming in. Right off the bat, it was amazing to watch the interactions between these experienced rowers and their high school counterparts; all it took was a quick laugh or rowing pun, but it was clear to see that knowledge and passion for the sport was being passed down through the generations.
The other thing that these small moments work to create is the unbelievably tight knit community that is Row New York. I had only met some of the Manhattan rowers once, but they immediately welcomed me with hugs and loud exclamations of excitement for their upcoming regatta as if I had known them for months.
After the usual controlled chaos of rigging and determining lineups, I finally got to go out in a launch with Manhattan program director, Sasha Bailey, and see the rowers in action. We followed the girl’s varsity eight as they practiced technique and rate work. The river was peaceful and quiet, the girls were swinging together, and at the end of practice, all five coxswains seamlessly pulled off a docking that would have made me queasy had I been on the water. All in all, a pretty great practice.
The most amazing part of the day for me, however, came after the rowers had put their boats away and cleaned up. Two of the students changed into work uniforms, happily said goodbye to their coaches, and went off to their respective jobs. While I often grumble about having to wake up “too early” for work, these kids are out on the water every morning, not because they have to be, but because they absolutely love what they are doing. That, in itself, is truly inspiring, and I’m so glad that I get to be a part of it for a little while.