Rowing on the River Thames
How do I get started?
There are two main types of rowing – rowing for pleasure (usually in a rowboat or dinghy), and rowing as a sport. There are a number of clubs that cater for the leisure rower on the River Thames. For more information, see the Environment Agency publication Get Afloat on the River Thames.
Clubs catering for rowing as a sport can be found all along the River Thames and the best way to get into the sport is to join one – there are clubs to suit everyone. Visit the British Rowing website to find your nearest club.
How much does it cost?
Clubs will charge a membership fee, in most cases, including the loan of boat, oars and other necessary equipment. Your club will decide which type of boat best suits you and will point you in the direction of rowing (using one oar), or sculling (two oars).
You can buy your own boat - costs vary, and you will also need oars and a safety vest. Transporting your boat is straightforward – a normal roof rack will be fine, although if the boat overhangs more than a metre beyond the car, you will need to fix the farthest point with a red marker.
Can I get lessons?
Most clubs will welcome you as a member and provide free minimal coaching to get you on to the water. Beginner coaching is mandatory at many clubs, but some will charge a small amount. Additional coaching, or training for sports events, will cost more, but here the charges vary depending upon whether it is one-to-one coaching, in a group, and the level of tuition.
Check the club’s available equipment, the venue and other facilities before deciding which club is best for you. Some offer introductory membership for four to six weeks, so you can try it out before committing yourself to full membership. Other clubs offer evening sessions for beginners during the week.
For those already able to row, some clubs offer advanced coaching sessions including video coaching. Also on offer at a number of clubs is fitness training where a professional gym instructor runs courses and sessions for members.
Can I do this as a family?
Some will happily welcome families and children, while others are more concerned with the racing and the sporting aspects. This is another reason why you should select your club carefully before committing yourself.
Check out the social facilities at clubs, whether there is a clubhouse to relax after an hour or two on the water. This is often quite important to families, although not so much to the dedicated competitor.
Can I row if I have a disability?
There are clubs across the country that cater for people with disabilities, so it is worth checking the British Rowing website to find your nearest club. As with all those new to the sport, disabled people should inform their coach of any medical conditions, medication they are taking and abilities and concerns about taking part in the sport. Once the coach knows the capabilities and what they need to be aware of, they can ensure they deliver the session safely and at a level appropriate to the individual.
I already have a boat - can I just go out on my own?
If you own a rowing boat, be sure you are experienced and confident before taking to the water.
If you own a rowing boat, once you have registered it, you can take it anywhere on the River Thames. To find out more information on how to register, see the Environment Agency website.