LITTLE ROCK — Early morning and late evening, fishermen are not the only ones scrambling to get their boats in the water. With commands like "hands on" and "overhead" from the coxswain, eight rowers from the Arkansas Boathouse Club are carrying one of their long boats down to the river alongside the bass boats and party barges that are a familiarsight in central Arkansas.
Organized rowing is not new to the Arkansas River but had been absent for more than six decades.
Rowing began at Little Rock in 1882 with the organizing of the Little Rock Athletic Association, which became known as the Boathouse Club. The club was an active social force until 1938, when fire destroyed its boathouse for the second time. Rebuilding plans were never realized in the lasting effects of the Great Depression, and by 1945 the club had only four remaining members.
Today, members of the new ArkansasBoathouse Club carry their sleek, 60-foot racing shells from a boathouse and storage area adjacent to the North River Landing in North Little Rock Riverfront Park.
Lynnette Watts, one of the club's founders, says rowing is one of the best forms of exercise around. "It's a full-body workout, but you enjoy it so much you don't realize you're working out until you're done," she says. "Then you realize, oh yeah, that was pretty strenuous."
Club member and beginning rower Dave McCoy of Sherwood was excited to finally get a chance to learn a sport he had known about for many years. While living in Iowa in the early '90s, Mc-Coy had friends involved in a local rowing club and had decided togive it a try. After a job transfer to North Little Rock, he thought biking would have to remain as his primary form of exercise.
Now McCoy has parked the bike and is hooked on his new sport: "I'm kind of dedicating more time to rowing than I domy bike riding."
Anthony Jacuzzi, another founding member of the club and a former collegiate rower, talked about bringing the sport back to central Arkansas and how crewing for fun differs from his college experience.
"This is a lot of work, but maybe it's a little more enjoyable to see something actually start from nothing and end up with all these people who truly are very excited. It's something I can do the rest of my life here. It's a great group of people. Everyone is just so positive, and they want to see this happen, and that's been really rewarding for me," Jacuzzi said.
Watts said that in the club's early stages, people with the right skills for particular jobs seemed to show up when they were needed.
"All these people just literally dropped in our laps," she said."We didn't have to go seek anybody. It was pretty incredible."
From its original informal committee of a few friends in 2006, the club now has 51 members. It owns eight-man racing boats, four-man "quads" and solo sculling shells.
This fall it will offer one-month Learn to Row clinics that meet twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday evenings; or three-day intensive clinics on the second weekend of each month. Eitheroption costs $200.
For $50, anyone can try out the rowing experience on the fourth Saturday of the month by sitting in the fourth seat of an eight-man boat surrounded by experienced oarsmen.
More information is at www.arkansasboathouseclub.org.
ActiveStyle, Pages 33, 38 on 09/01/2008