Island Lake Rowing club offers competitive and recreational rowing

August 21, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

It is a sport that combines physical fitness, agility, and coordination with mental alertness and a lot of team cooperation.

You may have seen rowing on television as an Olympic sport, however, seeing it on the small screen really doesn’t give the full effect of seeing a full size eight-person boat and understanding the skill and teamwork that goes into propelling a narrow craft at high speed across the water.

The Island Lake Rowing Club, based at the Island Lake Conservation Area, has come a long way since a group of people interesting in rowing decided to form a local club in 1997.

Long time member, Cathy Wilson, is one of the original members who started the club over two decades ago.

“We were on the other side of the lake and we had one boat,” Cathy said of the Club’s beginnings. “We had one eight-person boat. If seven people showed up, we got in and rowed in a circle because you can never go straight if you don’t have the eight people. We’ve started with one boat and within a year we had two boats, and now we have around 60 and a boat house. We had maybe ten members at the time.”

After several years, Credit Valley Conservation asked the Club to move to the current location which is on the other side of the lake from the main entrance and parking area.

Thanks to funding from the Orangeville Lion’s Club, a Trillium Grant, Town of Mono, the County of Dufferin, and private donations, the Club has grown to include a boat house that holds their impressive fleet as well as several member’s private boats. There are two docks from which the Club launches their craft.

“We row an area of about 1300 metres,” explained Club secretary Julie Wood. “On a typical morning we do two full loops. You can do a single, double, a boat which is called a pair which has two oars not four, four people or eight,” Julie explained of the type of craft that go out on the water.

Currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Club is limited to single rowers or pairs for people who are in the same household or social bubble.

In addition to its regular members, the Club is also host to a training program for high school students from three different area schools.

“There’s a high school season,” explained rowing coach Bill Stone. “There’s three main regattas that take place in the season that runs from April to the beginning of June. We take the high school kids down to St. Catharines at Henley. For adult rowers there’s three or four more events throughout the summer and Henley is the big one in August. In the fall, there is a different style of races. In the summer they are sprint races where the high school kids do 2000 metres and the masters do 1000 metres. The fall races are 5000 metres, so five kilometres. ”

The Henley Regatta is a well known rowing venue located on Martindale pond in St. Catharines and hosts high level competition.

“Some of our members have competed internationally,” said Club president Ann Nelson. “Over the years a number of people have competed at a high level. We had a member compete at the U.S. Masters.”

The organization is run entirely by volunteers who put a lot of work into maintaining the Club and organizing activities.

As a water sport, there are several safety rules in place. The Club uses a safety boat that follows individual rowers as well as provides a coaching platform when on the water. You need to be able to swim if you want to try the sport. There’s a reasonable chance you could end up in the water.

The Club is always open to those interested in taking up the sport.

“We do an adult ‘learn to row’ program in June and July,” Ms. Nelson explained. “This year we are doing it on Tuesdays and Thursdays in August. Parents of the high school kids are often the crowd that comes out. We have people who have retired and decide they want to do something active outside.”

Whether you are interested in trying a new sport as a leisure activity or on a more competitive level, rowing provides an activity that is fun, active, and challenging.

You can learn more about the Island Lake Rowing Club by visiting on Facebook or on-line at

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.