Most of us know little about rowing. We naively put it into the same class as badminton or canoeing or think of it only as a preppy pastime. Ivy League schools still have crew teams, but so do many middle schools and high schools in both urban and suburban communities. Guess what? Rowing is for everyone. It’s hard work. Although it can be taken up at any reasonable age as a leisure sport, there is no slacking in rowing. It pays off in total body exercise that uses every muscle, whether on the water, in a shell, or training on the erg machine at home or in the gym. As part of a crew, rowing fosters camaraderie, teamwork, leadership skills, and community. It represents something more significant than one’s personal concerns and gain.
So how did the OBCR come about? Put simply—retirement—the retirement of Ed Klobus. The Klobus family founded Syosset Rowing in 2011. They oversaw seven years of successful pro- grams for junior rowers. “When Ed wanted to retire, we stepped in and purchased the assets of the Syosset Rowing club and turned those resources into a non-profit 501(c)3 organization,” says Dana. OBCR has been operating at Centre Island Beach in Bayville ever since with its dedicated volunteer board of direc- tors who have years of experience in rowing and coaching. As for the legacy of the Syosset crew team, they continue under the management of OBCR. “Syosset Rowing remains at Syosset High School under our auspices,” says Dana.
OBCR has put focus on the middle school and high school track, wooing athletes and increasing membership from a handful of rowers to upwards of 70 juniors and 10 masters, with many more expected now that pandemic mandates have lifted. The school district is also working toward transforming rowing into a Varsity sport. Dana points out that Oyster Bay High School and Friends Academy are signed on this year to run teams under the OBCR umbrella, and may choose this fall to row under their own high school banners scholastically when regattas offer that option again.
From the onset, OBCR operated a limited fleet of shells (boats). Due to a lot of fundraising work since then, they’ve bolstered equipment and staff. Program Director and Trustee Kevin Kelley is the primary force leading the coaching team who are on-site every day executing the training. He rowed as a member of the Fordham Men’s Crew Team and has coached since 2009 taking several crews to various state and national appearances. “Kevin works closely with our experienced lead coaches to create the programming for our middle school, high school, U23 collegiate, and masters adult offerings that makes the club successful,” says Dana. “The reason we got started in the first place is that we all love the sport. Students from different abilities can try something new and get into the spirit of this sport.” OBCR has a little bit of everything for anyone interested. Sundays are very active with adults at the club. “As we grow and work with the town, we encourage as many people as possible to enjoy what we do.”
There are teams solely dedicated to representing their school banner. On the flipside, kids from different schools throughout Long Island can row under OBCR. During COVID, many students did just that. They rowed for OBCR, and thankfully so, because their school sports shut down. “We were able to operate as a non-profit controlling protocol, abiding by state guidelines, and keeping people in their seats and safe. We never had to close,” Dana asserts. OBCR did pivot to restrict how they approached the program, but being flexible helped them offer a spot on the water for whoever asked. “We were lucky to keep people employed and survive as a community club where many did not.”
Part of Paglaria’s vision is to develop the scholastic side of the sport. “There is a desire to see what we can do,” she says. Collegiate rowers are trickling back from universities for the summertime. They want to stay fit and keep rowing. “Because we managed the COVID crisis, we know how to handle protocols whereas other clubs may not. There is definitely an increased interest.” Collegiate rowing is strong in the US. Crew can help students get into colleges looking for well-rounded students to succeed at levels of higher learning. And, the good news for women, scholarship opportunities favor strong women rowers.
OBCR supports all forms of rowing—singles, doubles, fours, and eights. Families are very dedicated and supportive financially. Before the pandemic, parents came to the regattas and represented for their athlete while cheering on the teams. The club attended its first regatta (since COVID emerged) at the New York State Championships in Saratoga this May. “We’ll see how regattas play out in the future. In the meantime, spectators can watch through live-streaming—the new normal,” says Dana.
For those that cherish the sport, rowing back to the boatyard on a quiet evening with the sun setting on the horizon never gets tired. The OBCR board is committed to being on the water. A passion that inspires them to lead the club forward. “Covid was a lonely place for so many people,” Dana states. “Athletics and the aspect of supporting each other goes to show that the best thing a per- son can do is be part of something greater than themselves.”