Get yourself fit with Exmouth Rowing Club
- Credit: Archant
Exmouth Rowing Club has been helping people get out on the water for almost 30 years
Exmouth seafront. Looking across the sweep of sandy beach to the sea, the curve of Dawlish Warren spit to the south west and the green rolling hills beyond it, it’s easy to see what might attract someone to this corner of Devon.
And for sporty types, the town is fast becoming a mecca. The area has seen significant investment in its facilities and a new watersports centre is being built - part of a larger plan to make the most of the town’s natural surroundings. But in the middle of all this, there are still some community stalwarts doing what they do best, including the Exmouth Rowing Club .
Formed 27 years ago, the club was the brainchild of founding members Andy Herbert, Steve and Tam Charles-David and Wallace Sunley. The four were on the lookout for an outdoor pursuit to pre-empt their social visits to The Beach Hotel bar and decided to give ocean rowing a try.
The club’s recreational rowing organiser, Les Northcliffe tells me: “After each chipping in £250, Andy, Steve, Tam and Wallace invested in their first vessel: a Cornish Fly Boat which they stored in a garage near Shelly Beach and the Exmouth Rowing Club was born.”
Since those early days, the club has grown considerably. There are now 80 members, a two-storey clubhouse in a prime location on the esplanade and, of course, quite a few more boats.
Club Secretary, Bjoern Fock explains: “We started from humble beginnings: a shed located in what is now the car park behind the club house. Our move into the old lifeboat station was a catalyst for a lot of the redevelopment here.”
The club welcomes rowers of all abilities and aged from just 16 years; club captain Joe Stafford tells me they have several active members in their seventies. Coastal rowing is renowned for its physiological and mental health benefits with little risk of injury. The sport is considered low impact and great for strength and muscle development.
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Joe elaborates: “People often mistake rowing as an ‘arm’ sport, however the vast majority of power generated into the boat comes from the rowers’ legs. They push with the large muscle groups and this energy travels upwards.”
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Whilst members do join for the opportunity to improve their fitness and race competitively, the former needn’t be gruelling and the latter isn’t compulsory - for some, the social element is just as important. It’s all part of being in a community.
Joe tells me more: “We feel we have a very close connection to the town. The club works with local businesses such as The Beach Pub and Rockfish and volunteers to help with the Big Spring Clean and other eco-friendly initiatives.
“Loads of wonderful members of the public ask us about our rowing and we’re always happy to answer any questions they have and welcome new members. The watersports centre is an exciting development for us because our members have a passion for being on the sea: a number of them also volunteer locally with the RNLI and the Coast Watch.”
Despite the stamina and coordination required, rowing is not currently listed as a professional sport although Joe hopes the Olympic Committee will introduce it in the future and to see a local champion bring home gold.
A lack of professional recognition doesn’t stop the club from being very competitive - even on the world stage. Each year, members compete in the South West Coastal Rowing League. Here they pit themselves against rowers from Torquay, Mayflower in Plymouth and Teignmouth; they extend the offer to other coastal clubs that wish to travel to the region.
Joe speaks of a sense of interclub camaraderie with boats willingly loaned out on request to help their wider community take part in competitions. ERC also enters the annual British Rowing Offshore Championships and members have travelled to the World Rowing Coastal Championships in Greece, Italy, Plymouth, Turkey and Guernsey.
Of course, a significant part of the appeal for many of the club’s members is the opportunity to be out on the water. Joe concludes: “A row on a Sunday morning really sets you up for the week ahead. Our coxes will often stop the boat on the water for everyone to take a moment to examine their surroundings.
“It’s easy to take for granted the beautiful scenery on offer down here in Devon, so it’s important to take the time to appreciate how fortunate we are.”
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