The Chicago Rowing Foundation (CRF), an all-inclusive non-profit rowing organization, will host its second annual ROWtober Fest regatta on Oct. 17, bringing rowers of all ages to the north branch of the Chicago River for a full day of competition. The regatta takes collegiate, master and junior rowers from between Cortland and Webster north to the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park, the home of the CRF located at 3400 N. Rockwell, just west of Lane Tech High School.
“We moved into this boathouse just over a year ago, so it’s still a brand new boathouse to us,” Kelsey Rodway, the girls novice assistant and strength coach with the Chicago Rowing Foundation, says. “Almost all of the teams in the state came last year. We’re opening it regionally this year and hope other teams from surrounding states will join us.”
Though most outdoor water sports wrap up in early or mid-September, rowing continues through November. Rodway says CRF teams will train outside as long as the wind chill is 20 degrees or higher, even in the winter.
“If you want to compete with teams that are able to stay on the water year round, you have to go out when it’s that cold,” she says. “There’s really no option.”
The WMS Boathouse does include the city’s only indoor rowing tank, allowing rowers to continue training even in particularly inclement weather.
CRF has club teams for middle schoolers, high schoolers and masters athletes, which includes anyone over the age of 18. Masters can choose between a recreational team or a competitive team, depending on their experience and desire to compete.
“We have people that didn’t row until three or four years ago when they were on the recreational team for a season or two and then came up to competitive,” Rodway says. “There’s a huge span when it comes to ability levels on the recreational and competitive teams.”
CRF also has two adaptive programs: Pauly’s Pals, a peer adaptive program for children on the autism spectrum and accessROW, a team for physically impaired athletes. CRF changes boats to fit the athlete’s needs and hopes to build its adaptive rowing program over time.
To learn more about ROWtoberfest, which is open to the public, and the CRF, visit www.rowchicago.com.