The Eastern Shore Community Rowers: One Stroke, One Spirit


I’m not an early morning person, so the idea of meeting people from the Eastern Shore Community Rowers at 5:30 in the morning seemed way out of my comfort zone. Which is why I showed up for their second session at 7:00 AM on the Tred Avon River at the Landing at Evergreen in Easton. At least the sun had risen.

The first thing that stood out was how sweaty the 5:30 group was. Then there was the smiling and camaraderie as the nine men and women tended the oars and shell. That’s what happens according to Terry Gleim, Safety Officer and ESCR Board member. “When people start to row, they drink the ‘Kool-Aid,’ they get really into it; they get hooked. Why? Because it’s a total body exercise, particularly the legs and core.” Additionally, Gleim mentioned how “the teamwork involved in rowing it is a great way to bond with others.” The members I spoke to agreed that they all felt stronger and fitter being part of the group. In the process, they’ve made some new friends.

As I learned, this is what makes this sport so interesting: it’s appropriate for all ages, all experience, and all walks of life. “We have members aged 21, and we have members in their 70s,” said Gleim. “We have a retired naval commander, an architect, physicians and people who work in an office.”

Despite the diversity, there is also a oneness that is necessary. “There are no stars, you can’t be doing your own thing,” says Gleim. “You have to work together as a team. If your movement is different than anyone else’s, it’s going to throw everyone off. It’s all about synchronization. Everyone has to do the exact same thing at the exact same time.” Part 1 of their motto is “One Stroke. One Spirit.”

The 7 AM group showed me precisely what this meant. (DISCLAIMER: I was in the chase boat which follows the rowers at each session. I got to watch, not do.) What I saw was four women and a man lift the over 100-pound 4-man boat over their heads, and as one, walk to the river, and put it in the water. They climbed in, barely making a ripple and pulled away from the dock. We followed.

I watched as a heron took off, disturbed by our presence. Saw the sun rise higher in the sky and heard the osprey yell in protest over our approach. The four rowers dipped their oars in and out of the water in perfect harmony, barely making a splash. I was told the coxswain was giving instructions that were being broadcast and heard through the speaker system by their seats. All I heard was the sounds of the river. It was a beautiful and calming beginning to the day.

By the time we returned to the dock an hour later, and the sweaty rowers picked the shell out of the water, I understood why this sport is such a hit.

The program was created only two years ago by President and Head Coach, Chloe Tong. Tong, who used to belong to the youth group, Freedom Rowers, moved to Australia and joined a large rowing club. After returning to the States, she realized she missed the sport and found others who were interested. Initially, they had to borrow Freedom’s equipment, but as word got around, it became evident that this was something the Eastern shore of Maryland community wanted—a master’s rowing program.

The group filed for a 501(c)3 (nonprofit status), took in donations and were able to buy a used 8-man boat. Now, they also own a couple of singles, one quad (rowers use two oars), two 4-seaters, and this month picked up another 8-seater. They meet six days a week at 5:30 AM and four days at 7:00 AM. There are three seasons: Early March through May, June through August, and September through “you can’t get out anymore.” Although the program is recreational, they are starting to compete and will be racing the 13 miles around Wye Island on September 8. Not bad for a startup!

Those interested in finding out more about rowing, are invited to a FREE clinic on the first Saturday of every month at 9 AM. Potential members, who have never rowed before, are required to attend a three-day clinic before joining.

ESCR will be holding a fundraiser on October 13, hoping to raise money for more shells, new equipment, and educations for the coaches. They dream about building their own boathouse, and they even have a design in the works. This group also firmly believes in the second part of their motto which now, more than ever, is essential to remember: “In life and in sport, we row hard – young or old – toward the finish line, because we are, all of us, in the same boat.”

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Letters to Editor

  1. Doug Jurrius says

    great article, and you really should try coming out with us 5:30’rs! This past week in particular has been simply beautiful- gorgeous full moon lighting our way as we leave the dock, returning to a lovely sunrise. The most wonderful thing about rowing that early is by the time you are awake enough to feel the burn, you’re done! Rowing is considered the single best exercise you can do by many experts: no impact, lots of core work, and both cardio & endurance. Best of all is that coaches Chloe, Willoughby, & Greg are willing to take complete neophytes such as myself, and encourage, cajole, laugh, and generally motivate thru positive reinforcement to make each of us better! All in search of the “perfect set”.

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