Unlike a lot of Texans, Austinites can learn how to row right in the heart of their city. Texas Rowing for All, a nonprofit organization, works to expand access to rowing lessons to people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities; and they hope a recent addition to their fleet will allow them to keep up with growing demand.
TRFA Instructors will soon begin using a rowing “barge” to coach new rowers. The barge is a TK dimension pontoon-style boat in which two lines of four rowers sit side by side. The key element of the barge that makes it more comfortable for new rowers is a platform down the middle that allows instructors to stand in the boat while coaching. In a typical 8 person boat or “shell,” rowers must be synchronized and maintain engaged cores to keep the boat stable. The size and shape of the barge, however, make it virtually impossible to capsize. By using a boat with these design differences, TRFA program director Tony Kuhn, hopes that coaches will be able to get beginners on the water earlier in their training and spend less time instructing on indoor rowing machines.
"Our coach can be right there teaching you as you're in the process of rowing,” says Kuhn. “It's pretty beneficial to have this to really accelerate our program and get people out there on the water quicker than we're used to."
While TRFA focuses primarily on people with disabilities, Kuhn says that the addition of the barge provides the opportunity to expand their programs to include team building classes or special events. Ultimately, Kuhn says that no matter who uses the barge, the results are similar.
“For some people it’s about confidence. You're learning something that not a lot of people know how to do and it gives you a feeling of accomplishment," says Kuhn.