Learn to Row Program Summary

  • This program is for people with no previous rowing experience
  • Most sessions meet twice a week for 4 weeks (see full schedule below)
  • For safety reasons, you must be able to lift 20-25 lbs over your head and be able to swim in order to participate 

Program Details

Learn to Row classes give you the opportunity to learn the foundations of rowing on beautiful Lake Mendota. Our classes are designed for people of all abilities and ages (14 & up) to gain exposure to this growing sport. Classes consist of both adults and teenagers. Often parents and their teenage children register for a class and learn to row together.

Courses include a class manual, use of rowing equipment and personal instruction. The first session involves on-land instruction, including the use of Concept2 ergometers (rowing machines) and proper handling of equipment. Remaining sessions are spent on the water (weather permitting) learning to row in four- or eight-person shells. Please note that our classes focus on building rowing skills, not on building fitness. You will begin to build fitness if you chose to continue with our Novice Program after completing the class.

The May, June and July Learn-To-Row classes meet for 2 hours, twice a week, for four weeks at our boathouse (622 E Gorham St), in James Madison Park. The August class meets 4 nights a week for two weeks, and is a good option for those who can't commit to a 4 week class.

Class requirements

In order to get the most out of your class and for your own safety, general fitness is required.  You don't need to be a superstar athlete, but you should be able to lift 20-25 pounds overhead and touch your toes. Good balance is also necessary. As part of class, you will be lifting the boat into and out of the water. The boats sit close to the water and you will need to be able to get in and out of them under your own power.

If you have doubts about your ability to do these things, please attend our free National Learn to Row Day the first Saturday in June to give rowing a try before registering for class.

Swim Test

Swimming ability is required for class participation. Rowing is a water sport and it's important that you feel confident in the water, in case of an emergency. All students must take and successfully complete the Swim Test (swim 50 yards, tread water for 10 minutes, and don a life jacket) prior to your first class or be a certified as a life guard or in SCUBA within the last 5 years. 

If you are not able to pass a swim test, you may take the test wearing a personal automatic inflatable flotation device. You must then wear your own person automatic inflatable flotation device at all times while in a boat. 

If you do not pass the test you will be able to get a refund up to one week before class starts. If you think you might not be able to pass the swim test requirement we suggest that you attempt to take the test before registering for class.

If you pass the test but are not a strong swimmer, you have the option to carry or wear a life jacket when in the boat to help you feel more secure.

You may complete the swim test at any pool that is convenient for you. Please bring swimsuit, rowing clothes you can swim in and a towel as well as our swim test form.

If you are looking for a pool the Middleton - Cross Plain High School indoor pool has administered tests for us in the past and knows what to expect. We recommend you take advantage of their $1 entry fee during their Last Call Swims (the last hour they are open for the day). Please check their webpage for potential conflicts and updated opening hours before going to the pool.

Please bring your completed Swim Test Form, SCUBA certification or Life Guard certification to your first class.


Q: What should I wear to class?

A: Rowing attire is close-fitting shorts or pants and t-shirt, additional layers depending on weather, gym shoes (for land classes) or water sandals and socks (for water sessions). You do not need to wear spandex.

Q: I want to learn to row in a single. Do you teach sculling?

A: We require all new rowers to take our learn-to-row class. After completion of the class you may join our sculling program to learn more about rowing in a single.

Q: Where can I park for class?

A: Parking is available on Gorham St as well as in the James Madison Park lot at Gorham St and N Butler St.

Q: I've never rowed before. Can I take the class?

A: YES! Learn-to-Row class is designed for folks who have never rowed before.

Q: What happens to class when it is raining?

A: Classes are held in all weather. We will not go out on the water if the lake is too windy or there is lightning.

Q: I need to miss a class can I make it up?

A: There are no chances to make up a class. However if you need to miss a class you can speak to the instructor about catching up at the next class.

Q: How can I continue to row after class?

A: Anyone interested in continuing to row with the club at the conclusion of their Learn to Row class may join the Adult Novice Group. This group generally rows through the summer and fall seasons and is designed to expose novice rowers to the rigors of the sport and to offer a taste of competition.

If you have any other questions regarding class content contact the
Learn to Row Coordinator

Class Schedule 2017

 Dates  Days Time Cost
Lead Instructor
1A 5/1-5/24 Mon, Wed 
6:45-8:45 pm
Ben Bradford
1B 5/2-5/25
Tue, Thurs
6:45-8:45 pm $150 Kathryn Pereira
Mon, Wed 
6:45-8:45 pm $150 Sandy Harding
Tue, Thurs 6:45-8:45 pm $150 Mark Leahy
Mon, Wed 
6:45-8:45 pm $150 Nancy Jarvis
Tue, Thurs 6:45-8:45 pm $150 *** class cancelled ***
 4A8/7-8/17Mon, Tues, Wed,Thurs6:45-8:45 pm $150  TBD


Sessions require a minimum of 4 people. If we do not have enough students we will ask you to move to a different session or provide a refund. For students under the age of 18, a parent/guardian should contact our Learn to Row Coordinator to discuss class logistics before registering.

Select the Learn-To-Row session you'd like to attend to complete your registration. Cost for each class is $150 and includes all equipment and instruction. Payment can be made by check or by credit card through PayPal. Payment is due within one week of registration. 

Upcoming classes

  • No upcoming events

Bob Storck Memorial Scholarship

Mendota Rowing Club is pleased to announce that the Bob Storck Memorial Adult Rowing Scholarship will continue for another year. Bob was an enthusiastic rower who took up the sport late in life with our club and sadly passed away during winter of 2014. To honor Bob, an anonymous donor is funding a scholarship for any adult age 40+ that wants to learn to row. The scholarship is for a 4 week Learn to Row Class. The deadline for applications is April 15, 2017.

Who Was Bob Storck?

Bob was a life-long resident of Madison who learned to row for the first time with the Mendota Rowing Club in his late fifties. He continued to row with the club for several years until he was forced to retire due to ailing health. Bob was a great reminder that we are never too old to learn something new.

Who is Eligible?

Anyone over the age of 40 who wants to take up rowing (with enthusiasm!) for the first time.

What is the Award?

The scholarship is for any 2017 Learn to Row Class (value $150). The award recipient must agree to the club’s requirements for all Learn to Row participants and Adult Memberships.

How Do I Apply?

  1. Write a short essay (500 words or less) telling us why you want to learn to row and what you think you can contribute to the rowing community.
  2. Send it to president@mendotarowingclub.com by April 15 with the subject line “Bob Storck Rowing Scholarship”

How Will the Scholarship Be Awarded?

Applications will be evaluated based on sincerity, originality and enthusiasm. A Scholarship Committee consisting of Active Members of the Mendota RC Board of Directors, a previous scholarship winner, and the donor will evaluate all applications. The Scholarship Committee may, at their discretion award the scholarship based on the essays or they may choose no more than three finalists to meet in person at a time and place convenient for all. The winner will be notified no later than May 2 and will be eligible to sign up for any Learn to Row class starting in May 2017.

Still Have Questions?

Send an email to info@mendotarowingclub.com.

Richard and Susan Strasbaugh Scholarship

Thanks to Richard and Susan Strasbaugh we have six scholarships available to our Learn-to-Row program for girls and boys ages 14-18. 

What is the Award?

The scholarship is for any 2017 Learn to Row Class (value $150). The award recipient must agree to the club’s requirements for all Learn to Row participants

How Do I Apply?

1.    Write a short essay (500 words or less) telling us why you want to learn to row.

2.    Send it to president@mendotarowingclub.com with the subject line “Richard and Susan Strasbaugh Scholarship

3.    Scholarships will be given out on a first-come-first serve basis so please apply early.

How Will the Scholarship Be Awarded?

Applications will be evaluated based on sincerity, originality and enthusiasm. The winners will be eligible to sign up for any Learn to Row class starting in May 2017.

Still Have Questions?

Send an email to president@mendotarowingclub.com

622 E Gorham St
Madison, WI

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