RowingLearning Path

Learning Path

Learning to row takes many different paths for different people. Some members come to the club with plenty of experience, some with none. We try and adapt the pace to fit the needs of the individual, but the general path is the same for all.

  • Experience Rowing
    If you’re curious about rowing, and have never rowed before, you might want to start with a ‘Rowing Experience’ – this is an opportunity to go out with an experienced rower as a passenger in a double. Along the way you’ll switch out and get to try rowing yourself. It’s a fun, simple introduction to the boats.
  • Single Orientation
    To start rowing by yourself, you’ll need to go through an orientation to become familiar with the procedures and use of the craft. The orientation lasts 2-3 hours and you’ll learn how to launch, row, and return our boats. Most orientations are done in a wooden single, although if you have previous sculling experience, you may be invited to do your orientation in one of our Coastal boats.
  • Solo Practice (In Cove)
    After your orientation, you’ll be allowed to practice on that craft within Aquatic Park cove on your own time. Most beginner rowers require a number of outings to become comfortable and confident behind the oars. We ask that you plan to come down to practice again within the first week after your orientation.
  • Mentored Practice
    If you’re looking a little more help after your orientation, fear not. Other members are often available to provide mentoring and help from the dock, or from another boat. Check our rowing calendar for who’s available. There is usually lots of support on Friday mornings.
  • Improve Stroke & Style
    Improving your rowing technique makes rowing more enjoyable and easier on your body. You can do much of the work on this yourself by following our Rowing Technique Guide. We also occasionally offer clinics for rowers with experienced coaches. Good form and boat handling skills is a criteria in certification.
  • Bay Safety
    There’s a lot going on out on San Francisco Bay. Winds, Tides, Currents, Shipping, Wildlife and more. Work through the Bay Safety Guide yourself and become familiar with what’s out there. Passing the test is required for certification.
  • Outings & Swim Piloting
    The best way to build experience is with others. Once you’re confident rowing in the cove, you may join other certified members under their supervision on rows outside of the cove. You are also encouraged to participate in club swims as a pilot escort – there is no better way to become involved in club activities, get experience on the bay and and meet other members.
  • Practices in Doubles, Quad & Wieland
    At this stage, you may also go out in doubles with other certified rowers, or join practice in our four-person quad or six-person barge. Keep an eye on our WhatsApp group and the Rowing Calendar for opportunities.
  • Certification
    Once you’re comfortable rowing solo, you can seek certification to go outside the cove alone. This is the standard where we check you know how to take care of the boat and yourself and others around you. You will plan a trip with an instructor to check that you have the skills and capabilities to take on the more challenging conditions of SF Bay. Request a certification row using our Training Request Form

Certification and Beyond

Once certified, Dolphin Club boats can take you to many interesting places. 

  • Along Chrissy Field and Golden Gate Bridge
  • Out and around Alcatraz
  • San Francisco Cityfront
  • Angel Island
  • Treasure Island

Remember that our wooden boats in particular are delicate and incredibly precious. Even relatively small damage can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair.  YOU are responsible for their care while they are checked out in your name. Do not leave them unattended anywhere they might be damaged, do not pull them up on a beach.

Races & Competition

Dolphin Club rowers compete in a number of events across the Bay Area and beyond. Shell rowing is the most competitive aspect of our program, but SUPs, kayaks and wooden boats sometimes compete too. 

The biggest event in our calendar is the Dolphin – South End Triathlon which is held every October. This is an annual rowing, swimming and running competition where the success of our rowing fleet often dictate the success of the club. 

Throughout the year there will be opportunities to row at several regattas including the McCovey Cove and Angel Island regattas hosted by the Dolphin Club, South End and other clubs in the area. 

Coaching, practice and casual racing is held throughout the year. 

Excursions and Expeditions

Over the course of the year, you might hear about longer “expedition” trips to faraway places. Popular overnight destinations include China Camp, Petaluma, and even Sacramento. These trips by definition require a certain degree of skill and fitness.

Such trips are often advertised only by word-of-mouth. The best way for new boaters to find out about these is to become involved in the program. Show up for Boat Night, Friday morning rows, and team rowing on Wieland and the quad.

If you’d like to organize an overnight trip yourself, you must arrange with the Boat Captain well in advance.

Rowing at Lake Merced

The Dolphin Club has a small boathouse at Lake Merced where a half-dozen flat-water shells are available for use by experienced shell rowers. 

The Lake Merced boathouse is available for experienced rowers only. Introductory rowing training is not currently available at this location.