Traditional Rowing

The Dolphin Club has a unique fleet of traditional rowing boats. They are all hand-built and lovingly maintained at our club-house. Some are over 100 years old. Rowing them is a special privilege that is hard to find anywhere else in the world.

The majority of our boats are ‘Dolphin Club Sliding Seat Singles,’ which have been designed, lofted and constructed at the Dolphin Club starting in 1948. They are an evolution on the popular Whitehall designs that have evolved over centuries and which were once a common sight along the waterfronts. Their specific features accommodate the club’s needs enhancing both their recreational use as well as ease of piloting swimmers throughout the Bay. The club has 12 single seat wooden boats, built mostly of Port Orford cedar and oak, and these will be available for you to row once you have completed the orientation. After progressing through the course, you’ll have access to an incredible venue for exercise and personal growth and for exploring one of the world’s most impressive natural estuaries.


Our training program will teach you the basics of how to row, how to take care of our boats, and how to understand the tides, currents, and nature of San Francisco Bay.

The Dolphin Club rowing training class is typically offered monthly with the potential for one-on-one training at other times. Training is only available to members.

Following orientation, you will be a Trainee Rower and able to row within the cove. Few people pick it up right away, but after a handful of practice rows you’ll soon have the hang of things and be ready for more.

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To become certified to row our boats out of cove and further afield, you must complete the following:
  1. Make at least six practice rows in the cove to develop your technique and skill.
  2. Study the Bay Safety course, and pass the written test.
  3. Attend at least one Tuesday Boat Night.
  4. Complete an on-the-water certification row with an instructor.

Once certified, members are free to take our Dolphin Club singles and doubles onto the bay on their own schedule and within the limits of our safety rules.

You don’t have to know anything about rowing to start learning at the Dolphin Club, but you should be aware that it can at times be a strenuous and challenging activity. You should be able to swim and be willing to enjoy getting pushed around by wind, waves, and current.

After Certification

Once certified, you may row on San Francisco Bay by yourself, or with others. Rowers frequently get together for outings to nearby destinations including:

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Alcatraz
  • Bay Bridge and the Saturday Farmers Market
  • McCovey Cove
  • Angel Island

You’ll also be able to take a guest out as a passenger in the boat.

Certified rowers, kayakers, and paddlers are also encouraged to help pilot and protect swimmers on club swims. There is no better way to become involved in club activities and meet other members. Over the course of the year, members may organize longer “expedition” rows to further destinations including China Camp, Petaluma, and Sacramento. These trips often involve overnight stays and by definition require a certain degree of skill and fitness. Once you become comfortable in the traditional wooden rowboats, you may find yourself looking to expand your rowing opportunities to other classes in our fleet, or to join as crew in our multi-person boats. Rowing opportunities also exist for: