Shell & Coastal Rowing

Our fleet of lightweight open water rowing shells includes over a dozen boats of various designs. These are ideal for exercise and competition, on the open waters of San Francisco Bay.

Our Maas open water shells have been proven open water rowing boats for many years and are light and fast. The club owns five singles (aeros and 24s), and three doubles.

We also have two single, and one double ‘coastal’ class boats. This design is gaining in popularity internationally and is being considered for the Olympics.. Coastal shells are very stable, and ideal for rougher waters like San Francisco Bay.

Like bicycles, rowing shells may look difficult and unstable, but they are really quite easy once you master the basic principles. They do require some agility to get in and out of at our dock. Confidence on the water will make your experience more enjoyable.


If you haven’t rowed much before, you will want to start with our Learn to Row class which will orient you to rowing on the Bay from our more stable wooden Whitehall rowboats.

Another option for beginners is to take shell rowing classes with Open Water Rowing Center in Sausalito (or any other rowing club). Their introductory 3-session class is a great way to gain confidence on shells in the calmer waters of Richardson Bay. Once you’ve taken the OWRC class, a checkout to row shells at the Dolphin Club will progress quickly.

Once you feel ready to start rowing shells, email our shell rowing commissioners for a one-on-one training session.


Shell rowers in training may row inside the cove, and with certified shell rowers along the waterfront. To become certified to row shells out of cove, and further away from shore alone you will need to:

Mastering good technique will ensure that capsizing is an unlikely event – even on the narrowest of our shells. But it’s best to be prepared, and so the highlight of shell certification will be where you practice a ‘self-rescue.’ You should know how to swim to fully enjoy this part!

Where can you go?

Once certified you may row out into the Bay, to the Golden Gate Bridge, around Angel Island and many places beyond. You’ll also be able to participate in our Friday Morning Rowing series, and other regattas in the area.

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.