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Hop in a boat to come out of your SHELL


Rowers from around the Midwest will be navigating a three-mile section of the Des Moines River at the Head of the Des Moines Regatta on Sept. 27. Photo by David Mable

Rowers from around the Midwest will be navigating a three-mile section of the Des Moines River at the Head of the Des Moines Regatta on Sept. 27. Photo by David Mable

Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward. While this may seem like a Yogi Berra quote — or a Tarantino movie trope — it’s an absolute truth when it comes to rowing.

“For me personally, I joined up with the Des Moines Rowing Club because I missed rowing,” said Kate Devera, rower and promotions coordinator with HotDM Regatta. “I rowed at Drake as a freshman, and it hooked me. Something about being a team with eight people in the boat but still being alone with your thoughts on the water has a great appeal for me.”

And that’s one of the major appeals: Rowing is the ultimate team sport. While the majority of sports feature a group of people working toward an end goal, rowing requires exactitude. The length of every member’s arms and legs must be exact. The rate at which the team rows and the timing of the oars hitting the water; all must work together and trust each teammate is responsible for his or her part.

Then there’s the “fully body muscular and aerobic workout…beautiful outdoors…friendship and connections…mental discipline and relaxation,” added HotDM Regatta Director Randall Wilson. “In a sense, rowing has it all.”

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Weather permitting, the Head of the Des Moines Regatta will take place on the Des Moines River, beginning at the Botanical Center and finishing at Prospect Park. It is a three-mile course upstream, against the current. The day’s races will feature high school to collegiate athletes, novices and pros alike, and community clubs from all around the Midwest.

And it’s this camaraderie that continues to draw members to the Des Moines Rowing Club. Since its inception in 1983, the group has grown from a handful of enthusiasts to a club that is now more than 200 strong.

“The collective spirit of teamwork in the club has never been higher; we’ve also made progress in coaching and teaching good techniques to our members,” Wilson said.

As for what has remained the same for the club: the river.

“We’ve been all over the country and really we have one of the best little rivers for rowing that I’ve ever seen. It is just the right size. It has a lot of natural wooded banks full of wildlife, and you can go upstream for miles. Most clubs do not have that kind of scenery, water or freedom.”

While rowing can get on the expensive side — in terms of equipment; think of buying a car, now put that price tag next to a rowing shell — if that’s your only excuse, it’s time to get over it. CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

2014 Head of the Des Moines Regatta
Saturday, Sept. 27; 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Des Moines River: Botanical Center to Prospect Park
Notable spots for spectators include along the western banks of the river, across from the Des Moines Botanical Center; along the low-lying bike trail near Birdland Marina; and at the finish in Prospect Park.

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