With only six seasons behind them, the Kenai Crewsers Rowing Club has already achieved international recognition and the cover photo of last month's Rowing News. The national magazine listed Kenai as one of "The Ten Best Places to Row in America." A bit of a surprise to the followers of the stereotypical New England Ivy League sport. Indeed the other places that made the top ten included Boston, Maine, Dartmouth etc.
"I'm sure it caused a few giggles to the magazine's subscribers," said Lori Landstrom, President of the Kenai Crewsers. Kenai Lake with its pristine beauty and wildlife just couldn't be topped for the most adventurous rowing location. The eagles soaring overhead with an occasional shore-side bear and spawning salmon in the fall singled out Kenai Lake as one of the ten best places and will probably catch the imagination of many an eastern rower.
According to Landstrom there are only two rowing clubs in the State of Alaska, the Anchorage Rowing Association and the Kenai Crewsers. So the designation as one of the ten best places in America to row came as a surprise even to Alaskans.
The Kenai Crewsers has members that range in age from 12 to their mid-sixties, and even though the Alaskan rowing season is usually a month shorter than in the lower 48, Kenai Crewsers extend the season by going to competitions in the lower 48 and Australia. Landstrom agrees that while rowing in Alaska is more beautiful, she doesn't really think that Alaskan conditions are more challenging than other northern states like Maine and New Hampshire.
"We are very safety conscious. We always have a motorized launch boat that goes along beside us with our coach and safety person should there be an incident, but we've never had one," said Landstrom.
Last October four of the Kenai Crewsers, Donna Rea, Wendy Bryden, Judy Demers and Terri Orr, decided that they wanted last summer's training season to last all year, so they had their coach make out a schedule that led them to compete in Australia at a masters rowing event. The Masters class is for rowers over 60 years of age. Six years ago Donna Rea had never been in a shell and knew nothing about rowing.
"They actually had to carry me out of the shell my first time, I was in such poor shape, but it gets in your blood. We trained very hard for the Melbourne event and our Kenai Crewsers team placed really well. We combined with four Australian women our age and made it into the finals and took a silver medal in the over 60 age group," said Rea.
Teammate Judy Demers is already looking forward to the next Row Masters games which will be in Edmonton Canada in 2005.
"It was just phenomenal, it has really enriched my life. We have made friends from all over the world, but because these games are on our own continent, we are anticipating more Kenai Crewsers will be participating," said Demers, who describes herself as a former lounge lizard before joining the Crewsers.
Another member of the team is Terri Orr, who is a charter Kenai Crewsers member. Terri was so inspired after the Australian competition that she had an oaring logo tattooed on her calf.
"One of the things that got me hooked was seeing an 80 year old lady doing a competition in Oregon in 1998 and I said, okay this is something that I can do the rest of my life," said Orr.
The Kenai Crewsers Rowing Club is sponsoring a "Learn to Row" class in Seward on May 30th, Soldotna from June 2nd through the 7th and in Cooper Landing June 3rd and June 5th. For more information call 260-OARS or check out www.kenaicrewsers.com.
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