Adaptive Rowing

What is Adaptive Rowing?

Adaptive rowing refers to both the equipment adaptations for rowers with disabilities and the sport as a whole.  Let us first look at the history of adaptive rowing.

Philadelphia was one of the birthplaces of adaptive rowing, when veterans blinded in World War II competed in an Army-versus-Navy race. Over subsequent years, efforts were made to continue rowing programs for athletes with disabilities. For example, Ted Nash, an Olympic rower and coach for the University of Pennsylvania and Penn AC, worked to bring rowing to people with visual impairments. In 1980, Chris Blackwall, the executive director of USRowing, started the first U.S.rowing club solely for people with disabilities, the Philadelphia Rowing Program for the Disabled (PRPD). Other programs were starting up all over the world, and in 1993, adaptive rowing was included for the first time as an exhibition event at the FISA World Rowing Junior Championships in Finland and then again in 1999 at the World Rowing Championships in St. Catharines, Ontario.

In 2002, the FISA world championships began to include adaptive rowing in the regular program. The sport gained momentum in 2005, when the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) voted to include adaptive rowing in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. Achieving this major milestone spurred the growth of adaptive rowing worldwide. There are now 26 countries competing at the international level, which is an impressive increase from 2002 when only seven countries participated. As the number of programs worldwide increased, so did the level of competition. The winning times from world championships have improved rapidly. The times are more drastically improved in the fixed-seat boats in some part due to improvements in equipment and rigging.

Regardless of a rower’s physical challenges, rowing is a true team building sport– the boat goes nowhere unless the whole team is working together.  Rowing is also unique because 74% of the rowing athletes worldwide acquire a university degree and 64% have a post graduate degree. The sport provides academic and athletic scholarship opportunities and develops the skills required to succeed academically, athletically and be able to apply those talents effectively. Rowing is unlike any other sport.  Imagine the thrill of competing as a high precision team, “flying on water.” Rowing a boat as a skilled unit requires dedication, hard work and the commitment to encourage, motivate and pull each other towards the finish line… exemplifying true teamwork.

Together… we can achieve these goals.