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Learn to Row Program Summary

  • Registration for 2019 classes is now open!
  • This program is for beginners with little-to-no previous rowing experience.
  • All regular sessions meet twice a week for 4 weeks (see full schedule below).
  • High-School/Junior session meets 3 times a week for 4 weeks and is only open to rising 9th grades through graduating seniors.
  • For safety reasons, you must be able to lift 20-25 lbs over your head and be able to swim in order to participate.

Program Details

The one-month Learn to Row program gives you the opportunity to learn the foundations of rowing on beautiful Lake Mendota. Our classes are designed for people of all abilities and ages (14 & up). Join other beginning rowers who are excited to get out on the water, connect with new people, improve their fitness, and try something new!

The first class is on-land, introducing you to the use of Concept2 ergometers (rowing machines) and the rowing stroke, familiarizing you with the boathouse and teaching you proper handling of boats and equipment. The remaining seven sessions are spent on the water (weather permitting) learning to row in four- or eight-person shells. 

Please note that our classes focus on building rowing skills and learning proper technique, not on building fitness. You will begin to build fitness if you chose to join our Novice Program after completing the class (two free weeks included).

The May, June, July, and August Learn to Row classes meet for 2 hours, twice a week, for four weeks at our boathouse (622 E Gorham St), in James Madison Park.

We just added a special Learn to Row class that will meet August 3 and 4 from 9am - 2pm.  The cost of the class is $300 and includes a membership through May 14, 2020.

Class requirements

In order to get the most out of your class and for your own safety, general fitness is required.  You don't need to be a superstar athlete, but you should be able to lift 20-25 pounds overhead and touch your toes. Good balance is also necessary. As part of class, you will be lifting the boat into and out of the water. The boats sit close to the water and you will need to be able to get in and out of them under your own power.

If you have doubts about your ability to do these things, please attend our free National Learn to Row Day on Saturday, June 1 to give rowing a try before registering for class.

Swim Test

Swimming ability is required for class participation. Rowing is a water sport and it's important that you feel confident in the water in case of an emergency. All students must take and successfully complete the Swim Test (swim 50 yards, tread water for 10 minutes, and don a life jacket while in the water) prior to your first class, or have earned a lifeguard or SCUBA certification within the last 5 years. 

Please bring your completed Swim Test Form, SCUBA certification or Life Guard certification to your first class.

What if I am not a strong swimmer?

  • You may take the swim test wearing a life jacket if necessary. However, if you take the swim test while wearing a life jacket, you must then wear your own life jacket at all times while in a boat. 
  • If you are unable to pass the swim test, you can drop the class and will be able to get a refund up to one week before class starts. If you think you might not be able to pass the swim test requirement, we suggest that you attempt to take the test before registering for a class.

How do I complete the swim test? 

  • You may complete the swim test at any pool that is convenient for you. Bring rowing clothes that you can swim in and our Swim Test Form for the pool lifeguard to sign when you complete the test. 
  • If you are looking for a pool, the Middleton-Cross Plains High School indoor pool has administered tests for us in the past and knows what to expect. We recommend you take advantage of their $2 entry fee during their Last Call Swims (the last hour they are open for the day). Check their webpage for open swim hours.


Q: What should I wear to class?

A: Rowing attire is close-fitting shorts or pants and t-shirt, additional layers depending on weather, gym shoes (for land classes) or water sandals and socks (for water sessions). You do not need to wear spandex.

Q: I want to learn to row in a single. Do you teach sculling?

A: We require all new rowers to take our learn-to-row class. After completion of the class you may join our sculling program to learn more about rowing in a single.

Q: Where can I park for class?

A: Parking is available on Gorham St as well as in the James Madison Park lot at Gorham St and N Butler St.

Q: I've never rowed before. Can I take the class?

A: YES! Learn-to-Row class is designed for folks who have never rowed before.

Q: What happens to class when it is raining?

A: Classes are held in all weather. We will not go out on the water if the lake is too windy or there is lightning.

Q: I need to miss a class. Can I make it up?

A: Yes, absolutely! If you need to miss a class, you can talk to the instructor about catching up with the other concurrent Learn to Row session that week.

Q: How can I continue to row after class?

A: Anyone interested in continuing to row with the club at the conclusion of their Learn to Row class may join the Novice Rowing Program. The novice team rows through the summer and fall seasons and is designed to expose novice rowers to the rigors of the sport, continuing improving novice skills and fitness, and offer a taste of competition with the opportunity to race at regional regattas!

If you have any other questions regarding class content, contact the
Learn to Row Coordinator.


Registration is for 2019 classes is now open!

Select the Learn-To-Row session you'd like to attend from the class schedule below to complete your registration. For students under the age of 18, a parent/guardian should contact our Learn to Row Coordinator to discuss class logistics before registering. Rowing is a physical sport and some athletic ability is recommended for all participants. Swimming ability is also required and a simple swim test must be completed before class begins.

Payment: Cost for standard sessions is $175 (for regular evening sessions), while the High-School/Junior session, which has more classes, costs $275. These costs include all equipment and instruction. We do have discounts for members of CUNA Mutual and Harbor Athletic Club, please contact the LTR coordinator for more information. Payment can be made by check or by credit card. Payment is due within one week of registration or your registration may be canceled. Please make checks payable to Mendota Rowing Club and mail to P.O. Box 646, Madison, WI 53701. We cannot receive mail at the boathouse so please use the PO Box.

Waitlist: Each session has capacity for 16 students and some sessions fill up early. If you are interested in a session that is currently full, join the waitlist and we will notify you if a spot opens.

Sessions require a minimum of 4 people. If we do not have enough students for a particular session, we will ask you to move to a different session or provide a refund.

Class Schedule 2019

 Dates  Days Time Cost
Lead Instructor
LTR 1A  May 6-29 Mon, Wed 
6:15 - 8:15 pm
LTR 1B May 7-30Tue, Thurs
6:15 - 8:15 pm $175 TBD
National LTR Day June 1Sat  8:00 am - noonFREE 
June 3-26Mon, Wed 
6:30 - 8:30 pm $175  TBD
June 4-27Tue, Thurs 6:30 - 8:30 pm $175  TBD
July 8-31Mon, Wed 
6:30 - 8:30 pm $175 TBD
July 9-Aug 1
Tue, Thurs 6:30 - 8:30 pm $175 TBD
Aug 5-Aug 28Mon, Wed
6:15 - 8:15 pm
High School LTRAug 5 - Aug 29  Tu, W, Thu  6:30 - 8:30 pm  $275Carlee Hayden 

Mailing Address:
PO Box 646
Madison, WI 53701

Boathouse Address:
622 E Gorham St
Madison, WI

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