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Learn to Row Program Summary

  • This program is for beginners with little to no previous rowing experience.
  • For safety reasons, you must be able to lift 20-25 lbs over your head and be able to swim in order to participate.
  • This page has general information about Learn to Row classes. Please see our High School and Adult LTR pages for more details!
  • High-School/Junior session is only open to rising 9th grades through graduating seniors.


We successfully hosted both adult and junior Learn to Row classes in summer 2020, and we plan to offer them again this summer!

Our approach to rowing safely includes:

  • masks and social distancing
  • rowing in singles (or doubles for family members)
  • as much time outside as possible
  • regular disinfection procedures

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.

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. We recommend an automatic inflatable life jacket (available online or at shops such as Rutabaga and West Marine).
  • 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. 
  • You may also take the swim test in the lake by the boathouse. Please contact learntorow@mendotarowingclub.com to make arrangements.
  • 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. We also keep a list of open pools on our Swim Test Page.

Mailing Address:
PO Box 646
Madison, WI 53701

Boathouse Address:
622 E Gorham St
Madison, WI

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