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Swim test

Swimming ability is strongly encouraged for class participation. Rowing is a water sport and it's important that we know your level of confidence as a swimmer in case of an emergency. To be able to row without a personal flotation device (PFD) you will be required to successfully complete a swim test. The Swim Test is: swim 50 yards, tread water for 10 minutes, and then put on a life jacket.

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 and choose not to wear a PFD, 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. 

Possible Locations for Swim test

  • Madison school pools offer open & lap swim times from 6:15-8:15 pm on various days at the East High School and West High School pools. If you just need a swim test they will let you test for free! (but if you want to stay and swim more, then you'll need to buy a punch card) Click here for more information
  • Goodman Pool in Madison. Call ahead to make sure a supervisor can come out and observe the test, so guards on duty can continue to watch everyone else. Please call 608-264-9292 and ask for Augie or Mitchell. Please get a life jacket from MRC ahead of time to use for the test (contact our LTR coordinator to arrange this).
  • Verona pool (please see below for detailed instructions on testing at the Verona pool)
  • Oregon pool

Please note: we have not checked with the following pools to find out if they're willing to offer tests. Please call the pool before you go to check. It might depend on how many lifeguards they have that day, etc.We're working on verifying this as quickly as we can!

  • Middleton outdoor pool is now open! Register in advance for open swim on weekdays, or lap swim on Sundays. (the page has a lot of information, scroll way down for swim times)
  • Local YMCA pools are offering day passes again.
Verona Pool

One of our members went to the Verona pool for a swim test and wrote up these instructions for us. Thank you, Nancy!

  1. The Verona Area Aquatic Center can administer the swim test.  
  2. You must sign up in advance and pay for an open swim session on line.  There are limited spots, so plan in advance since spots fill up.  
  3. Start at  https://veronanat.recdesk.com/Community/Page?pageId=10439 .  
  4. Create an account/login. 
  5. Click "programs", "open swim".   Choose your time for open swim and click register now.  Unless you are a Verona resident, you may not choose times that say"VASD res.only". 
  6. Pay for your program.  My session was $4.00 plus service charge.
  7. Go to Verona Aquatic Center at the Verona HS, 234 Wildcat way.  Do NOT go to the Verona Natatorium, even if your registration says Verona Natatorium.
  8. Let the person at the desk know you are there for the swim test.   I had Lifeguard Lindsay who knew about MRC and was great.  Shower before entering pool.  Hand the test sheet to the lifeguard so they know what you need to do.
  9. Take to your session:
  •  PFD - they do not have loaners.  You can borrow an orange one from the Boathouse if you do not have one. (please contact learntorow@mendotarowingclub.com for help with this)
  •  Swim test form
  •  rowing shorts and t-shirt
  •  towel
  • dry clothes, flip flops

See FAQs for additional options.


Q: What should I wear for the swim test?

A: It's best to wear what you'll be rowing in. You want snug shorts or pants and a t-shirt. You don't need to wear shoes. (while we're rowing, we have our feet in special shoes that are attached to the boat. If you fall out of the boat, the shoes stay in it.)

Q: What if I'm already certified as a SCUBA diver or life guard?

A: Have you earned your certification within the last five years? If so, please send a picture or scan of your certification to our LTR coordinator. If your certification is more than five years old, please complete a swim test (or get re-certified).

Q: What pools can I use?

A: You're welcome to use any pool you have access to, as long as it has a lifeguard. A lot of pools are closed due to the pandemic. Please see "Possible Locations for Swim Test" for more detailed pool information.

Q: What about testing in the lake?

We were doing lake swim tests in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year, club leaders have decided that testing in pools is safer and more effective (the lake near the boathouse is so shallow that we can't really test your ability to tread water).

Q: What if the pool doesn't have life jackets?

We can lend you one for the swim test. Please contact our LTR coordinator to arrange this.

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Mailing Address:
PO Box 646
Madison, WI 53701

Boathouse Address:
622 E Gorham St
Madison, WI

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