Rowing aims to take its grip in Fredericton

The more you complicate rowing the harder it is. For Rob Alexander it’s intuitive. Sliding forward and back in his seat with the three other men he calls his team.

“It’s exhilarating. It’s never the same; every day is a new challenge. It’s really intense” said Alexander.

NB Rowing is now working with universities to improve rowing in the province (Ashley Swinton/AQ)

Now in his fourth year at St. Thomas University, Alexander has rowed since 2006.

“I’m one of those who jumped on the bandwagon after I saw it on the Olympics. I saw it and kept my eye open for it. A year or two later I saw a poster for it at my high school.”

In the six years Alexander has rowed, he has filled different roles. Still an athlete, Alexander now coaches the rowing team at his high school, Saint John High. He has spent his summers working as the rowing club manager in Saint John, and sat on the executive board of Rowing New Brunswick. Alexander has also competed in the Canada games where he earned a bronze medal.

Alan Oldham is the high performance coach at Rowing NB. He moved to Fredericton in April to help develop local talent and put more New Brunswick athletes on the national team. One step in this is recruiting rowers from the universities.

“Rowing is a really cool sport because you can start it in university with no experience,” said Oldham.

An e-mail was sent out to students over the summer to recruit for the novice team, with some success. Rowing NB now has ten people from the universities learning to row. The men’s novice team includes five men from STU and three from UNB. The women’s novice team has one from each school.

Because of the drastically different numbers the men’s and women’s teams are learning to row in different boats. The men’s team is learning on an eight-seat and the women’s team is learning on a “quad,” a two-seat boat with two oars (blades) on each side.

Both teams will be competing in novice events, including a race against St. Francis Xavier next weekend where Oldham hopes the Fredericton teams will “dominate” their competitors.

His rowers competed in the Four Bridges race the weekend of Sept. 22 and won, but could not officially be given the title since they were down a man and had to replace him with an experienced rower, disqualifying the team from winning a novice race.

“One of the things we’d really like to work towards is an annual STU/UNB battle of the river sort of event” said Oldham who is already planning to hold a test event in the spring.

Novice rowers spend about six hours a week in training, while more experience rowers like Alexander can spend twice that many.

“The worst part of it is the early mornings” said Alexander, who gets up before five every morning to catch the river while it’s calm.

“Once it gets in to the fall, we’re out on the water before the sun and getting back to the dock as it’s coming up” said Oldham.

He’s seen hundreds of sunrises thanks to his involvement with rowing.

For more information about rowing, e-mail Alan Oldham at

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