Akin Gaddis’s fellow Pool School participants look on as he works on basic rowing techniques using a simulator before heading into the Navesink for the real deal. (Photos by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge.)


About 20 first-time rowers from Red Bank, aged 10 to 13, took to Maple Cove Monday morning to try their hand at squaring and feathering Monday morning.

The lesson, supplemented by a two-mile workout on the ergs at nearby CrossFit Shrewsbury, was a bonus to the summer program at youth advocate David Prown‘s volunteer-based Pool School, sponsored by the Community YMCA and St. Anthony’s Social Concerns Committee. The kids did weight training and learned to swim for three hours every Monday for eight weeks.

Javier Velez, 14, who rowed at NRR with a scholarship, assists Axel Guerrero, 10, his first time out.

They ended it on a fun note with a trip to Keansburg’s Runaway Rapids water park to exhibit their skills. Prown will hand-pick his most enthusiastic students to receive scholarships to continue learning to row at Navesink River Rowing next summer.

Kay Vilardi, NRR president, did the instruction in the water and on a rowing simulator. “They’re great kids, and they watched the rowing in the Olympics, so they’re really excited,” she said. Jose Picado, ranked third internationally, went through the program as a teenager.

The kids went out in shallow water in shells two at a time with help from volunteers from NRR, who at first tugged them in and out to allow them to get a feel for doing in water what they’d practiced on land.

The introduction made 12-year-old Akin Gaddis think he wants to keep rowing. “When I pushed back, you could really feel the power of the oars,” he said. “It was really fun, a lot more than I expected.”

Prown said he has high hopes for Gaddis, who will start next month at the Ranney School, where Prown’s son is the crew team’s assistant coach.