Indianola getting ready to row

The men’s novice crew (Devin Bodony, Ethan Meyer, Evan Lenz and Tom James, coxed by Kirsten Jewell) from the Indianola Rowing Association prepares for its race at the Frostbite Regatta in the fall of 2011. The team placed first. It was the first win for the association.   - Courtesy
The men’s novice crew (Devin Bodony, Ethan Meyer, Evan Lenz and Tom James, coxed by Kirsten Jewell) from the Indianola Rowing Association prepares for its race at the Frostbite Regatta in the fall of 2011. The team placed first. It was the first win for the association.
— image credit: Courtesy

INDIANOLA — Tucked away in Indianola, a small group of athletes pull on rowing machines in the basement of the Wise Acres Community Center Tuesday night. Bill Richards stands near the athletes, coaxing them to push themselves just a little more. A few feet away, rowers lay on mats, stretching; preparing for their turn on the machines.

The rowers, mostly Indianola residents, are preparing for the first full season of rowing with the Indianola Rowing Association.

This season, the association will enroll in at least one regatta per quarter. It expects to enroll up to 40 rowers, though not all will compete. Right now, those enrolled are preparing for the season with winter workouts, which began in December.

“Honestly, I had not thought about rowing until last summer,” association president Kirsten Jewell said outside the community center. Jewell was contacted by Richards, a longtime rower and Indianola resident who wanted to start a rowing club. She tried it once and “was hooked.”

Until the Indianola Rowing Association was created, the closest rowing club was on Bainbridge Island. Although the association is less than one year old, it is not without success.

At the Greenlake Frostbite Regatta in November, the association’s novice men’s masters crew — Devin Bodony, Ethan Meyer, Evan Lenz and Tom James, coxed by Jewell — took first in a 1,000-meter race. The team defeated Lewis and Clark College by 12 seconds.

Lenz, a resident of the Wise Acres community, said team members really didn’t know how far ahead they were until the race was over. They didn’t have time to feel tired, let alone see their position in the lanes.

“The whole thing was a blur,” he said. “We didn’t really have time to feel tired.” After they had finished “we looked behind us and the second-place boat was pretty far behind.”

The novice rowers were supported by the Indianola community. He’s not sure how many showed up to attend the regatta, but there were many friends and families cheering them on.

The race was not without its difficulties, however. One of the rowers blew out his knee a week before the event. The rower’s replacement had one week to train. Jewell said the team’s technique was probably not up to par, either. And the team was using a boat given away by the Bainbridge club. Without “great boats or technology or experience,” however, Jewell said the team made it happen.

“All the people in the boat were just so determined and so excited,” she said. “It was important, because we proved that we could do it; we had what it takes.”

Lenz, like many of the current members of the association, had never rowed before joining. He received an email in the fall of 2011 and decided to give it a try.

The association can be seen practicing on the waters of Miller Bay. Both Lenz and Jewell praise the beauty of the bay. Along with wildlife, the limited amount of watercraft makes it an ideal place to row. Currently, the association launches shells from a private residence.

Because it’s still building, the association is still building its inventory of equipment. It currently has three shells. Jewell would like to see the association become more stable. She wants to see membership increase, which, eventually would lead to a permanent facility to row out of and store equipment. She would also like to see a juniors program in the future.

“We just want to establish the [association] so it can keep going,” she said.

How the IRA began

The main purpose of the association, Jewell said, is to provide opportunities for people in North Kitsap to row either recreationally or competitively. Jewell is not sure what the demand is for rowing in the area; however, the association is trying to make it affordable — $225 per person for a season.

The association began when Richards acquired a boat being given away by the Bainbridge Island Rowing Club. Richards was a member of the club for about 10 years before starting the club in Indianola. He took two shells home on top of his Volkswagen van.

Richards posted a note at the Indianola General Store and word of the association spread throughout the community. About 25 people, whose ages range from mid-20s to 60s, showed up. There were a lot of new rowers, Richards said.

“It’s really a remarkable turnout from a really small community,” he said.

For now, the association participates in the master’s rowing division, which means age 27 or older. Most of the competition comes from the Seattle area and universities, where rowing is more established.

Jewell said rowing is a culture all its own. A lot of people view it as an elitist sport, she said. It’s expensive, which is why the association works to keep costs low.

Besides racing, Lenz said the structure of the sport is something he enjoys. Because the team he is on is made up of four rowers and a coxswain, he is held accountable for his participation.

If interested in joining the rowing association, contact coach Richards,


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