From a distance, seen from Highway 99 as it passes over Deas Slough, they look like water striders – the insects that walk on water.
From the other side, off the dock at the Delta Deas Rowing Club, they come into focus as dedicated high school students working hard for an upcoming regatta.
The back of a T-shirt belonging to Amanda Serek, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student from Sands Secondary, says it all: Row Hard or Die.
The juniors, students aged 15-18, are preparing for the 22-annual Scholastic Regatta on May 28 and 29 at Deas Island Regional Park.
They’re part of two programs – juniors and masters (adults) – that the 25-year-old rowing club offers.
The club has about 50 masters members and a dozen juniors – with eight juniors competing at the end of the month.
“We’re a small club,” admits coach Alex Bond (left), a former juniors rower at Delta Deas who came back last year to coach after winning a rowing scholarship at the Washington State University.
“Traditionally we’ve been known as the underdog and we’re trying to change that.”
Late last month, Delta Deas came third, fourth, sixth and seventh, as well as clinching one first place spot (the boys Jr. B doubles) in five races at the Brentwood Regatta in Mills Bay on Vancouver Island.
Unlike other clubs that have larger facilities and boat trailers, Delta Deas is limited to singles, doubles and quads, and all are scullers, meaning that each rower works both sides of the craft.
Bond says a big misconception with rowing is that people must start when they’re young.
Indeed, while the juniors program is intended for those in Grades 8-12, the club’s learn-to-row program is suitable for adults of all ages – including one member in her 80s.
Beginners learn the lexicon early: They’re shells, not boats. They’re oars, not paddles. And the coxswain (the person who commands the crew and rudder) is pronounced “coxin” or “coxie.”
While rowing can be competitive, “it’s not a collision sport,” says regatta chair Joy Fera. “(People are) not getting bowled over like in football or hockey or basketball.”
Fera says that while Deas Slough allows races of no more than 1,000 metres – one-third to half the length of some other regattas – it does offer a good breakwater, protection from wind, and the short distance makes for competitive sprints on the water.
The public is invited to watch the Scholastic Regatta on May 28 and 29. Races will start at 8 a.m. both days – just bring a lawn chair, binoculars and dress for the weather.
Fera says there will be more than 300 rowers from high schools through the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
Delta Deas Rowing Club is located on Deas Island Road, off 62B Street (River Road).
Delta Deas Rowing Club welcomes new members. If you are interested in learning to row, visit www.deltadeas.com or call 604-946-3074.
The club will also host the Cascadia Masters Regatta on July 23 and 24.