Why Try Rowing? - Led by rowers of color for families of color

January 18, 2021 (MLK Day), 12:00 PM CST


Aquil Abdullah, Olympic Oarsman

Denise Aquino, National Inclusion Program Manager, George Pocock Rowing Foundation

David Banks, Olympic Oarsman

Richard Butler, 1st African American Executive Director of a Rowing Program in the US

Onyeka Onuagha, (Rutgers, '17) World University Championships Medalist, Olympic Hopeful

Elizabeth Walker, Coach, The Hockaday School

Ixchel McKinnie, Moderator, Co-Director, Power Ten / Lake Phalen Community Rowing


We are working on editing the full program, recorded January 18th, noon Central Time, for sharing. We want to give a big THANK YOU to all our participants and those who attended.


As we wait, here are some of the answers our panelist gave to the question, When was the moment you knew that rowing was for you?

"Being put in the boat with some other tall varsity rowers… At first we’re all working individually, but then, once we understood, 'Okay, no, you need to be a unit. We’re moving our legs together, we’re moving our arms, our backs, our heads together.'


"The first time--we talked about these oarlocks clicking?--you hear that, and the first time you get the blade in and you push, you feel the strength behind that. That first--those first--strokes. That’s what got me coming back to rowing again and again--and made me drop those other sports that I was doing." (Elizabeth Walker)

"I did not immediately fall in love with rowing... for me, I had friends who rowed in high school and I played other sports and I didn't think that rowing was a real sport.


"I really didn't know that much about it. I saw "Varsity Blues" or something [the very forgettable 1984 movie with Rob Lowe], and I was like: "You can row in jeans!?" It wasn't really my thing. But my senior year I decided to try it out because I had friends that did it, you know--we all like to hang out with our friends. I did my first 500 meter test and basically was violently ill afterwards. "Probably about two months in was when it clicked on me, when I had some ability to actually put the oar in the water without catching a crab and the team was starting to move, and I was out on the Potomac and there were deer over on the island--Roosevelt Island--and the oars were going--and that was when I had that moment of, just-- this is magnificent." (Aquil Abdullah)

"The first time I got in a boat was terrifying. I have always had a fear of open water, although I could swim, and just being in the big Allegheny River in this little skinny boat trying to get it off of the docks was actually terrifying with the other adults that were in the boat with me. But once you got out of our back channel here in Pittsburgh and the entire city of Pittsburgh is all around you and you’re seeing the city for the first time from the seat of a boat, that’s what hooked me: that idea of just getting away from all the noise within the city, it just became... serene and quiet." (Richard Butler)

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Lake Phalen Community Rowing aka Power Ten is a 501(c)(3) organization

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