Gliding through Reeves Bay in a single-seat scull, 16-year-old Nathan Sandler makes the rowing look effortless, while at the same time he's getting a good workout.
The seat, which moves back and forth in the boat, allows for most of the rowing power to come from the legs. And keeping perfect form ensures that the boat moves fast without jerking or tilting.
"It's harder than it looks, but it's rewarding," Sandler says of the sport he picked up three years ago.
Sandler, a Bridgehampton resident who competed in this year's USRowing Club National Championships in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is part of the National Recreation Education Foundation's Peconic Community Rowing Association, a nonprofit organization designed to teach children and adults to row. With spectacular views of grassy isles and birds swooping overhead, the bay in Flanders is perfect for rowers.
"There's very little current to worry about," says the association's director, Michelle Zaloom, who has taught rowing for 10 years and raced in the Olympics at Barcelona in 1992 and at the 1996 games in Atlanta.
THE ART OF ROWING
After students do some on-the-ground training, mostly about safety, they learn about hoisting themselves inside the boat, keeping oars in place, rowing in rhythm and how to avoid tipping.
"It definitely makes you stronger," says Grace O'Shaughnessy, 16, of Riverhead, who's been rowing for five years and competes on the state level. "It builds a lot of muscle in your legs. And arms. But mostly your legs."
How fast can they go? It depends on the type of boat and experience and number of people in the crew, but Zaloom says, "I've seen one pull a water skier."
Instructor Kara Reese, 17, of East Moriches, takes to the bay in a small motorboat to teach and to make sure that rowers' oars aren't too deep in the water. Starting at Fairfield University in Connecticut this fall, she will be coxswain for the men's rowing team there.
"I wasn't into water sports," she says of her first rowing experience, "but when I got onto the water for the first time, I thought this was actually pretty cool. ... I feel like you try it once, and if it just hits you, then you are good to go."
Kids' rowing classes
WHEN | WHERE 3:45-5:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday (Sept. 8-Nov.1), Peconic Community Rowing Association, Route 24, Flanders (behind the Big Duck)
INFO $500; 631-807-6755, recreationeducation.org
Other Long Island rowing clubs offer fall programs, from recreational to more competitive sessions. Beginners are welcome.
Port Rowing, 828-367-7691, portrowing.com
Row out of Town of North Hempstead Beach Park, Port Washington. Classes from now until the first week of November; $700 for high school students, $600 for middle school students (plus trip fees for both) and $150 a month for adults or $20 per session.
Sagamore Rowing Association, 516-714-3247, sagamorerowing.org
Row out of Beekman Beach in Oyster Bay. Classes Sept. 6-Nov. 3; $750 for high school students, $550 for middle school students and $240 for adult "learn to row" sessions.
Sag Harbor Community Rowing, 631-267-6325, rowsagharbor.org
Run out of Amagansett Beach & Bicycle Co. in the coves around SagHarbor. Classes from Sept. 16 to mid-November; $199 for students, $249 for adults.
As students row, row, row their boats through the calm waters of Centerport, they also make time between motions to take in the beauty of their surroundings.
That's the typical scene at the weekly Saturday morning class for adults led by coaches from Long Island Rowing. At the classes, which are open to beginners and intermediates, students learn terminology, proper rowing technique, how to read tides and how water affects motion before stepping into club-provided boats. Assistant coach Shawn Dunn, 44, of Huntington, says students start rowing at the first class.
"We wanted to do something out of the box for us," says Jodie Schneider, 42, of Port Jefferson, who joined the class three months ago with fellow soccer mom Stacey Sartena, 48, of Smithtown. Head coach Anika Selle-Giehl "had us on the water the first day. It took some time to feel confident and coordinated, but once you do ..."
Adds Sartena: "I like that you're on your own, but with other people."
In addition to rowing, the class includes twice-weekly core fitness workouts at the organization's facility in Northport.
Long Island Rowing adult classes
WHEN | WHERE 9-11:30 a.m. Saturdays through October at Fleets Cove Beach, end of Fleets Cove Road, Centerport
INFO $225 per six-week session; 631-793-7038, lirowing.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org