Crew Camps in the Bay Area

Crew Camps in the Bay Area have become increasingly popular. In an age of increasing sports specialization at younger and younger ages, this may come as a surprise. Most rowers don’t come to the sport until at least middle school, when most programs start, or even into high school.

“We get a lot of kids who get burnt out on basketball or volleyball or swimming. That ultra-specialization drives kids out of sports so they’re looking for alternatives,” says Dana Hooper, executive director of Oakland Strokes, a 50-year-old youth rowing program and one of the region’s largest. But “you don’t have to be a successful athlete. We have people who have never done a sport or done much more than peewee baseball. They find their home here, and we teach them how to be athletes.”

Crew programs tend to start in middle school, or around age 11 or 12, “because there’s a certain size and strength you need to make the boat move,” says Hooper. But beyond that, novices don’t need to be particularly big or strong to participate, he says.

The Benefits of Rowing

“What rowing does particularly well is that there’s very much a one-to-one relationship between the effort you put into it and the success you get out of it. It teaches kids pretty early on how to be self-motivated, how to deal with success and failure, and how to commit to a thing and see it through the long haul,” says Hooper, whose program has about 250 participants. “It’s not an instant gratification sport. It’s sport you have to work at.”

“Those are the life lessons. But you don’t tell a middle schooler they’re going to learn life lessons,” he adds. “What they are into is being in this cooperative sport and moving though the water because it is so much fun.”

“There’s something magical about being in a boat and being in the water and making that boat move. It feels like you’re flying,” Hooper says.

The cooperative nature of the sport also really bonds kids to their teammates and many form strong, lifelong friendships, he says.

Summer is the perfect time to trying out rowing, and there are programs throughout the Bay Area that cater to those who have never picked up an oar, as well as rowers looking to strengthen their skills. 

“While rowing is not for everyone, anyone can be a rower,” says Hooper. “You get out of it what you put into it. The size of the person coming into the program rarely dictates their success. It’s how much work they’re willing to put into it.”

The following programs offer summer rowing camps:

Berkeley High Crew Summer Camps

One of the only Bay Area high schools with its own crew team, Berkeley High typically hosts learn-to-row summer camps for students ages 11 and up, no experience necessary.

Artemis Rowing Club

This Oakland rowing club typically offers weekly half-day camps for first-time rowers in sixth to twelfth grade at the Jack London Aquatic Center in Oakland. Beginner camps focus on sculling, with two oars per rower, and cover aspects of introductory rowing including boat handling, basic body conditioning and some video review.

Lake Merritt Youth Rowing

This recreational, non-competitive program gives students ages 13-18 a chance to learn to row on Oakland’s Lake Merritt and do so without joining a more time-intensive competitive team. In the summer, there are immersive, half-day recreational camps with a focus on fun.

Los Gatos Rowing Club Summer Rowing Camps

This rowing club has a variety of summer programs for middle and high schoolers on Lexington Reservoir just south of Los Gatos. They include junior learn-to-row camps as well as a middle school program for rowers with some experience and a competitive summer camp for high schoolers.

Marin Rowing Association Junior Rowing Summer Camps

Campers 12 years and up can participate in learn-to-row camps with no experience or move on to continuing skills camps on Corte Madera Creek in Greenbrae. Campers learn the basic strokes on rowing machines on land before moving to the water.

Norcal Crew

Norcal offers one-week, learn-to-row camps for students in grades 6-12 in Redwood City, as well as continuing skills camps. Campers are exposed to rowing, coxing, racing and land training, which includes running, using a rowing machine, stretching and core work.

Oakland Strokes

Oakland Strokes hosts summer camps for students ages 11 and up, entering grades 6-12, at both the Tidewater Aquatic Center in Oakland and on San Pablo Reservoir in Orinda. There are one-week camps for students completely new to rowing as well as for those who wants to improve their skills.

Pacific Rowing Club Summer Novice Development

This San Francisco rowing club typically offers two-week summer sessions for youth in sixth through twelfth grades, with no experience necessary. The program includes an introduction to the sport of rowing and physical fitness development, culminating in an intra-squad regatta.

Padre Summer Crew Camp

Junipero Serra High School offers an introduction to high school rowing for students entering grades 7-12 at Bair Island Aquatic Center in Redwood City. No experience is necessary, and the half-day camp introduces campers to both technical and physical elements of the sport, beginning on indoor rowing machines and progressing to eight-person shells on the water.

St. Ignatius Crew Camp

Rising fifth through eighth graders learn the essential components of rowing in afternoon half-day camps on San Francisco’s Lake Merced with the staff of St. Ignatius Crew.


This Month’s Top Family Activities

Have fun with your family with these July events taking place around the Bay Area. For even more items, visit our online calendar. 1 “Exploration Portal” Visit this...

Camps on Campus

Summer Programs Offer a Sneak Peek of College When summer break rolls around, many kids are perfectly content to leave school in the rearview mirror. But...

Questions to Ask Camp Directors

You’ve gone online, asked everyone you know for recommendations and searched for sleepaway camps for your kids. How do you find the one that’s just...

This Month’s Top Family Activities

Have fun with these top family activities taking place around the Bay Area this month. For even more items, visit our online calendar.  What's happening in January...

Follow us on Social Media


Most Popular