Thomas Sykes for Press
Whether it’s a crew bombarding the flats of the Gulf or a lifeguard boat being smashed by the waves, rowboats are to the Jersey coast what football is to Texas.
The United States Rowing Association, now known as USRowing, has added a new category to the sport. Coastal Rowing is an open water wavecraft that zips through the waves. The new class of rowing is partly inspired by the historic lifeguard races of South Jersey, the birthplace of surfboarding.
Held on the sandy beaches of Atlantic and Cape May counties, lifeguard races have built a family of rowing champions, local lifesavers who have become surfing legends. There were Swift, Smallwood, Funks, Frankel, Fox, Howarth, Bergman, McCann, Graves, Goodis and Garbatz.
With the International Olympic Committee considering endorsing coastal rowing as a sanctioned event by the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, USRowing set its sights east on the Garden State Parkway. There, he finds his program coordinator, Daniel Garbutt, a former National Crew member of his team and a lifeguard for the Ocean City Beach Patrol.
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“Now it’s beyond the art of flatwater rowing. You have to know the ocean,” says Garbutt, former South Jersey singles rowing champion and current head coach of the Old Dominion University women’s crew team. I was. “This sport is similar to the traditional and unique surf boat races in our area.”
Surf boats have been built in Atlantic City since the country’s earliest days. Before the 19th century and into her 19th century, the Van Sant shipyards in Gardner’s Basin built “Jersey Whalers”, suitable for the waves when fighting the British for fishing and cargo transport, or as local privateers. Did. In 1849, the first lifesaving station with a lifeboat was opened on the site of what is now the Ocean Casino. In 1881, the year after the boardwalk was expanded and the Camden-Atlantic City railroad opened, the resort town established the early Atlantic City Beach Patrol, also staffed by volunteers using rowboats. The South Jersey Lifeguard Rowing Championship began here in 1924, and for the past 60 years the Vanduin family has built the lifeguard boats used in his patrols of most Jersey coast beaches.
“Surf boats have always been a South Jersey thing, navigating well in and out of waves,” Garbutt said. “It’s a job, it’s a fun sport, it’s a culture.”
Coastal rowing has been practiced since the 1980s, both in the United States and in international non-Olympic competition, but only in the 4,000 and 6,000 meter races. It was in his 2019 that China hosted its first World Champion Beach Sprint. Go 1v1 through the waves from the sand, paddle around the flag for 250 meters and finish by sprinting down the beach. Categories range from singles to doubles, quads, men’s, women’s and mixed with three rounds of racing each. France, Spain, China and more have already poured this high-performance sport through their current national teams.
USRowing could no longer resist.
Garbutt was hired last April, and he and USRowing moved quickly into June’s time trial in Sarasota, Florida.
“We had an incredibly high performing athlete, both under-19s and seniors (ages 19-40), from all kinds of clubs and schools across the country. It just means there weren’t a lot of people with it, it was just Flatwater.”
“You have to know the ocean, but flat water technique is a must,” said David Funk, a certified inshore boat coach and captain of the Bentner Beach Patrol.
“Our local school crew program is as highly regarded as our lifeguard racing history. The action sport that bridges the two is inspiring to the rowing community at large,” says 10. said the two-time South Jersey Rowing Champion.
“Lifeguard boats are the tools we use in surfing,” he explained. “Coastal rowboats are fast racers.”
Single coastal boats are about 19 feet long, larger than typical lifeguard boats, doubles are about 23 feet, and quads are 35 feet and 309 pounds. They are longer, wider and closer to the water.
“Unlike Van Duin’s lifeboats, coastal boats have crewshell elements such as fixed oars, sliding seats and curved oar blades. Lifeguards aren’t taught that,” he said for 16 years. Funk, mainland crew coach and now deputy captain of the Margate Fire Brigade, added. When it comes to the ocean, it’s all about training and experience, otherwise it can be dangerous.It’s thrilling, but it’s also dangerous.”
That’s why USRowing staff member and former Spanish national rower Marc Oria led the team to the shores of Barcelona for three weeks of intensive training.
“Without a fully funded program yet, athletes were forced to train on their own and many didn’t live on the coast,” Garbutt said. And the Spanish team had already seen the tapes of the South Jersey Lifeguard Championships, and I was proud, ‘That’s us’, I thought. I was.
In September, the first USRowing Coastal Beach Sprints team headed to Portugal for the World Championships.
“We competed in seven of the eight events, winning silver in the mixed junior doubles and bronze in the senior mixed quads. Things are starting to show up.”
Locals like Tom McCann are destined for building coastal rowing and grooming the best in the world right here in South Jersey.
The author, McCann, retired as principal of Vineland, was a lifeguard for life, and spent 40 years at Sea Isle, Ventner, Wildwood, Upper Township, and even Florida before creating the crew program for Vineland High School. Patrolled the beaches of Hollywood. He, Garbutt, Funk and Sea Isle City’s Tom Feaster are former US Rowing presidents and launched the South Jersey Rowing Club’s Coastal Rowing Chapter.
Their joint board of directors includes many local legends, including Margate’s John Swift and Daniel Adams, Ocean City’s Joseph Grimes and Brigantine’s Joseph Gunther. These former champions of crew and lifeguard racing all share the same goal. It’s about developing traditions, giving everyone a chance to paddle in the surf and developing South Jersey’s competitors at the highest level.
“We are already able to send team members of lifeguards and crews who can win international gold medals,” McCann said. young people, elementary school kids, kids no longer need to be lifeguards or boat crews, clubs no longer need expensive 8’s and boathouses, we want to bring that to everyone. I have.”
USRowing expects other communities on the East and West Coasts to follow suit with their own clubs.
Today, the organization’s unofficial headquarters is Doc Holland’s Boathouse in Ventner Heights, leaving the inconvenience of hauling a boat ashore for use. But Stephen Downey, the chief of Atlantic City’s beach patrol, foresees a potential new club and a historically appropriate home.
“What we consider ours is an exciting blend of sports. It’s open. Between ACPD and Stockton Police is a safer range for equipment with good beach access and an open area launch away from beachgoers,” Downey said.
ACBP has 44 active lifeguard boats, but McCann and USRowing face the opposite problem.
“No boats,” said Garbutt. “They aren’t made in America and aren’t mass-produced for us yet.”
“It’s all about the mold,” explains Funk. “These are not your typical fiberglass. They are composite.
McCann hopes to acquire at least two inshore rowing doubles by the summer, but USRowing needs more than that.
“Last year we were fortunate enough to be able to rent over a dozen boats from Coastal Rowing USA in Florida,” Garbutt said. He’s all about spreading the word and finding support. ”
Nationally and locally, Garbutt and McCann share the same mission. Both would love to see contests and sponsored events in Atlantic City.
“Surf boat racing is always fun. Local competitions and sponsored events may help bring tourists to town,” he said. “Boat rowing on the coast may also interest our work as lifeguards. We can always recruit a more qualified candidate. did.”
As for Garbutt, his sights are set on the upcoming US Rowing team.
“Our immediate focus is to get the best and win the 2022 Worlds in Wales,” said Garbutt. “There is nothing better than riding a wave and winning, and I hope that our national team will be carried shoulder to shoulder, arms up, gold medals around their necks, carried off the beach, and rescued on the way.” added “South Jersey Style.”