Arts & Culture
4:16 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Rowers to Converge on Milwaukee River

Milwaukee will be flooded with row teams from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois on September 21st.
Credit Michael Pereckas/Flickr

Lake Effect's Mitch Teich interviews Alyssa Remington, race director of the 2013 Milwaukee River Challenge.

Rowing: it's a sport you either love or hate. But either way, it's making a splash in Milwaukee this weekend.

On Saturday, some of the top rowers in the country, including members of the U.S. national team, will take to the Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers for the 13th annual Milwaukee River Challenge.

Regatta Director Alyssa Remington says 140 teams from areas including Wisconsin, the Twin Cities and Chicago will be participating in this year’s event.

When Remington participated in the first year of the challenge back in 2000, more college-aged teams participated. Today, she says there are more high school teams, as young athletes have turned to rowing to stay active during basketball’s off-season and build teamwork.

Remington says the sport is challenging because it often requires four hours of doing the same motion nonstop. And Wisconsin teams face an additional challenge with the weather; most teams in the state practice indoors during the winter months, but with that comes no change in scenery.

But those who love to row look on the bright side.

"What draws you to it is also the sound of the oars in the water in the morning, seeing the sunrise and sometimes the sunset, and just the amount of hard work you're putting in with your teammates," says Remington, who is also Economic Development Specialist for the City of Milwaukee's Department of City Development.

Remington says rowing can be compared to long-distance running, working the legs and the back, then the arms at the end. Rowers also need to develop a high level of determination, focus, and the ability to push past the pain.

Rowers who are tall with a big build benefit because they have more leverage. But that's reversed for the coxswain (pronounced “cockson”), who is the leader of the boat. A person with a smaller build can better fit the seat and direct, command and motivate the rowers.

This year's race will start at 25th and Menomonee, traveling down the Milwaukee River to Schlitz Park.