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Holston Rowing Club hopes to grow sport in Tri-Cities

Serina Marshall • Jun 6, 2019 at 11:10 AM

On a lake nestled between scenic mountains and skies, you will find a group out enjoying the views while investing in their passion.

The Holston Rowing Club is comprised of about a dozen members who get together during the warmer months to take part in the sport of rowing on Patrick Henry Lake at Warriors' Path State Park. Led by club president Joel Vincent, they meet to enjoy the water and the camaraderie of a sport they love.

A local rowing club (known as the Tri-Cities Rowing Club) was part of a previous effort on Boone Lake, but once the lake was drawn down, the idea was put on pause. The Tri-Cities Rowing Club was Joel's first contact with rowing in our region. From there, he met people at Eastman with the same passion for rowing who weren't willing to wait for Boone Dam to be repaired. This shared enthusiasm motivated the group to start what is now the Holston Rowing Club.

The first meeting of the Holston Rowing Club included only four people who had been drawn there by word of mouth. Soon, word spread and the club grew to include Eastman and non-Eastman members and extended from Kingsport to Johnson City to Bristol.

"We are very inclusive," said Joel. "It is our goal to include all people - with or without rowing experience. In future years we plan to offer training opportunities and classes for those individuals who are new to rowing." The club wants everyone of all skill levels to be involved and encourages those who want to learn to reach out.

"We want to share this beautiful sport and show the Tri-Cities community all that rowing has to offer," Joel explained.

Unlike most people exposed to rowing, Joel didn't row in college. He was introduced to it by his dad who was part of a college rowing team. "He had a double rowing shell when we lived in Texas and that got me interested. It was always something I wanted to pursue." After college, Joel joined a club of fellow rowers in Houston, and wanted an opportunity to recreate that experience when he relocated to Kingsport. So, he reached out to Kingsport Mayor John Clark, a former rower himself, to pitch the idea for a rowing club.

Clark met with members of the club and put them in touch with Warriors' Path State Park where the Holston Rowing Club was given a place to live.

"The partnership with Warriors' was a huge step forward," Joel said. "We are so grateful for the support we have gotten from the city and the park. The lakes around here are great rowing lakes. You need flat water and shelter from the wind, which Patrick Henry provides. It also is a deep lake which keeps us free from obstacles such as sandbars and timber. And you can't beat the scenery."

Park Manager Sarah Leedy is thrilled to have the rowing club at Warriors' Path.

"The park's relatively gentle shoreline around Duck Island combined with existing parking and extensive recreational facilities naturally lends itself to this type of boating recreation," Leedy said.

"Warriors' Path has a tradition of offering or hosting a wide variety of recreational sports like golf, boating, disc golf, soccer, and mountain biking. Most of these activities came about in the same way as the Holston Rowing Club; a group of hard-working folks had an idea and the volunteer spirit to get organized and carry it through."

Rowing is a sport, just like track or running. It "balances power, mental discipline, form and teamwork," Joel explained. "It is an Olympic sport that is rich in international history. There currently is a resurgence of interest in rowing that is partially fueled by the popularity of full body fitness programs, like CrossFit. Rowing works the core, shoulders, legs and arms. It is non-impact and you can do it with less risk of injury.”

There is also an elegance in rowing that comes from form, coordination and the physical allure. And the practice is what gets you there. If done right, it is like a dance on the water.

“Rowing is not just about fitness” begins Joel, “When you are out on the lake with a crew of rowers putting oar to water, you feel like you are flying! It’s this combination of environment and teamwork that makes people passionate about rowing.”

Eventually, the Holston Rowing Club would love to see a youth program develop in the Tri-Cities and for the region to host an actual regatta some day. Down the road, they hope to have their own boat house. The club raises money for their equipment and also takes any donations offered to help them continue to build the club. “We are thrilled to have an fantastic place to row and we are excited about bringing this exceptional sport to our area” Joel says.

To learn more, contact Joel Vincent at [email protected] You can also check out the club's website at holstonrowingclub.com or follow Holston Rowing Club on Facebook.

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