We all love Lake Norman (especially those of us who live on it), and Lake Wylie, and the quiet little Mountain Island Lake, but the river connecting those three bodies of water is just as much a local treasure. The Charlotte-area stretch of the Catawba is an uncommonly serene section of the 220-mile-long river, and the Belmont Rowing Center seems to be taking full advantage of that fact.
Nestled on the Catawba between Wylie’s northern reaches and Mountain Island Dam, the nonprofit watersports center is currently located at Belmont Riverside Marina, on the edge of the quiet (but swiftly developing) little town. Using the natural calmness of the this section of the river—”the best water for rowing in this region,” according to BRC President Jude Starrett—Belmont Rowing Center has been encouraging and growing participation in the sport in. And the outdoors-loving folks behind the center are show real passion and drive for this mission.
“Rowing doesn’t have a real stronghold in this region,” Starrett explains. “BRC’s plan is to change that, and establish a thriving, diverse rowing program for youth and adults. Rowing programs are growing around the country, and the opportunity to row in college isn’t only available at the Ivy League schools anymore. Boats, oars and equipment are expensive – both to acquire and to maintain, but this doesn’t need to be an elitist sport. BRC strives to set reasonable prices for its rowing programs so that it is not prohibitively expensive when compared to the value received.
It’s true: The sport has long been associated with Ivy League education, rendering it somewhat inaccessible—at least, that’s been the perception. BRC looks to break those stereotypes. The center offers learning-to-row and competitive rowing classes for both youths and adults, in addition to recreational options, summer camps, indoor rowing, and even adaptive rowing for people with physical and mental challenges. All of this may not be quite as feasible in another area, though, Starrett admits.
“We are so blessed to live in an area of the country that provides so many outlets for outdoor physical activity and a climate that permits participation in many of them nearly year-round,” she explains. There are only a few months when we can’t row on the Catawba River due to the temperature. And, unlike up north, there will never be a day when we have to dispatch a launch to break ice in order to create a channel for the boats. So that’s a plus.