Case Study: Bristol Ariel RC

Rowing is not a sport without its fair share of issues but perhaps most acute of all is the lack of provision for those who simply want to enjoy the sport at their own pace. We have ample resources for high-performance, club competition and there are more schools and universities rowing in the UK than anywhere else in the world relative to the size of the country.

The obvious gap in the market is for people who want to jump in a boat, stay fit, recreationally row but not necessarily take their sporting career to loftier heights. Rowing is a sport that lends itself well to casual activity – pootling about in a boat on a fine summer’s afternoon is one of life’s great pleasures. Despite that, our sport has failed to entice a large chunk of the population onto the rivers and lakes that adorn our countryside and cities. This is something that British Rowing is proactively addressing and approached Oarsport (exclusive UK distributor for RowSUP) on how we may be able to work together to help clubs introduce more people to our sport.

That is where EasyRow comes in. Based out of Bristol Ariel Rowing Club, who boat on a beautiful stretch of the River Avon, this new British Rowing supported initiative is focused on encouraging people into rowing who may never have experienced or interacted with the sport before. Leveraging the RowSUP (inflatable SUP with removable rowing rig) participants can enjoy a taster session designed for beginners with friendly instructors who will guide every step of the way.

RowSUP Bristol

Julien Tavener, who has rowed for nearly 40 years at Bristol Ariel and helped to found EasyRow, spoke with us about the project. “About six years ago, we were the pilot club for GoRow Indoor,” he said. “That was all about getting more people into the sport and improving the diversity of the club. That has been very successful, and we have continued to run seven classes a week with a roster of coaching staff. We looked at that model and started to think about how we could get that onto the water.”

RowSUP Bristol

Over the past eight months, Julien and the team have been building the business plan for EasyRow and, as of June this year, they are operational and holding sessions on the Avon. There is a school program in the pipeline and early interest has been extremely promising. “The question we’re trying to solve is how do you widen participation in the sport without simply attracting more of the same people and sticking them in fine racing shells to compete on the domestic circuit,” explained Julien. “We get about 400 people a year email asking to have a go at rowing. I don’t care who they are or what they look like when it comes to EasyRow. I’m interested in finding people who don’t usually get opportunities in rowing.”

Success is easy for Julien to quantify. “I don’t want to uncover the next Olympian. I want people to come off the water, having enjoyed one of the best experiences of their life,” he said. “We had a guy come down a few weeks ago who had moved from Latin America to the UK for his job. He had no family or friends here but found our GoRow Indoor program and told me that this had changed his life. It wasn’t in a physical way, he meant it had given him a social circle, a sport, a place to come and feel comfortable and settled.”

RowSUP Bristol

When grappling with the right shell to put beginners into, Julien had a lightbulb moment when he came across Xeno Muller and his paddleboards. “I just thought that’s it – that is the thing we need. It ticks all the boxes – you can get people going quickly, it’s safe, fun and still demands refinement of the rowing motion. I got in touch with Oarsport to enquire about the RowSUP – it enables people to enjoy the sport but in a safe, smart way”.

EasyRow put in an order for seven RowSUPs, which allows the athletes to enjoy the benefits of sculling and stand-up paddle boarding in one stable package. “Oarsport has been incredibly supportive of the program so far,” commented Julien. “They gave us a good price on a bulk package, supported us throughout the sales process and have even put us in touch with other organisations to help us grow”.

RowSUP Bristol

Oarsport values initiatives that push the boundaries of our sport and drive home the mission statement that rowing is a pursuit that can and should be enjoyed by all adding to or enhancing the skill sets of balance, core, coordination, concentration, general fitness and mental health. We’re delighted to partner with EasyRow and look forward to seeing the brand grow in stature over the coming months and introduce more people into our wonderful and special sport and reap the obvious benefits.

Interested in the RowSUP? 

Please contact us to learn more about using the RowSUP for learn-to-row and recreational sessions in your club.