Club Hosts Rowing Legend Arshay Cooper

This past Sunday, award-winning author and motivational speaker Arshay Cooper came to speak to the youth rowers in a socially distanced manner. As a former rower, he talked about how the sport of rowing changed his life. Growing up on the West Side of Chicago, Arshay witnessed things that kids should never have seen. But when he stumbled upon rowing by chance, he came to love the sport and the things he learned from it.

His story began in school when he saw a white boat in the cafeteria advertising the rowing team. He had no idea what it was, but after being convinced by some of his friends to join, he finally showed up to practice. Many of the people there had never been in the water before, but were willing to try rowing, a sport that most of them had never heard of before. But they learned how to erg, they learned how to row, and most importantly, they learned to be a team. Arshay and his teammates were able to bond over their love of rowing, putting aside their differences to row together in the boat. He spoke about how being a team and rowing in the same boat together brought a unified sense of calm and security where they didn’t have to worry about everything else going on in their lives. And although they faced challenges along the way, both physical and mental, their coach always said: you have to give what hurts. So they did. They showed the world that they could overcome adversity while doing what they loved.

Arshay became the captain of the first all African-American high school rowing team at Manley High School. His experiences motivated him to write his memoir, Suga Water and self-publish it in 2015 so he could raise awareness and help bring rowing into communities like his. Now, he is republishing his story with Macmillan, and the documentary “A Most Beautiful Thing” is set to come out on July 10th. Below is a brief interview with Arshay: 

Q: What is your favorite part about rowing?

A: My favorite part of rowing is really the team aspect. Just being in a boat, moving together. And the bond outside of the boat, losing together, winning together, it’s a bond you create for life. 

Q: What advice would you give to people who are new to the sport of rowing?

A: The opportunities for young people in the sport of rowing is the reason why people are sold on the sport. There are no pep rallies, there are no cheerleaders, but what you do find is people who show up every day because they get the chance to travel and scholarship opportunities. You have a lot of fun travelling, being in the water, and it’s a guarantee that you’ll be around those people for the rest of your life. 

Q: What advice would you give to people who are seasoned rowers?

A: My coach said this to me, I’ll never forget it. He said: you have to give what hurts. So my advice for young people is that when you’re on the erg, and it’s getting tough, you have to understand that it hurts. No pain no gain. To see the results you want to see, you have to give what hurts. You have to train yourself mentally as much as physically. 

Q: What motivated you to write a book about your experiences?

A: The lack of opportunities in communities like mine. You have a sport that wants more diversity, and then you have a neighborhood like mine with not many opportunities, so I wanted to bridge that gap. 

Q: How has the diversity and inclusion in rowing changed from when you rowed to now?

A: It has gotten a little better, mainly in major cities like Chicago, New York, Philly. It just needs some more exposure but honestly I think that it can be a lot better. We just need more coaches that are passionate to see the sport diversify. It’s definitely a lot different now 20 years later, but there’s still a lot of work to do. 

Q: There is currently a waitlist for Concept 2 ergs. Do you think this quarantine will spur a new generation of rowers? 

A: I think so. We don’t know in certain cities if you are going to be able to play contact sports, and the erg is perfect because you can sit 6ft apart and race virtually and compete against other teams. You can’t put tanks or boats in schools, but you can put ergs, and I think that’s the start of something great. 

NPBRC Looks forward to hosting Mr. Cooper again soon!

State Championships Yield Top Finishes, Medals

North Palm Beach Rowing Club’s Youth team wrapped its 2019 spring season with the two crowing events of the regular racing slate, the Florida State Sculling and Sweep Championships. Held as two separate regattas for each discipline of rowing, these two events bring together every top youth rower in Florida for two weekends of fierce competition. NPBRC emerged with two State Championship medals and a total of six Grand Final qualifications and two Petite Final appearances out of nine entries overall, indicative of a program that consistently outperforms many, many others in the state.

For context, Florida youth rowing is already one of the toughest competitive fields in the country. With a total of 52 member programs – larger than almost any other state – Florida athletes routinely qualify for the USRowing Youth National Championships and, in recent years, have begun to dominate the podium across many boat categories. For a relatively young team overall – this was the first State Championship appearance for several North Palm Beach rowers – NPBRC’s success at this year’s States is all the more impressive.

Special congratulations are due to NPBRC’s two medalists, Finn Yorty with bronze in the Boys’ Junior 1x and Whitney Young with silver in the Girl’s Junior 1x. These two races routinely deliver some of the most exciting and gutsy racing, and this year was no exception. Finn finished hot on the trail of Belen Jesuit and Sarasota, two of the state’s most established teams, while Whitney pressed last year’s winner all the way to the line. Kudos are also due to graduating senior Blake Pegrum, who capped an already impressive high school career with a 5th place finish overall. These weren’t the only noteworthy achievements, though. At every turn, NPB athletes coupled nearly flawless form with incredible grit, perseverance, and teamwork – all the while, adding to a valuable knowledge bank of experience for the future.

Two rowers, Whitney Young and graduating senior Lauren Arrington, competed just two weeks later in a pair (2-) at the Florida State Sweep Championships, also in Sarasota. The 2- is arguably the most challenging boat category to row since it requires such perfect balance and timing between the two rowers. After just 8 practices together, Whitney and Lauren fought their way through a tough field to qualify for the Grand Final, where they placed 6th in the state. Being able to switch into a new boat and perform this well is a testament to the girls’ fitness, technical skill, and adaptability.

The team will now look ahead to the Southeast Regional Championship in Oak Ridge, Tennessee May 11th and 12th and to several other elite races this summer. NPBRC will host an Open House on Saturday, June 1st for the public to learn more about this sport, and will also hold a summer camp for aspiring rowers from June 4th-13th.

Masters Make World Championship Debut

At the peak of a hot Florida summer, North Palm Beach Rowing Club’s “masters” team – in rowing, this refers to adults over age 23 – seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make its World Championship debut on US soil. For the first time ever, the FISA World Masters Championship was held in Florida at Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park – a new, sprawling top-notch international rowing venue just a four hour drive from NPBRC’s home base. This was an opportunity not to be missed.

Eleven stalwart NPBRC athletes joined competitors from 365 other clubs around the world for a shot at the coveted title of World Champion. Competitors came from as far away as Australia, Argentina, India, Russia, and nearly everywhere in between. South Africans. Swiss. Japanese. The international representation was absolutely staggering, a virtual United Nations of the rowing world. Within the US, this race drew top talent from our country’s most renowned and storied clubs. The venue was packed with every age, shape, and size imaginable: former elite athletes mingling with octogenarians, new racers soaking it in alongside some of the most recognizable names in rowing. When it was all said and done, when the burn of lactic acid was done and hearts and lungs returned to a more sustainable pace, NPBRC’s rowers left the racecourse with one third place finish, multiple fourth place finishes, and many other hard-fought races under their belts, experience that has only heightened the team’s hunger for more and sharpened skills for seasons to come.

Regardless of the outcome, one fact stands out. North Palm Beach took to the field when many others dared not.

Opportunity seen. Opportunity seized.

Second NPBRC Rower invited to Jr. National Team Camp

North Palm Beach Rowing Club athlete Gracie Leon has become the second NPBRC rower this season to be invited to a USRowing Junior National Team Development Camp. Gracie began rowing with NPBRC in 2016. According to USRowing, she was invited based on several factors, including her many wins this year (the Southeast Regional Championship as one example, in which she won two gold medals), her ergometer score, and her proven potential.

As stated in USRowing’s invitation letter, the purpose of this Development Camp is to identify future hopefuls for the 2018 and 2019 US Junior National Team and increase the pool of available athletes from which to choose future National Team competitors. Gracie is one of only 24 girls from across the United States selected to attend this camp, which focuses on singles (1x), doubles (2x), and quads (4x). USRowing’s goal is to “identify athletes with potential early in their rowing careers and put them in an environment where they can learn and grow in the sport. This will help them better understand the process for contending for a World Championship.”

We are very proud of Gracie’s accomplishment and the incredible results that our coaching staff, parents and teammates have produced in such a short time.


NPBRC Qualifies for Youth National Championship

The North Palm Beach Rowing Club medaled in 3 out of its 5 events at USRowing’s Southeast Youth Championship Regatta, May 13- 14 on Lake Lanier in Gainesville GA. This race drew 41 clubs from FL, SC, NC, AL, GA, and TN competing for a chance to qualify for the National Championship regatta in June.

NPBRC’s Gracie Leon won a gold medal and a trophy in the Womens Youth 1x.  With this win in a “qualifying race” against the best high school rowers in the Southeast region, Gracie is now invited to race at the US Rowing Youth National Championship Regatta, June 9-11 in Sarasota, Florida. Only the top three women in the 1x race from the SE region advanced to Nationals.  This is the first time that any NPBRC rower has won that honorGracie also won a gold medal that same day in the Women’s U17 race.

Kolton Paxson, who was recently invited to Junior National Team Development Camp this summer, won a third place medal this weekend in the Mens U17 race.

Aryanna Ramsey and Madison Chuchla finished 5th out of 14 boats in the Womens Lightweight 2x “qualifying level” race, a great accomplishment for both young oarswomen after a very competitive “time trial” on Saturday.


NPBRC Rower Invited to Jr. National Team Development Camp

North Palm Beach Rowing Club is proud to announce that one of our youth team rowers, Kolton Paxson, has accepted an invitation to participate this summer in the 2017 USRowing Junior Men’s National Team Development Camp. He will be one of only 30 rowers from across the United States to have been invited to this camp. The rowers were selected at USRowing’s Identification Camps held throughout the country earlier this year.

Junior Men’s National team Coach John Cohen says that “Camp will take place at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, with the goal of helping all athletes become better prepared for the rigors of international racing. This camp is the perfect stepping stone for those athletes who are serious about training at a high level, and taking the first step toward one day representing the United States at the World Championships.” Kolton said “I am honored and humbled for the opportunity to train at the US Rowing Men’s Junior National Development Camp to improve my skill as a rower.”

Kolton, age 16, learned to row at NPBRC just six months ago but has quickly developed into a talented oarsman, most recently finishing fourth at the 2017 Florida State Sculling Championships. He will continue to compete throughout the summer both in the US and internationally.


Girls Jr 1x Silver Medal and Great Success at Sculling State Championship

The North Palm Beach Rowing Club finished the regular season with the club’s best-ever results at the Florida State Sculling Championship, held April 8-9th in Sarasota, FL. Five of the club’s six boats entered advanced, with three to Finals and two to Petite Finals. Of those 5 boats, all finished at least 8th or above in the entire state. As you read the results, bear in mind that every single one of the talented rowers named is in their first year of rowing….so the future is looking very bright for our young team.


Boys Junior 1x Kolton Paxson (center) and teammates enjoying the regatta

NPBRC’s Gracie Leon, age 16, earned a SILVER medal in the Girls’ Junior 1x, making her the second fastest junior (11th grade and below) sculler in Florida. With poise and grit, Gracie finished with a time of  6:58.8, just 4.3 seconds off of Jacksonville and a full 16 seconds faster than the next boat in the pack. Gracie’s winning streak began at her first regatta in the fall of 2016. She has medaled in every regatta she’s raced in this year.

NPBRC’s Kolton Paxson, age 16, won his Boys Junior 1x Heat in a commanding fashion to enter Sunday’s Final, where he placed 4th against the fastest junior boys’ scullers in the state. Kolton finished in 6:25.6, a solid finish for a rower who, like the rest of his teammates, continues to add speed with each and every practice.

Our Girls Lightweight (LW) 2x of Aryana Ramsey and Madison Chuchla, ages 17, advanced from their first Heat to a Repechage on Saturday. Their “first place” finish in the Repechage guaranteed them a spot in Sunday’s Final. In a barn-burner of a race that ended in a photo finish, the girls finished 4th in the state – just one tenth of a second off of securing a bronze medal.


Girls LW 2x, Aryana Ramsey and Madison Chuchla


Boys LW 1x, Dominic Pagan

Our Boys LW 1x, Dominic Pagan, 17, also advanced through a tough heat and a Repechage on Saturday to qualify for Sunday’s Petite Final. Dominic won the Petite Final handily, betting the 2nd place finisher by 5.3 seconds and placing 7th in the state with a time of 6:49.1.

Facing a fierce field of 21 entries, NPBRC’s Boys Freshman 2x of Grafton Gore (14) and Jonah Kotzen (16) fought their way through a Heat and Repechage on Saturday to qualify for the Petite Final on Sunday, where they finished 2nd. Their time of 6:24.8 put them 8th in the state of Florida overall.


Boys Freshmen 2x, Grafton Gore and Jonah Kotzen


Girls Freshmen 2x, Marcella Adams-Grimaldi and Summer Scott

Our Girls Freshman 2x duo of Marcella Adams-Grimaldi (15) and Summer Scott (16) also raced in one of the most competitive events of the regatta against a field of 14 boats. The girls finished 7th in their heat, narrowly missing a chance to advance to the repechage.

Special thanks go to our parents and coaches, without whom none of this success would be possible. This is just the start for NPBRC’s young team. Commitment, character, sound coaching and the indelible bonds of friendship make this a truly exceptional team. Quite a few NPBRC rowers will continue to train in our Summer Rowing Session and compete throughout the summer in races around North America. NPBRC will also offer a summer camp for new rowers (no experience required) from June 5th-16th, followed by continued training for novices throughout the summer. It is truly never too late to pick up an oar!

NPBRC Medals at Miami International Regatta

NPBRC’s juniors earned several medals at the Miami International Regatta, held Saturday, March 25 in Miami, FL. The day’s racing was a test of skill and stamina with winds up to 25 mph during the races, but NPBRC’s team pressed on undaunted by the rough water, racing singles, doubles, and quads with quiet, focused composure through the chop. Congratulations to all our rowers!

Of special note were the gold medals won by the girl’s novice quad. Our girls took an early lead and just kept pushing themselves to beat the second place winner by a whopping 30 seconds!  The entire NPBRC squad performed phenomenally, as also shown by our Boys Freshman 2x who brought home bronze medals in a fantastic race. Hard work and a special coach are charting  a bright future for this incredible team.

NPBRC will next race April 8th and 9th at the Florida State Sculling Championship in Sarasota.

Youth Team Dominant In Early Races

In three consecutive weekends of racing this February, North Palm Beach Rowing’s youth team left no doubt that it stacked on some impressive speed this winter. In the first regatta of the spring, a Novice-only race in Orlando, NPBRC’s new rowers – many of whom had been rowing for only a few weeks – displayed maturity and oarsmanship far beyond their years, returning with multiple medals including:

  • 1st place, Men’s Novice Double
  • 2nd place, Men’s Novice Double
  • 2nd place, Men’s Novice Quad
  • 3rd place, Women’s Novice Double
  • 3rd place, Men’s Freshmen Double
  • 3rd place, Men’s Novice Quad

Boys’ team medalists at the 2017 Novice Regatta in Orlando, FL. NPBRC’s girls team also garnered medals (not shown).

 In the inaugural American Youth Cup I on February 17th, a series of three 2,000 meter races new to the Florida spring racing slate, NPBRC won gold in the girls’ 1x  and fielded both girls and boys quads and doubles against tough competition. Each of these races saw crews battle unusually rough water conditions the length of the course, but NPBRC’s boats gained invaluable experience that will pay huge dividends later this season.


Several of NPBRC’s 2017 American Youth Cup I rowers after a long day of races

The 8th annual Sarasota Invitational Regatta (SIR) was held at the Nathan Benderson Park, site of the 2017 World Rowing Championships, on February 24-26. This three-day premier regatta attracts more than 1600 athletes 75 clubs and 3500 spectators from across the United States. The Sarasota Invitational is a 1500 meter “sprint” race which is typical of spring season rowing. Against some stiff competition, North Palm Beach Rowing’s Junior Team performed exceptionally well, with results that included:

  • 1st Place: Mixed Quad
  • 2nd Place: Women’s Single
  • 2nd Place: Women’s Double
  • 3rd Place: Mixed Quad

The team will compete in the OARS Invitational in Orlando on March 11.


Resounding Success by NPBRC at Head of the Giblet Regatta

Results from this past weekend’s Head of the Giblet regatta in Orlando, Florida are in….and they are impressive. The North Palm Beach Rowing Club’s youth rowing team won a staggering 6 GOLD medals, 2 SILVER medals, and 3 BRONZE medals at what is historically one of the biggest fall races in Florida. Our masters, meanwhile, brought home an additional BRONZE medal – icing on the cake for an overwhelmingly successful regatta by any measure, even if that measure is the camaraderie and fun had by parents, masters, and juniors alike. Even more noteworthy than the victories themselves were the wide margins our boats built stroke by stroke over the competition in the course of this tough 5000m race. This is truly where our team’s fitness, focus, and hard work this fall paid off.

There are no individuals in this sport, regardless of the event. Each success on the race course is made possible by the teammates and coaches who push, develop, and mentor our rowers to their best. Well done to ALL of the NPBRC team. You have made us proud.