Pulling for each other | Community sports feature

Sammamish Rowing Association a gathering place for fitness, competition

Over the years, Jennie Proby has bought any number of gifts for her mother Marilyn.

But several years ago, when she and her brother fulfilled a longtime dream of their mother’s by getting her in a rowing skull for the first time through a beginner class with Sammamish Rowing Association, neither knew it would come to shape their lives together in the coming years.

“We thought she wouldn’t like it at all, and that would be the end of it,” Jennie said. “She went through this huge transformation over the course of a year.”

From the learn to row class offered to those with no prior initiation to the sport, Marilyn continued to progress on competitive rowing teams with SRA and is currently part of the team headed to regionals in Vancouver, Wash. later this week.

Daughter Jennie, who resisted getting in a boat even as she lived in a house full of crew members at the University of Washington, finally caved-in to her mother’s insistence and took a learn to row class five years ago after joining her at the same regatta the team is headed to this weekend.

“There were thousands of competitors and sandy beaches,” Jennie said. “Over the course of the three days, I got sucked in.”

From the beginning class she moved to instructing and coaching before becoming the executive director of the association in 2012.

She said the opportunity to find an outlet for fitness in a team setting was what separated crew from other sports.

“You’re only as strong as the weakest person in your boat,” she said. “It is truly a team sport.”

While SRA has been offering introductory rowing classes since shortly after the group was formed in 1996, Jennie said their popularity has grown exponentially and are of course especially popular during the warmer months. For Aimee Woolwine, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom from Kirkland, joining SRA has been nothing short of life-changing.

Woolwine described herself as “mostly sedentary” before she began a doctor-led weight loss program to regain her body’s functionality and two years ago, after losing a significant amount of weight, she was looking for a fitness regiment that would keep her from hitting a plateau without placing stress on her injured knee.

“I used the rowing machine in the gym and thought I should try it,” Woolwine said after a recent SRA practice. “The machine is difficult, but stable. The boat has the issue of water, teammates, the oars moving and a lot more to think about.”

As it has for Jennie Proby, working with teammates has been one of the things that gets Woolwine back in the boat. After never playing team sports during her youth or as an adult, Woolwine said the motivation from knowing others are counting on her was something she never found in the gym.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “There is a lot of trust, knowing everyone is relying on you to do your job.”

Get in a boat

Sammamish Rowing Association (5510 West Lake Sammamish Parkway NE) offers both a one-day rowing class and an eight week long learn-to-row program for beginners or those with no background in the sport. Visit sammamishrowing.org for more information.

Jennie Proby (left) and mother Marilyn are heavily involved with SRA. JOSH SUMAN, ISSAQUAH-SAMMAMISH REPORTER