Milwaukee River is home for powerful competitive rowers

Posted at 2:30 PM, Jul 22, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee River isn’t just a place to hang out.  For high school rowers, it’s more like home.

“I'm so lucky that I live here right by the river because I think if I lived anywhere else in Wisconsin, I wouldn't have been able to do this sport,” said high school rower Grace D’Souza.

“I consider this place like my second home,” said friend and high school rower Nora Fiorita with a laugh.  “I'm here more than I am at my house.”

But on the water, they have a job to do.

“It's power.  That's what moves boats,” said Director of Junior Rowing Roger Huffman.  “But it's also you have to have a little bit of finesse as well.”

So while it may not look like rigorous work, “the longer you row, the easier you can make it look,” he said.

It's demanding, requiring power from their legs and core.

“Rowing really demands everything from your body,” Grace explained.  “People don't really realize it's a full-body sport.”

“So a lot of people think like, 'Oh, rowing.  You must have really strong arms, but that's more if your kayaking or canoeing,’” Huffman added.

Coxswain Fiorita coordinates the boat.

“I'm kind of the coach of the boat,” she said.  “A lot of people look at coxswains and they kind of think we just yell, but we actually do steer the boat, too.”

And in the stroke seat, D'souza “sets the rhythm for the boat,” she described.  “They're kind of the leader and everyone else in the boat kind of follows them for the stroke and they set an intensity and pressure for throughout the piece.”

"There is no, like, real superstar in a given boat,” Huffman said.  “Somebody can be very good in a boat but that's not going to make the boat fast.  You need all nine girls, the coxswain included, to be on point and to be contributing in order for the boat to flow and for it to go quickly.”

And after all that work, then it's time to hang out or just rest.

“We go home and we'll probably nap after this,” D'Souza said with a laugh.