Life is stressful these days.
But hundreds gathered Saturday at Shoaff Park found a solution on the St. Joseph River.
G2 Rowing – formerly Glorious Gate Rowing Association – hosted Row the Mauma Jo, a regatta featuring teams of rowers from Indiana and Michigan. It's the first of what organizers said they hope will become an annual event in Fort Wayne.
Vivian Crews, a 15-year-old rower who is a freshman at Bishop Dwenger High School, said the sport provides a way to “zone out” and focus solely on the act of moving the narrow boat – a shell – through the water.
“It's so good to just turn off the stress of the day,” she said.
Jenna Lusk, 17, a Concordia Lutheran High School senior, competed with Crews on teams made up of students from Concordia, Dwenger, Homestead, Carroll and South Side high schools.
“For me, rowing is an escape,” she said.
The sport is growing in popularity.
U.S. Rowing, the governing body for the sport, says its membership of more than 75,000 has grown each year from 2013, when there were about 67,000 members nationwide. Nearly 53% of members are female, and the same percentage are 18 and younger, according to the group.
The Northeast claims the largest percentage – 28% – of rowers, and 15% are in the Midwest, according to statistics from U.S. Rowing.
John Hoham, G2 Rowing, wants to grow the sport locally and is working to raise $300,000 to build a rowing center on the river.
“We're the only game in the region,” he said.
The growing popularity was evident Saturday as rowers moved their craft down the river while onlookers on the riverbank cheered and rang cowbells.
“The rowing community across the country is very close-knit,” said Betsy Crews, Vivian's mother.