Taking to the waters of Lake Ontario, just half a kilometre from the finish line of the historic Royal Canadian Henley Regatta course, the rowers were racing for more than just pride of place, but the chance to represent their country in a few months’ time at the inaugural World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals.

“It’s such an amazing format of racing, the run, jumping into and out of the boat, the sprint, the buoys, the waves, it is an amazing experience,” says Aubrey Oldham. Oldham claimed top place in both the men’s solo and mixed double sculls boat classes with partner D’Arcy Arends. “There are so many variables that not only make it a fun challenge to race, but also a thrill to watch. I’m really looking forward to representing Canada at the inaugural World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals.”

“The beach sprints are like nothing I’ve experience before,” says Arends. “The short sprints and the intricate transitions make it an exciting race to participate in and to watch. Then racing for Canada is always a thrilling experience. It will be interesting to see how we match up against the other countries.”

Oldham and Arends, like most of the racers at the event, have little experience in coastal boats. For many, in fact, this regatta was their first time taking to the open water in the bigger boats. Yet the knock out racing made for an exciting event along with conditions that changed from rainy and clam to sunny and wavy.

The compact distance — a 250 metre slalom out from shore around three large buoys with a 250 metre dash straight back — combined with the excitement of a running sprint across the sand to start and finish the race makes beach sprints like nothing else in rowing.

“The Canadian Rowing Beach Sprints regatta was comprised of athletes with experience and athletes new to this discipline of rowing,” says Carol Purcer, President of Canada’s national rowing federation, Rowing Canada Aviron. “It was fun, exciting as well as challenging with some close finishes.

“This is an incredible opportunity to grow rowing in places where flat water rowing is not accessible,” she says. “It is my hope that we can establish Beach Sprint events across Canada.”

With only a few months to go until the first ever World Rowing Beach Sprints Finals in Shenzhen, China from 25-27 October 2019, the sport’s newest discipline is rapidly gaining popularity around the globe, something not lost on Canadian Beach Sprints Regatta Chair, Peter Cookson.

“I believe, given the success of this initial event, that open water rowing in this form has a place within the Canadian rowing landscape,” says Cookson, who also sits on the World Rowing Federation (FISA)’s Competitive Rowing Commission and serves as President of the Commonwealth Rowing Association.  “It is great that Canada can join in on this growing trend in the rowing world and I envision that there will many more of this type of event in the near future.”

For more information on the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals here.