Glide gracefully


In gyms around the world, people are rowing. Their hands grasp handles that simulate oars, and they slide back and forth on seats anchored to pulleys. Their bodies become fitter, but rowing machines don’t do much to improve the soul.

Consider instead the workout experienced by members of the Palmetto Rowing Club: On a recent weekday, Broad Creek was calm, refreshed after a pre-dawn shower. At 8 a.m., the sun was warm but not hot, and a breeze moved over the rowers as they prepared to launch their boats. A blue heron sat on a piling, watching several men and women work together to carry the long, brightly colored sculls to the water and fit their oars in place. Because rowers face backward in their boats, club members almost glided past a pair of bottle-nose dolphins before they saw them.

“Dolphins,” one member called back to those still getting ready on the dock. “They’re moving your way.”

Oars dipping and skimming, the boats moved silently past the animals and toward the mouth of Broad Creek, fanning out across the water as each rower continued at his or her own pace. Some stroked quickly and surely. Others were still figuring out how to coordinate their movements.

“Learning to row is a commitment because most people require lessons,” said club president John Parker. “It takes time and practice to master the skill.”

For prospective new members, the first lesson is free. Subsequent lessons are $100, which includes as many lessons as they need to feel comfortable. Parker said most new members need three to five lessons to become competent rowers.

Palmetto Rowing Club members tout the cardio and strengthtraining benefits for their upper and lower body, abs and back.

“It's a lifetime exercise because there’s no impact,” Parker said.

The club also offers social opportunities and contemplative time spent outdoors.

“This is my morning meditation,” said Debbie Esposito, who continued to row between radiation and chemotherapy as she battled cancer. “Our club members are like family and everyone helps each other out. I’m sure staying rowing helped me recover.”

The Palmetto Rowing Club is one of the oldest athletic organizations on Hilton Head Island. Bill Killhour, a masters rowing champion who moved to Hilton Head from Philadelphia, founded the club in 1987 and helped bring varsity crew to Hilton Head Island High School. The club currently has 50 members ranging in age from 21 to 79.


Want to join the Palmetto Rowing Club? New and experienced rowers are welcome. Participants must be able to pass a swim test and lift 25 pounds. Boats are provided. For more information, email or go to