BY LUKE REYNOLDS
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
After nearly seven weeks of oars on racks and shells sitting listlessly in storage, boathouses in California and Oklahoma City are beginning to welcome rowers back to the boathouse on a conditional basis with a phased-in process.
Newport Aquatic Center (NAC), one of the first clubs to reopen, has opened its doors to “adult private boat owners” exclusively. According to an April 27 NAC news bulletin, the reopening will be “dependent on effective social distancing being observed.”
The reopening of the club comes during the continuation of a California statewide stay-at-home order. The order will remain until further notice according to the state health department website.
Additionally, the RIVERSPORT Foundation’s rowing program in Oklahoma City will begin a phased resumption of programming Saturday, May 9 according to head coach and high performance program coordinator, Reilly Dampeer. The initial phase of reopening will allow masters athletes to come back with restrictions.
Prior to the May 9 soft open, the staff will practice the logistics of getting rowers on the water with minimal contact Dampeer said. That will include having slings out, boat bay doors open, and practicing sanitation protocol all while minimizing contact between individuals.
“Starting the 9th we will let adult qualified rowers and kayakers get back on the water,” Dampeer said.
“We’re going to hold off until phase two to let juniors back on the water. A maximum number of eight masters at a time would go out at a time in a scheduled time-block. They will go out, come back in, clean their equipment using supplies they bring from home.
“We’re not going to bring the hose out, even. The staff members will open the bay doors and set up the slings but from that point on there should be no opportunity to cross-contaminate.”
Oklahoma announced its plan for the reopening of the state’s business on Monday, April 27. According to the Oklahoma Open Up and Recover Safely Plan gyms and health centers can reopen beginning May 1.
Dr. Shon Cook, a neurosurgeon, and OKC masters rower plans on returning to his practice schedule whenever possible.
“I plan to return to rowing my single as soon as the boathouse is open again,” Cook said. “I will take the usual precautions of washing my hands and disinfecting equipment, just as always.”
According to Cook common sense remains the best way to protect himself and teammates from the virus.
“The advice I have for everybody is to do what we were all taught when I was a child decades ago to prevent the spread of infections: wash your hands, don’t cough on each other, don’t touch your face,” Cook said. “Don’t chance spreading your infection to anyone else.”
While most other boat clubs around the country remain closed while individual state-enforced stay at home orders remain in place, the USOPC this week issued guidance about how to proceed to a return to practice and racing guidelines.
“In addition to state, local and CDC guidelines, the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center, as a USOPC Training Site, will be following the USOPC Training Site guidelines,” Dampeer said.