Rachel Adele Robillard Multimedia Journalist
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
To begin an aquatic adventure, slip on a life jacket, grab a paddle and head to the dock. From kayaks and paddleboards to triple-seat canoes, Texas Rowing Center provides equipment suitable for all ages.
Located on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in Austin, Texas Rowing Center is an outlet for Austin residents and tourists to enjoy the ambiance of the lake. The Texas Rowing Center Manager Jane Shepherd said there is plenty of space for everyone to enjoy the lake since there is a 315-foot dock.
“The best feature is our dock since it is the biggest dock on Lady Bird Lake,” said Shepherd. “Everyone enjoys sitting on the dock with his or her feet hanging over the water.”
Originally owned by Anne Marie Heilman, The Texas Rowing Center dock and venue was built in 1987. Texas Rowing Center was designed specifically for rowing, yet gradually increased to different types of boat equipment starting in 2002. According to the Texas Rowing Center website, in 2002, Owner Matt Knifton jumped on the opportunity to purchase the Texas Rowing Center Company.
“Since 2002, Texas Rowing Center has 200 more kayaks, 100 more canoes, 250 more life jackets, and 150 more paddles,” Shepherd said.
The 26-year-old shack provides a variety of affordable boat rentals. Depending on the day and size of boat, rental prices range from $10 per hour to $45 a day. The cost includes a life jacket, paddles and the boat equipment. Brittany Ackerman, a 19-year-old Austinite, has rented from many venues but prefers Texas Rowing Center.
“Texas Rowing Center has affordable prices. It is conveniently close in proximity to downtown, and they have a lot of parking spots,” Ackerman said when she returned from kayaking on the lake with her friends last Saturday.
Shepherd said Texas Rowing Center encourages families and friends to gather for outings on the lake. Aside from Saturdays and Sundays, groups of 10 or more are able to have two hours for the price of one.
Based on the Texas Rowing Center website, the company's simple learn-to-row program has successfully taught over 10,000 people how to row since the late 1980’s. Texas Rowing Center teaches those who want to participate, regardless of experience or ability. For example, the Texas Rowing Center staff accommodates hearing impaired groups, those who are paralyzed, elementary school children and senior citizens.
“Texas Rowing Center fits the Austin mentality since it is laid back,” Shepherd said. “Everyone has the time for tolerance, patience and flexibility.”
Texas Rowing Center is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, including holidays. Shepherd said that holidays, such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, are some of the busiest times. In addition to holidays, weekends are the busiest starting at 2 p.m. when the demand increases.
When comparing the equipment demand to the winter and summer seasons, Shepherd said customers rent equipment based on weather conditions. For warm weather days, kayaks are more likely to be rented, while paddleboards are more popular during hotter days. Kevin Ravens, a tourist from Tennessee, said he agrees that weather is a factor when kayaking on the lake.
“When thinking about kayaking, it depends on how cold the water is, and how cold it is outside. I prefer to come out when it is mid 70’s and higher,” Ravens said.
Nevertheless, there are still customers who venture to Texas Rowing Center when it is below 70 degrees outside. The winter season is a popular time for rowers. Since rowers paddle backwards, it is difficult for rowers to maneuver around the lake when it is crowded. Shepherd said rowers take advantage of the cold weather and the 6 a.m. opening time since it is quieter on the placid lake.
Shepherd said she is familiar with the mindset of a rower since she was a rower in high school and at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. With a major in Environmental Studies, Shepherd said she enjoys working outdoors.
“The natural environment is where I feel most at home and drawn to. Being outside is a big perk in my place of employment,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd speaks highly of Texas Rowing Center’s accessible location, affordable prices and availability to others. Shepherd said that Texas Rowing Center accommodates all and has “something for everyone.”
“Kayaking at Texas Rowing Center is a fun and great way to experience Austin from a different perspective,” 24-year-old Florida tourist Itai Matityahu said last Saturday on the Texas Rowing Center dock, “I would definitely come back.”