Rowing basics

Ever since she was a little girl and saw her grandfather’s rowing shells in the basement of the family’s Spring Lake summer home, Diane Veneklasen has dreamed of learning to row.
Marie Havenga
Apr 12, 2014

The Grand Haven woman got her chance Friday night, experiencing the sport in the Lubbers Cup Learn to Row event at the Spring Lake Yacht Club.

“It’s always been a family interest,” said Veneklasen, whose grandfather, Joseph Kortlander, rowed in the early 1900s as a member of the Grand Rapids Boat and Canoe Club. “As kids, we were told not to touch them (the rowing shells in the basement). Nobody ever took them out, which was crazy.”

As she was taking strokes across Spring Lake, Veneklasen said her thoughts drifted to her grandfather, who passed away in 1967.

“He was so fit,” she said. “This was so exciting. I have my curiosity satisfied.”

Veneklasen wasn’t the only one inspired by Friday’s experience. Mike Ryan of Nunica, who builds wooden boats, said he’s adding a rowing shell to his list of projects to construct.

“It was great and a blessing to have such an opportunity,” Ryan said of the chance at rowing. “It surpassed what I expected. It was a very good experience.”

Ryan said he has already purchased plans for a rowing shell, but he said his Learn to Row experience cemented his desire to actually build it, and he hopes to have it completed in two years.

“It’s different than what I expected,” Ryan said of rowing. “I thought it would take more strength, but it takes more coordination.”

Friday’s event was the prelude to collegiate and high school races on Friday and Saturday on Spring Lake. For a full schedule, visit

CLICK HERE to see more photos from Friday night's event.

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