Rowing clubs, as we know them today, first appeared in London in the late 18th century. Two of these early clubs, the Star and the Arrow, merged after a few years into the Leander Boat Club, which is still a prestigious and active rowing club whose boathouse is now located near the finish of the famous Henley-on-Thames race course. The popularity of recreational sports grew rapidly in the early 19th century and rowing was foremost among them.
By the 1820's rowing clubs existed on the east coast of in the U.S. and began to spread westward. The west coast's first rowing club was founded in Vancouver, British Columbia in the 1860's and within a few years clubs were started in San Francisco. Still active are South end (1873) and Dolphin (1877). It took only another decade for the sport to reach this small community in Southern California called San Diego.
In 1888 a group of San Diegans formed the Excelsior Rowing and Swim Club. At that time the town was in the midst of a population boom and the number of residents had reached about 14,000, up from only 2,600people in 1880. Rowing was then one of the most popular sports, and competitive rowing events, along with boxing and horse racing, drew very large crowds and fostered extensive wagering?
Please click on this link to read author Joey Seymour's outstanding article  about this special Club:
In 1891 the Club dropped the name Excelsior, and became the San Diego Rowing Club. In eight years the members had raised the $2,000necessary to build their first boathouse. The boathouse built on pilings in San Diego Harbor that would house the Rowing Club for 79 years. To celebrate the new Boathouse a Club swim, called the New Year's Day Plunge, was organized on January 1,1900. Today, this tradition continues at the old boathouse, now refurbished as a Chart House restaurant. Here is a shot from the 1903 Plunge:
From the early 1900's until World War II the Rowing Club flourished. Largely recreational and social in purpose, it soon became a significant place in the community. Within walking distance of Downtown San Diego, the Club attracted many men from the business, professional and government ranks. Drawn by the rowing, swimming, sunbathing and the only handball court in town, these men soon found themselves discussing important public and business issues. It was pretty well accepted at the time, that the big decisions affecting the City were discussed and made at the Rowing Club.
Socially, the Rowing Club was an important place in the community. The Club membership during those days was limited to men and an invitation to a social event at the Rowing Club was highly sought after.
There was a Pacific Association of Amateur Oarsmen that held periodic championships, usually in San Francisco to which the San Diego group traveled by ship. San Diego Rowing Club won numerous championships during the1920's and 1930's.
Due to the distances between Clubs on the West Coast, and before air travel or good roads for driving were constructed, interclub competition was irregular. Competitions during these years were primarily limited to competition between Club members in such events as posting a good"skeeter" time in a skeeter time trial. You qualified as a "skeeter" if you could scull a wherry about a half-mile, turn a buoy and return in a specified time.
Club membership and San Diego's population swelled during World War II, but the harbor became much busier with Navy vessel traffic, and the appeal of swimming and rowing in the harbor diminished. After the War, the Rowing Club began a long slow decline. The population growth was in the suburbs, the waterfront was less appealing and though rowing continued, soon constituency of the membership outnumbered the oarsmen. Outvoted,the rowers were not able to take advantage of a City offer of a boathouse site in the development of San Diego's recreational water park, Mission Bay.
The end almost came in 1978 when the Port Authority in its plans for the Seaport Village redevelopment condemned the old boathouse. While the boathouse and facilities were still used, they were in very poor condition.
The end of the San Diego Rowing Club did not come, however,due to the persistence and efforts of a group of 20 members. This small group located a new home for a "boathouse" in an elongated garage in the City's Recreation Center on Santa Clara Point in Mission Bay.
The resurrected Club and its small membership were intent on competing in a new and growing array of rowing events, which included the FISA Veteran's Regatta. In the next 10 years the Club slowly grew to a little over100 members, all rowers. The sport was also growing and San Diego's three universities' rowing programs were also growing, running out of space in the H.Del Beekley boathouse.
A.W. Coggeshall, a longtime SDRC member and competitive oarsman, died in 1987 and left the local rowing groups separate bequests to foster the sport that had done so much for him. This resulted in the building of the Coggeshall Rowing Center which houses the Rowing Club in three boat bays and crews for the University of California, San Diego and University of San Diego, each in their own boat bay.
The Club membership in this new facility has grown to nearly300 men and women, includes a large and successful junior (high school age) program,a masters group, senior athletes, as well as recreational rowers. Today the red and white colors of the San Diego Rowing Club are seen frequently inCalifornia, across the country and often at championships throughout the world.
The History of Rowing and vignettes about some of its legends and luminaries is worthy of some references on our webpages. Our sport is, after all, comprises relatively small community.
Peter Mallory, a Club member, has invested an inordinate amount of time to chronicle our Sport - so stay tuned for links to some of his historical excerpts.
Those of us that have rowed with Andy Baxter highly recommend RACING YESTERDAY.
Ted Nash - the PENN AC Olympian and long-time coach at UPENN - can be remembered via: