LOCATED on a beautiful, non-tidal stretch of the River Thames, Eton Excelsior Rowing Club is one of the finest places to learn how to row, writes Rob Stevens.

Through their Learn to Row courses you get a feel for the passion, desire and dedication within the club. You can capture the emotion and stories that have transformed the most apprehensive of people into passionate rowers, be it for fun or competition.

Eton Excelsior

is a very friendly club where you will feel welcome regardless of your age, ability or what you want to achieve. The sport builds a special bond between the individuals that take part.

And a calm day out on the River combined with the rhythmic activity of the oars dipping in and out of the water has a great impact on reducing stress.

Pete Clements is Club President at

Eton Excelsior

and he told the Observer: “I’m not a religious man but this is my church. When you’re feeling down you can always turn up and see people you know.

“People have made great friends at our Learn to Row courses over the years and some have even met their future partners.”

“Sport is good for endorphins so you always feel good once you’ve done a bit of training. There’s the competitive element as well which always brings out the best in people.

“Our sessions are about getting to know people as well as enjoying a new sport and the river, which is probably the biggest asset we have - it’s beautiful out there.

“We bring in people from all abilities and ages, and it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve had previous experience.

“If you’re not fit or want to lose some weight it’s ideal because we can teach you the basics of rowing and help you to develop.”

The sessions are a great stress-busting muscle workout and calorie burner which is fantastic for body posture and general fitness.

Clements explained: “You have to use your brain more than your muscles when you first go on a Learn to Row session.

“The course starts on land where we do a lot of the technique side of things to get it right before we transfer into the water.

“We spend some time on the rowing machines and talk through the technique. People often need re-teaching because they learn to use the machine in the gym but that’s not the same as rowing on water.

“We go through the basics and talk about river etiquette, how to be safe on the river. There is a lot of different terminology and parts of the boat we run through as well.

“I had forgotten how much fun it is. It’s really rewarding as a coach to watch people start from not knowing anything to achieving something at the end.

“Everybody came away smiling because they had learnt something new and that’s the best thing.

“I prefer to coach at entry level rather than the more elite groups of people because you see so much improvement in such a small amount of time.

“We did a little race which got everybody smiling. It’s good to get that feeling and competitive nature although that is not necessarily what rowing is all about. There are people that just come down to enjoy the river and have a paddle when the weather is nice.”

Eton Excelsior has a fantastic record of bringing people into the sport at entry level and progressing them into competitive rowing.

Clements said: “If you assume that somebody comes in and learns to row from scratch, we have a feeding system where people start in our foundation group which is fairly relaxed.

“If people find that they really enjoy it and get that rowing bug, then they can move through the ranks and into more dedicated squads for both men and women.

“We race across the summer season and at all different levels. There are regattas tailored for experienced competitors and for more fun.

“The club is involved in local explore rowing leagues up and down the Thames, and there are more traditional regattas close by at Maidenhead or Staines.

“We have a great deal of range in terms of the experience around club. Our Masters ladies are amongst the best in the country.”

He added: “The thing that is the most important is the friendliness, that’s one of our biggest assets. “The facilities we have are paramount.

"We have a purpose-built building with plenty of rowing machines, which is not the case in all clubs.

“The river is the most important thing. It’s a lovely stretch for long distance training and shorter stuff as well.”

Membership starts from £35 month for student or juniors, £30 for casual rowers and £42.50 for full adults. The next Learn to Row sessions take place on Sunday 14th July and Sunday 18th August, both from 10.30am. For more information visit etonexcelsiorrowingclub.org