Plum freshman learning the rowing ropes at Steel City

Michael Love
| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

Joe Durso waited for his chance to move one of the large boats out of the storage garages at the Steel City Rowing facility in Verona.

The Plum freshman help- ed other student-athletes in Steel City Rowing's high school program move the boat the 100 or so feet to the docks on the Allegheny River.

Last week's practice session is something Durso is getting used to as part of his new journey into the sport of rowing.

And he is glad he has had the chance to begin that journey.

“It's nice to be out on the water,” said Durso, the lone member this fall of the second-year Plum rowing program.

Over the summer, Durso received a list of Plum fall sports available, and he noticed rowing was on it.

“(Athletic director) Bob Alpino told me and my family to email (club program director) Janet Kolar, and (Kolar) told us to visit the Steel City Rowing website to check things out.”

Durso did so, and he signed up for the “Learn to Row” session on Aug. 28.

“I anticipated the physical part of it. Towards the end of the first (practice session), I got a little tired,” said Durso, who also plays dek hockey in Penn Hills.

Durso said watching rowing during the London Olympics last month sparked his interest in the sport.

The U.S. men's and women's rowing teams were competitive in all 12 events, and the Americans brought home three medals — one goal and two bronze.

The women's eight captured its second consecutive Olympic gold medal.

The “eight” refers to the number of rowers each team has in its boat.

“The sport (in the Olympics) seemed to have a lot of respect, and I thought it would be fun to give it a try,” Durso said.

There are two types of rowing — sweeping and sculling.

In sweeping, a rower has one oar manipulated with one or both hands. This is generally done in pairs, fours or eights. In sculling, a rower uses two oars, and, Durso said, he favors this type of rowing so far.

Steel City Rowing's high school program features rowers of different experience levels, from highly competitive rowers with years of experience from even before their high school years to younger and less-experienced rowers, such as Durso.

Steel City rowers come from schools such as Riverview, Shaler, Shady Side Academy, The Ellis School and Winchester Thurston.

“(The experienced rowers) have been such a big help,” Durso said. “They're always giving me tips and making sure I am comfortable with whatever I'm doing.”

Durso said he wishes he would have started rowing earlier, but he's here now and is looking forward to several years of fun on the water.

“I finally decided to take advantage of living next to the water in Pittsburgh,” he said.

Although he is the only Plum rower at the moment, he hopes more of his classmates will give it a try.

“I've told people I've started rowing, but I'm not sure what they think,” he said. “I think it would be a good idea for them.”

Kristina Lanfield-Maurer, the director of rowing at Steel City, said there are upcoming opportunities for prospective rowers of all ages to get involved.

A free “Intro to Rowing” session for those in grade six to adult will be Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A “Learn to Row” session will start Tuesday and will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m.

Both sessions will be at the Steel City Rowing facility on Arch Street in Verona.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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