STAGING Devon Adaptive Rowing Project - British Rowing

Devon Adaptive Rowing Project

The Devon Adaptive Rowing Project has been running for a little over three months and is now gathering momentum. The project has been funded by four of the School Sports Partnerships (SSP’s) in Devon along with the Amateur Rowing Association, Sport England, the West Regional Rowing Council, Active Devon and the English Federation of Disability Sport. It aims to build upon the existing adaptive rowing opportunities and to provide adaptive rowing opportunities where none currently exist in Devon.

The project is being led by ARA Community Sports Coach Paul Johnson who is working with the schools of the funding SSP’s to deliver indoor rowing to pupils with Special Educational Needs.


The delivery is flexible to allow each school to use indoor rowing in a way which best suits their needs and timetables. One special school in Plymouth has all its pupils involved in a team challenge to row from Plymouth to Penzance, another has one class of students training for set piece challenges and races. The pupils find following the ARA’s indoor rowing for schools programme a great motivator and thoroughly enjoy achieving the ARA’s Dry Fit distance awards.

Where indoor rowing had already been established, some schools have chosen to opt for water sessions in Gig and Virus boats at the Mount Batten Centre in Plymouth.  Here the pupils can get a taste for rowing on the water and are directed towards the local clubs if they think they would like to enter into the sport outside of school hours.

Over the school holidays inclusive learn-to-row courses have been offered at the Mount Batten Centre where those pupils already involved in the Devon Adaptive Rowing Project at school have enrolled to try out rowing on the water and to progress their on-water skills and eventually move onto one of the local clubs. 

At the start of July the Devon Ability Games to Inspire took place in Ivybridge. This is a county-wide, multi-sports event open to all pupils with special educational needs. This year saw a great turn out for the indoor rowing event with entries across all of the categories on offer. The day’s racing was split into morning and afternoon competitions to give pupils the greatest opportunity to compete. Both sessions saw some close, exciting races, and with medals for the top three competitors in each category all the competitors pushed themselves to go for gold! Those who were lucky enough to medal were overjoyed.

As the Devon Adaptive Rowing Project moves forward, the next steps will be to educate school staff to use the indoor rowing machines safely and effectively, allowing the indoor rowing programme to become self sustaining.  This will mean more time can be devoted to developing an adaptive competition framework and on-water opportunities and pathways through increased education and funding.

Who knows, our next Paralympic champion might yet be found in Devon.