When people think of Dayton, Ohio, they likely don’t think of the sport of rowing. But with the city sitting at the confluence of five rivers, it’s really the perfect place to learn to row.
Brian White and Meg Evans of Vandalia started rowing in 2013 after taking one of the Greater Dayton Rowing Association’s (GDRA) Learn to Row classes together.
While raising their children – son Brandon – now 32, and daughter Tara (Hux) now 30, the couple became very involved with their sports activities.
After the children left home, the couple – both runners – decided to try something new they could do. White ran faster than his wife and so it ended up feeling like an individual sport, rather than something they were doing as a couple.
“We were intrigued by rowing, and we were looking for something active we could do together,” White said.
Designed for individuals with no rowing experience, GDRA’s Learn to Row program teaches rowing fundamentals in a safe and friendly environment.
“When you are first learning how to row, it’s not like you’re learning to be an Olympian,” White said. “You learn how to get on the water and control the boat and be safe.”
Each session includes eight two hour classes and begins with four person boats, progresses to doubles and finally to single boats.
“Not long after our classes ended, we started rowing in a two-person boat,” White said. “We were thinking it was something we’d just do for fun.”
But just a few weeks after they completed their Learn to Row classes, other GDRA rowers recommended they go to their first regatta, which ended up getting cancelled.
“We put it in the back of our minds as something we’d do the next time the club went to a regatta,” White said.
That time came in the spring of 2014 when the couple attended their first regatta in Columbus. And though that first race didn’t go well due to a slow start, White and Evans agreed they could do better the next time. After continuing to practice and attend regattas, the couple started winning medals.
“Rowing is a super technical sport,” White said. “The boat widths and sizes are different and if it’s windy, it’s harder than you think it would be. It took time to figure out what we needed to do to get better.”
Over the years, the couple enjoyed rowing so much, that they worked on keeping up their cardio fitness year-round, bought their first boat in 2015 (naming it “Mr. Do!” after a video game that was the backdrop of their first meeting), and an indoor rowing machine in 2019.
“We tried a boat that was just the right size for us and knew we had to get one of our own,” White said. “It was so much smoother and more comfortable than the GDRA boats we had rowed.”
In 2017, White got his own single boat, and he secretly ordered a smaller boat for his wife, wanting to surprise her for their 30th wedding anniversary.
“If you weigh 170 pounds and you are trying to row a boat that is meant for someone who is 185, that’s one thing,” White said. “But if you are 145 and trying to row that same boat, it’s just really hard.”
White, a Dayton native and graduate of Meadowdale High School (class of 1981) met his bride while attending college at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. White graduated with a degree in electrical engineering; Evans was studying for law school. The couple came back to White’s hometown and were married in 1988.
“One thing to remember about our story is that we met at the student union at Case Western in front of a video game called ‘Mr. Do!’” White said.
White, whose professional background includes a stint with the Department of Defense at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is working for California based technology company Stretto. Evans has been working for LexisNexis since 1999.
Today, White and Evans are teaching people new to rowing in the same learn to row classes they took at GDRA.
In 2019, White became a referee and started traveling to different races and regattas. After taking more than a year off due to the global pandemic, he returned in 2021 and today referees meets and regattas for all ages.
“It’s just so cool to see people you taught to row get more interested in the sport,” White, who now serves as GDRA’s Learn to Row director, said. “We love seeing people on the water getting better and better.”
For more information, log on to daytonrowing.org