The Foundation for Rowing Education

The Foundation for Rowing Education (FRE), was founded in 2005 with the goal of improving safety practices and education in the sport.

Our goal? To educate rowers, coaches, parents, administrators, and other key stakeholders on the critical dangers of the sport, promote best safety practices, and improve safety outcomes.

Rowing continues to see consistent growth in all segments: high school, college, masters, amateur. It is estimated that more than 240,000 participate in the sport on a regular basis, in approximately 2,300 rowing organizations, college and high school programs, and clubs. Many scullers also row alone, unaffiliated with any organization, often limiting their exposure and awareness of safety practices.

There has been particular growth in adaptive rowing programs for those with disabilities, which brings unique safety concerns. Another high growth area is open water rowing, which puts fragile, low-profile shells in sea lanes shared by recreational and commercial craft.

Our team has become deeply concerned about rising injury and fatality rates as the sport grows—and each member has seen frighteningly foolish behavior. Aggressive, competitive athletes and coaches are all too ready to risk safety in order to get in one more practice, going so far as to row on ice, in storms and high wind, sometimes taking out unsafe or ill-equipped shells and motor launches, ignoring basic safety practices, and tragically, paying the price in serious injury and even drowning incidents.

Rowers, coaches, and other stakeholders are frequently ignorant of best safety practices.

What are the criteria for determining when it is safe to launch? What are the standards for a novice crew? Does the crew know what to do in case of an accident? How many rowers and shells can a coach safely supervise and rescue? What equipment must a coach have on the launch for accident preparedness?

Rowing safely means learning the standards for safe operation; understanding weather and water conditions; knowing how to assess any situation; ensuring that each rower, coach, and boat is properly equipped; understanding risk; and making responsible decisions.