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Alden Ocean Shell Association opens its membership to all recreational sliding seat rowers
March 9, 2006
source: AOSA

BOSTON, MA  The Alden Ocean Shell Association, AOSA, the oldest organized group of recreational sliding seat rowers in the United States, has formally opened its membership to rowers of recreational rowing shells.

The AOSA Board of Directors unanimously voted to do so at its mid-winter meeting Feb. 26. Members will vote on a new name in late September.

The action means that all recreational rowers in the United States will have the opportunity for representation and support from a formal organization. Except for one race, the AOSA membership has always been restricted to rowers who own or use shells made by Alden Rowing Shells of Rowley, MA.

Other rowing organizations, such as the much larger U.S. Rowing, the national governing body of the sport, tend to focus on racing. Masters Rowing, a second major group, focuses on the older populations of rowers.

"All recreational rowers want the same things: the values and experience espoused by Arthur Martin, Alden's founder," said Edward S. Englander, AOSA president. "They want to associate with rowers of similar interests, to enjoy the natural beauty of rowing, to learn the sport through clinics and events and to have the opportunity to do things together. Until now they have never had an organization to represent them and make these things happen."

The late Arthur Martin founded the Alden company, originally called Martin Marine, in 1971 in Cohasset, MA but moved to Kittery, ME in 1972 for its first year of producing the Alden Ocean Shell. At the time, Martin Marine was the only rowing shell company that devoted itself exclusively to making single sliding seat recreational rowing shells.

In the next few years, thanks to the efforts of Ernestine Bayer, one of Martin's first customers, the association grew to hundreds of members. Just about everyone who bought an Alden Ocean Shell became a member of the association which each year sponsored races and other events for its membership.

In more recent years, several other companies began to make similar class boats. Arthur Martin died in 1992 and his company has since had two owners. It is now called Alden Rowing Shells with headquarters in Rowley, MA.

The Alden shells, and those in a similar class, are shorter, wider, slower but much more stable than the racing shells. For the most part users row for fun rather than to excel in competition.

Englander said that a number of rowers who own single recreational shells made by other manufacturers, have asked the AOSA to open its ranks so that recreational rowers could have an association that would serve all of them.

"By all accounts, the number of recreational rowers is growing," said Englander. "Partly responsible for that growth," he continued, "are the marketing efforts of perhaps a half dozen manufacturers of recreational shells that have started since Arthur founded his company. Finally, the time came when it just made sense to open up our ranks to these rowers."

"I consider this move significant," he said, "because most of the public focus on rowing is through racing. Yet possibly half the rowers in the United States do the sport for fun and they are not represented. This new association will give them a focus and a voice."

The AOSA has about 350 members, most of them from the Northeast. Englander estimates the membership of the new organization will at least double.

The move also provides the opportunity for the The Catch, the AOS's quarterly publication, to expand its focus. For many years the publication has been produced by Lewis C. Cuyler of Pittsfield, MA., a retired journalist who started his own company to lease and sell single rowing shells, made by Alden and three other companies.

The current rowing publications, Cuyler said, are racer oriented. The change provides the opportunity to expand into a national publication that will focus exclusively on information needed by recreational rowers.