Stroke of Genius

Two South Bay locals make a splash indoors with one of the oldest maritime traditions.

WRITTEN BY LAURA WATTS | PHOTOGRAPHED BY JEFF BERTING


Rowing boats is an activity that’s been around as long as humankind. Once a method of warfare and transport, rowing became a sport in England in the 1700s. When Yale challenged Harvard to the first intercollegiate boat race in 1852, the sport became extremely popular—making the roster of Olympic games in 1900.

Fast-forward to modern times, and the lure of the water isn’t the only inspiration for rowing. You don’t have to know a thing about operating watercraft—or even get your toes wet—to participate in an exercise that’s rapidly growing in popularity: indoor rowing. For years rowing machines lurked in the corners of health clubs, often gathering dust, but all that is changing.

“We focus on rowing as a great discipline, amazing workout and a mindful practice for our busy-minded youth.”

“We can give you an amazing workout in 20 min- utes without all the crazy equipment,” says Jay Dee Morgan, who cofounded Manna Rowing in Hermosa Beach with longtime friend Thomas Chang. Both men are professional athletes who rowed at UC San Diego and have years of experience working in the health and fitness industry.

A full-body workout, rowing uses a variety of muscle groups and offers intense physical conditioning. However, it is considered a low-impact exercise—appealing to those who have been injured in other sports like running or cycling.

The Manna Rowing staff approaches workouts as a multidisciplinary program for the mind and the body. In addition to cardio and strength training, participants are taught Manna Mental Sharpening Tools.

“Our sessions start with breath training and mindfulness,” explains Jay Dee, who has 12 years of elite rowing and coaching experience. “This mentally prepares them for the challenges ahead. We then run through some yoga movements, conduct a proper warm-up and then get to work.”

Indoor rowing is a time-efficient way to perform total-body cardiovascular training—perfect for those strapped for time. “We begin driving with your legs, engage the muscles in your back and core, and then follow through with your arms,” Jay Dee shares. “We give you lots of bang for your buck!”

It’s also a healthy and exciting activity for youth. In March the company kicked off an indoor rowing club at Hermosa Beach Community Center for students in grades 4–12. The coaches emphasize technique and lead fun drills and activities on and off the equipment. In addition to socializing together, rowers build trust, set goals for personal growth and learn to prepare for challenges—in rowing and in life. Manna Rowing also holds occasional regattas for the club, awarding prizes to the winners.

“It’s not just about the physical growth but also exercising your mind and spirit,” says youth program director Tyler Reutgen, a South Bay native who has 12 years of experience coaching youth sports.
In addition to enhancing physical and mental strength, rowing has the potential of being financially beneficial as well: The sport offers students the opportunity to earn college scholarships. With this in mind, Manna Rowing provides “boot camp” training for high school athletes looking to be recruited by university crew teams.

“We focus on rowing as a great discipline, amazing workout and a mindful practice for our busy-minded youth,” says Jay Dee. “To top all of these benefits, there are insane collegiate opportunities for our South Bay youth to row in college, help with admissions and even huge scholarship opportunities.”

Manna Rowing is offering two full scholarships for their college-prep rowing training to help driven high school students with program fees.

“Rowing created opportunities for me to be recruited for crew at top universities and ultimately shaped who I am today,” says Jay Dee. “We felt that now is the time to provide a space for children and young adults to find that drive and opportunity for their futures.”

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