A rowing frenzy has descended on Nelson in the wake of the New Zealand rowing team's Olympic Games success.
The team scooped five medals at London 2012, including three golds, and Nelson Rowing Club captain Tim Babbage has since been fielding numerous inquiries from people wanting to take up the sport.
Mr Babbage said 20 people called him about joining within a week of the team's medal haul, which was unprecedented interest for this time of year.
He attributed this in part to the huge media exposure that went with their success.
“I did sort of think when it was going on that, ‘Yeah, this is going to cause a lot of interest'. It was more [media coverage] than as a sport we've ever had before, especially with three gold medals,” he said.
Mr Babbage said half the inquiries were from parents wanting to sign up their children, and half were from adults keen to get into the sport.
“When the [Evers-Swindell] twins won their first gold medal in Athens, there was certainly a lot of interest from girls, but this is across the board - both sexes, all ages. It's great for the sport,” he said.
Mr Babbage said the Nelson Rowing Club's members already ranged from 13-year-olds to rowers in their late 70s.
The club usually started recruiting new members in September, and was planning to hold two open days at its headquarters in Cross Quay early next month.
“We're always open to new members. We'll deal with a capacity issue if and when it comes.”
Rowing New Zealand domestic manager Kevin Strickland, who is also the president of the Nelson club, said other clubs around the country were dealing with an “instant response” to the Olympics.
The Auckland Rowing Club had 40 people turn up to its recent open day, and the Ashburton Rowing Club had more than 35 people turn up, when it was expecting only a dozen.
Mr Strickland said school-level rowing experienced a surge in popularity, particularly among boys, after Rob Waddell won gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
There was a similar increase among school-level female rowers after Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell won gold in Athens in 2004.
“This time it really has picked up a wider market for us. Last week I had six inquiries just from disabled people. I would usually only have about six inquiries for a whole year for disabled rowing,” he said.
Mr Strickland said it had been “remarkable” for the sport, which already had about 4500 rowers with competition licences.
“Nationally, we're planning a big push into the universities and to the polytechnics, so this result from London is going to give us a really good springboard to get those new programmes up and running in those tertiary institutions.”
Mr Strickland said one of Rowing New Zealand's goals was to get rowing into the consciousness of all New Zealanders. “I think this has done it.”
The Nelson Rowing Club open days will be on September 8 and 9, from 9am to noon.
- © Fairfax NZ News