History

The Beginning

Bair Island Aquatic Center (BIAC) was formed in the fall of 1999 as a 501(c)3 corporation by a group of masters rowing and paddling enthusiasts formerly known as the Stanford Rowing Club (SRC). In the 1990's the group had several outdoor racks of shells at Stanford's old boathouse. Early in 1999, Stanford cleared that land to enable construction of its beautiful new boathouse. The SRC core group began a quest to find a new home, during which time the group's shells were kept in founders' backyards! 

In the summer of 1999 SRC members met the long-time owner of the South Bay Boat Works, an enterprise that maintained boats and leased its land from a local cement company, Pacific RMC.  SRC members signed a lease and agreed to acquire South Bay Boat Works' facilities and equipment. This included today's clubhouse, then a 30' x 60' shed filled with tools and materials to maintain boats: special wood, large power tools, nasty chemicals and the attendant mess that comes with working with these materials. The boat yard contained hundreds of boat stands and a special crane, called a Travel Lift, used to haul boats out for yard repair. The north and south docks were aging and had some dozen live-aboard tenants on both docks.  Just prior to moving in the venerated Hui Wa’a paddlers joined the BIAC founding effort, and thus BIAC became a home for paddlers and rowers alike from day one.

BIAC initially had around 100 founding members and 50 shells, both private and club-owned. Members worked diligently to sell excess equipment, recycle what could not be sold and responsibly dispose of hazardous materials the club had acquired, clear the boat yard and erect racks to store the club's growing inventory of human-powered boats. The first big purchase was a Candock: a dock low and large enough for launching rowing and paddling shells. The next addition was a 12'-wide ramp to an expanded dock pad allowing for safe handling of 60'-long shells to and from the water. Thus the club transformed the land from hard use into environmentally mitigating use, and began building community aquatic programs.

Established Objectives

Regulated by its By-Laws, Bair Island Aquatic Center has an elected board of five to seven directors who meet monthly and who serve staggered two-year terms. The club has the following objectives and purposes:

  • To teach and promote amateur rowing, paddling, and other non-motorized aquatic activities to youths of the San Francisco peninsula and adult members of the public, in order to provide an athletic outlet that fosters physical and character development; including physical health, teamwork, good sportsmanship and constructive use of time.
  • To teach and enhance awareness of the environmental sensitivity of local waterways and to promote responsible, low-impact use of these waterways. To sponsor and participate in community programs geared to environmental preservation of the local waterways.
  • To maintain a nucleus of adults to provide the coaching and technical skills and the financial and community support necessary for successful conduct of the Center and, in order to ensure the continued involvement of such persons in the Center, to provide instructional and competitive programs for adult athletes.

BIAC Community

BIAC is financially buoyant, well governed and continually expanding its programs. It's founding core is comprised of former SRC masters rowers and Hui Wa’a paddlers.  The club repaid a $120K loan over four years beginning in 1999. In 2002, it began its adult novice programs. Junipero Serra High School Crew also joined BIAC in 2002 and NorCal (formerly Silicon Valley Crew) joined in 2004. Stanford Kayaking joined in 2005, as did a chapter of the California Dragon Boat Association (CDBA). BIAC has a diverse and talented membership passionately involved in serving the community.

Statistically, BIAC is comprised of 56% adult participants (25% sweep rowers, 15% scullers, 16% kayak and outrigger paddling) and 44% junior rowers. Each year BIAC hosts its Fall Regatta for over 150 crews, marking the finale of the Fall rowing season in California. BIAC master rowers train hard and compete at many national and international venues, including the Head of the Charles, US Nationals and the San Diego Crew Classic. The Hui Wa’a Paddlers run the WaveChaser Paddle Series and the US Surfski Championships and sponsor other local competitions.

BIAC has a volunteer culture and community focus. Annual events benefit groups such as the Second Harvest Food Bank and At-Risk Teens. We offer youth paddling opportunities through Redwood City's Parks and Recreation programs.  The club awards about $6000 in scholarships each year so that junior rowers can row on high school teams. During the spring and summer months, the club hosts Learn To Row (LTR) days for the community and offers extended LTR and LTS (Learn to Scull) sessions open to everyone. BIAC also contributes to or participates in Save The Bay events aimed at restoring tidal flow to, and ensuring proper use of, the marine sanctuary of Bair Island.

If you are interested in the history of Bair Island itself, named after Fred Bair, there is a good 1996 article here.  It details the early days of the island and how it evolved to become a 3000 acre marine wildlife sanctuary through persistent community efforts. 


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