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BAWRA, Bay Area Whatleboat Rowing Association
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The Bay Area Whaleboat Rowing Association (BAWRA) is made up of men's, women's and mixed teams based in Oakland, San Francisco, and Vallejo. The teams compete in different locations around the bay during racing seasons in the spring and fall.

BAWRA has five Core Values promoting the bringing together of people of all walks of life to enjoy the Bay Area in a unique way from the water. Our community includes rowers with their families and friends, as well as officials and volunteers. Our activities include practices and training, races, the development of rules and procedures, and celebrations.

Our Overarching Values are Safety and Fairness. Our People Values are Inclusivity, Community and Fun.

Racing Whaleboats on San Francisco Bay

When the great windjammers of the mid-1800's put into port on the Barbary Coast, the ships’ crews often faced long layovers while their captains negotiated for cargo to carry on the return voyage. With wages spent and time on their hands, the crews would race lifeboats against crews from other vessels in port.

Competition took its current form in the mid-1960's under the sponsorship of maritime companies, using Coast Guard Monomoy Surfboats (aka whaleboats) built in the 1930’s and 40’s.  By 1982 the Bay Area Whaleboat Rowing Association (BAWRA) was formed to provide standards for safety and competition, as well as coordinate regattas and other activities.  By the mid 1980’s, new whaleboats were built by BAWRA members for the purpose of racing.

The picture to the right was taken in 1987 at South Beach Harbor in San Francisco, at our first annual Bridge to Bridge Race.

The whaleboat rower of today defies classification: young and old, male and female, large and small. However we all love being on the water, rowing with a team, and honoring the tradition of sea-worthy pulling boats.

Joining BAWRA really means joining one of the teams.  All welcome new members and are ready to talk about location, schedules, money and fitness focus.  And BAWRA welcomes new teams as well – with or without a boat.

The Boats and their heritage

The BAWRA clubs race each other in Monomoy Surfboats. They are descendants of the shore-based whaleboats used off Cape Cod and Monomoy Island in the 18th century. The decline of whales off the East Coast led to the development of sailing vessels that could pursue the whales into deeper water, and the whaleboats turned into the lifeboats of the area.

Today, the biggest concentration of Monomoys in the world is here in San Francisco Bay.  Some are wood, some are fiberglass and some are a combination of the two.  No matter what they are made of, it’s still the strength and determination of the crew that makes a winning team.


The Team Members of BAWRA

The BAWRA members are listed below by their “home port.”

Oakland Estuary Whaleboat Rowing Society (OEWRS) (Ketos and Port of Oakland Rowing Team (POO))
Row'd Warriors or
Coast Guard Rowing, Contact: Bill Davis
West Coast Rowing (WCR),

San Francisco
Embarcadero Rowing Club (ERC)
Iron Oars Rowing Club (IORC)
San Francisco Whalers. Contact: Karen Taylor (415) 274-0579

Solano Rowing Club (SRC)
Straits of Mare Island Rowing Association (SOMIRA)







The Honorary Lifetime Members of BAWRA

Honorary Membership is conferred upon an individual by the BAWRA Board.

Bill Capasso, President, Golden Gate Propeller Club
Jack Costello, Coast Guard Admiral
Terry Klaus, Sea Scout Commodore of Area III
Leonard Komar, First Commodore, Auxiliary Fleet
Captain Carl Larkin, BAWRA Auxiliary Fleet Coordinator
Captain Tay Vaughan, III, USRA/BAWRA Chief Race Official, Rules Committee Organizer

George Beglitsoff, Skipper, The Sea Scouts
Nolan Gimpel, Chief Exec Officer, Port of Oakland
Michael P. Huertas, Executive Director, Port of San Francisco
Captain John M. Keever, V.P. California Maritime Academy, Chairman of Vallejo Rowing Regatta
Captain Tom Robinson, Captain of the Port, United States Coast Guard

Captain Carl Larkin (Retired), American Presidents Line
Karen Wulffraat, First President of BAWRA

Barry Roth, Skipper Badenia

Jimmy Bolter, Deckhand Badenia


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