The Mission of Chicago Rowing Union is to promote the sport of rowing to the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. We provide inclusive educational and competitive programs that foster teamwork, personal growth, health, and fitness.


Chicago Rowing Union (CRU) is proud to be the Midwest's one and only LGBTQ+ rowing organization - one of a few such clubs in the world.

Founded in 2005 by 12 rowers as a team to compete in the 2006 Gay Games hosted in Chicago. Originally named Qrew Chicago, the clubs’ name changed to Chicago Rowing Union in 2009.

Our membership is a diverse group of men and women from varied backgrounds, age ranges, and experience levels. Whether you are a seasoned rower or new to the sport, we have a spot for you!

And being from the LGBTQ+ community is not a requirement – we are open to everyone who supports our mission, wants a challenging workout, and desires the rewarding experience of camaraderie and teamwork.

Rowing Season

All CRU programs are adult, sweep-rowing programs, for men and women ages 18 and up. People of all ages and walks of life are welcome.

Our outdoor season runs from April through October. There is also a Winter Indoor Training (WIT) season offered for experienced rowers that runs from January through March.

Competitions* are held in the Midwest, around the country, and even internationally. In 2018 CRU was honored to participate in the Gay Games, held in Paris, France. *Participation in regattas is not required.

New members without experience must enroll in our Learn to Row program, or complete a comparable program at another club before joining our Novice program.

Experienced rowers and coxswains are welcomed to join the club anytime during the season as are collegiate rowers and coxswains home for the summer.

Physical Requirements

Rowing is one of the best sports for all ages and levels. Rowing provides a low-impact full-body workout. That said, it is a very demanding sport that requires teamwork and commitment to attend practices and races.

There is an old crew adage: “You are only as good as your weakest rower.” Therefore, we push ourselves as a group for constant improvement. The rewards both physically and mentally are amazing; not to mention the camaraderie that is built among the team.

Volunteering & Fundraising Requirements

CRU is a volunteer-run organization dependent upon our members to keep the organization running. All members are required to volunteer throughout the season to get the work done.

Tasks run the gamut from preparing the boats and equipment to get us back on the water in the spring, all the way until the fall when we winterize and store everything until the following year.

Members are also expected to participate in fundraising activities. We’ve heard there’s such a thing as life outside of rowing, and as such, we will always respect your time!


The Dammrich Rowing Center houses indoor rowing machines and rowing tanks to simulate on-the-water practices. It is next to the Chicago River and includes boats and a launch onto the North Branch of the Chicago River. There is parking available at the boathouse.

3220 Oakton St.
Skokie, IL 60076
(847) 674-1500, ext. 2200

The North Shore Channel is a man-made waterway that extends northward from River Park, just south of Foster Avenue, to the Wilmette Locks at Lake Michigan near the Baha’i Temple. This straight canal with a slow current and few power boats is ideal for race practice, newer paddlers, and rowing shells.

Interactive map of the North Shore Channel.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Illinois Coastal Management Program (2011 Report)
Shore Access and Recreation