“Row the rock.”

That’s the tagline for a new rowing club that recently debuted at White Rock Lake.

The new club is the brainchild of three men – Sam Leake, John Mullen and Chip Northrup – who want to introduce rowing as a sport that can be as much about “recreation and fitness” as it can be about competition.

“Our focus will be more open-water rowing as opposed to competitive rowing. We want to get people exposed to rowing – get them out rowing for fitness and having fun,” says Leake, the club’s president.

The group, called White Rock Boathouse (WRB) Inc., took over the lake’s boathouse, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930, in May 2003. Because of the city’s desire to have certain edifices around the lake designated as National Historic Landmarks, WRB had to make sure its renovations didn’t interfere with the building’s original characteristics.

The changes, which totaled about $45,000, most of which came out of the club’s organizers’ pockets, were finished last month.

The renovations included adding 34 floating boat slots that will rise and fall with the level of the lake. The club currently has only four boats for rowing, but hopes to eventually fill up those spaces with additional boats. In the meantime, he says, the four boats should accommodate the club’s first 20-30 members.

Membership in the WRB is $300 a year. Don’t want to shell out all that money without at least trying the sport first? Not to worry, Leake says – for a fee, prospective members can take a Friday through Sunday set of lessons that should help them decide if rowing is for them.

Leake, a triathlete and cyclist, became interested in rowing about 15 years ago because of a bad back.

“Turns out it was the dumbest thing I could have done,” he says with a laugh. “Rowing is horrible on your back, but it was so much fun.”

So much fun, in fact, that rather than give it up after he became hooked, he endured spinal fusion surgery.

He expects the club will be a major hit with neighborhood residents.

“This area is a hotbed of endurance sport activity in Dallas,” he says.

And, he adds: “Let’s face it – White Rock is a perfect venue. It’s a beautiful lake in an incredible part of town, so it was kind of a no-brainer that we ought to be exercising on it as well as around it.”

White Rock Boathouse Inc. is looking for neighborhood sponsors. For information about sponsorship, or to inquire about membership or lessons, call Sam Leake at 214-532-6827.