When Monty Khwaja started his rowing school in Dubai, he wanted to popularise the sport. Now, as organiser of Dubai Rowathon 2005, the first annual rowing event in the UAE, his dream may be coming to fruition

It is not easy to describe rowing, says Monty Khwaja, the 38-year-old founder of The Rowing School in Dubai.

"Technically, it is the act of using every muscle in your body to propel a boat forward with oars. But it is not the physical strain that defines it; rather, it is the movement against the tide that fills one with exhilaration followed by complete relaxation."

Rowing offers a total body outdoor workout and is a wonderful way to interact with nature in a harmonious manner.

"Every rowing experience enriches your life," he says, relating an incident which happened 15 years ago.

"One afternoon when my partner and I were rowing in the Rawal Lake in Islamabad, Pakistan, there was a sudden, heavy downpour," he recalls.

Their boat started filling up with water and they had to manoeuvre themselves to safety.

"Soon enough we managed to bring the boat ashore. After which I remember walking for more than two kilometres through a thicket before being rescued," he says.

This was just one of the many rowing experiences Khwaja has had since he developed an interest in the sport at 14.

He went on to win gold medals at the national level championships in Pakistan from 1987-1990 and earned medals at the Asian Championships in China (1987) and India (1989).

When he first arrived in Dubai as a fitness and health professional in 1998, he realised rowing (among UAE residents) was not well known, and the idea of setting up his own rowing school rapidly took shape.

"Presently we have more than 40 active adult rowers [including expatriates and UAE nationals]," he says of the Rowing School at the Dubai Water Sports Association's Club.

"Both amateur and professional rowers are trained here. We are currently preparing for the Dubai Rowathon 2005, a five-hour marathon length relay race between a four-member and a two-member team in rowing shells [boats]."

"I am delighted rowing is being recognised as a serious sport here," he adds.

(Dubai Rowathon 2005, in association with Médecins Sans Frontières, will be held on April 15, 2005, to raise funds for the tsunami victims and the emergency natural disaster relief, and to promote rowing in the UAE. For more information, log on to www.montyscullingschool.com)