As college rowers in sleek boats zipped across the water in the movie "The Social Network," Maggie Anderson knew she was hooked.
After watching the film last year, the high school sophomore promised herself to try the sport.
She got her chance this summer when she joined the Omaha Rowing Association, a group that skims the waters of Carter Lake on long, narrow boats called shells.
The club was active in the 1990s, but disbanded more than 10 years ago. Jaime Wolfe, a former member of the Creighton University rowing team, helped revive the 19-member group last summer and it has drawn former collegiate rowers, adults looking for a new way to stay in shape and teens interested in learning the sport.
"It's really demanding,'' said Anderson, who attends Papillion-LaVista South High School. "But I love being on the water."
Nationally, interest in the sport is growing at both the club and collegiate levels, said Brett Johnson of U.S. Rowing, the sport's governing body. Interest has increased partly because of the success of U.S. Olympic rowing teams in the past decade, including a gold medal in 2008.
The number of member organizations affiliated with U.S. Rowing, including clubs and college teams, has more than doubled in the past 15 years to 1,100. Cities with clubs include Minneapolis, St. Louis and Oklahoma City.
Rowers cruise over the water on lightweight boats made of carbon fiber. An eight-person boat is 60 feet long, about 14 inches wide and weighs just 200 pounds — even though it can carry more than 1,700 pounds.
Wolfe said one of the club's goals is to draw teens who are interested in collegiate rowing. Clubs are particularly important in communities and states without high school rowing teams. Neither Nebraska or Iowa have high school rowing teams sanctioned by state school associations.
Anderson, 15, is interested in college rowing and hopes her experience with the Omaha club will give her a boost.
Wolfe, who rowed for Creighton's team from 2000-04, started out just like Anderson. Wolfe joined the Omaha rowing club in eighth grade and landed a spot on Creighton's team.
Dan Chipps, head coach for the Creighton women, said walk-on athletes who weren't on a high school rowing team are an important part of his squad. Chipps said Creighton's team draws former high school volleyball players, cross country runners and other athletes who have strength and endurance. They learn rowing from him and the other coaches.
Anderson and other club members are learning from Wolfe.
On a recent evening, club members rowed in four boats up and down Carter Lake as the sun began to dip. Wolfe rowed alongside in her one-person boat, calling out instructions on technique.
Start out pulling the oars with just your arms, then add your back and then your legs, she told them. Keep your hands about even on the oars.
"It's a lot to remember,'' she called out. "But you're doing great."
Movies often depict rowing as an Ivy League sport only for the rich, but that's not the case, Johnson said. Big 10 schools including Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin have strong rowing teams, known as crew at the college level.
Johnson's national organization has helped establish programs that expose minorities to rowing at inner-city schools in Detroit and other communities in an effort to reverse the perception of rowing as an elite sport.
The popularity of the sport also has grown among people who are well past high school and college. Adults are drawn to the sport at the club level because of the great exercise it provides.
"It's absolutely a whole-body workout,'' said Dan Kohler, a personal trainer at Omaha's Downtown Family YMCA.
Even though upper-body strength is essential, the real power of the rowing stroke comes from the legs. Rowing also works the back, stomach and other core muscles, he said. And it's low-impact, which is important for people with knee problems or other joint issues.
Rowing builds endurance, which benefits those who participate in other sports, whether it's tennis, swimming or cycling.
Doug Gillespie, 33, joined the rowing club this summer. He trying the sport as a "bucket list item."
Like Anderson, the rowing scenes in "The Social Network" convinced Gillespie that now was the time to give it a shot.
Gillespie, who lives in Omaha, is a cyclist, logging 100 miles a week. He said rowing is great training for his cycling treks, including a 450-mile ride across Iowa later this month.
"You really work (everything) from your toes to your shoulders,'' he said. "It's awesome."