By KENNY WALTER
If it is 6 a.m. on a Saturday, chances are you’ll find Freehold resident Joe Giles rowing down the Passaic River.
Giles, like many other adults in Monmouth and Middlesex counties, was looking to be a part of a club, and after rowing in college, he opted to join the Nereid Boat Club in 2011.
“Typically the way I do it is, I meet my friend every Saturday morning and him and I just kind of row on our own,” Giles said. “Then once in a while him and I will enter a race and race under the club name.”
While Giles has had an affinity for rowing, many other locals are participating in hiking, chess, astronomy, biking and many other different types of clubs that offer a social component for people with similar interests.
The Nereid Boat Club (http://nereidbc.org/) is located in Rutherford, which Giles said he chose because it is halfway between his Freehold residence and his friend’s New York home.
Giles said he opts for Saturday morning rows, but the boat club is open to members daily from March to December.
Being part of the club also comes with a $900 yearly price tag, which Giles said is well worth it.
“It’s not bad considering the boats that you are getting are probably $50,000 boats,” he said.
However, some clubs are far more affordable, like the Central Jersey Bicycle Club (CJBC), located in New Brunswick, which includes just a $15 annual fee for its 200 members.
“It’s open to the general public and we have ride leaders that post rides on our website,” CJBC membership coordinator Joe DeSimone said. “Members participate in those rides and members can become ride leaders and post their own rides.
“We do have member appreciation rides, we have holiday dinners, meetings every other month.”
According to DeSimone, one of the reasons for the low fee is because the club wants to be inclusive for all recreational bikers. He also said one of the main reasons they are able to charge such a low fee is because of various fundraisers, including the Farmlands Flat Bicycle Tour.
DeSimone said there are four classifications of rides, and the majority of riders opt for the shorter and slower rides.
For more information on the CJBC, visit www.cjbc.org.
While there are many other clubs for those looking for intense exercise like biking or rowing, only a few focus on a nearly 100-year-old dance style.
In the early 1970s, Middletown Parks and Recreation offered square dancing lessons every Friday night as part of its Adult Education program.
A discussion about how the dancers rambled their way around the floor led to the formation of the Middletown Ramblers Square Dance Club, and more than 40 years later, the club is still going strong.
“Square dancing is still viable today,” said Larry Sherwood, club president, who has dedicated more than 30 years of service to the Ramblers.
“When I first joined, square dancing was big, there were a lot of clubs.
“Younger people, especially if they have kids, it’s a 24/7 job, so it’s hard to keep those individuals because they’re spending all their time going to … things for the kids and sometimes people have other activities and they move on, but we do have people who stick around and continue to take the lessons.
“It might not be what it used to be, but we maintain a strong membership of about 60 members.”
Sherwood joined the club with his wife Patty in 1981 and has been teaching classes since 1983.
“There’s a lot to occupy our time, and this is an important part of our lives right now,” he said. “It’s something that we really enjoy, and people are nice and we get to travel and go dancing all over the state.”
Sherwood added that dancing is good for the brain and physical health as it keeps members moving and thinking and said that with a membership of 60 individuals, strong bonds are formed.
“It’s all square dancing, but members have other activities they do and we get introduced to some other activities also,” he said. “Years ago we had a member that was an ice boater and I got into ice boating for a number of years, so it’s dancing and then it’s hanging out and socializing and doing different things with these people that aren’t just square dancing.
“With these people you develop a strong friendship [and] expand your horizons too, but the nucleus is the square dancing club.”
The Middletown Ramblers Square Dance Club will serve as the host to the Square Dance Open House Aug. 19 from 7:30-10 p.m. at the Middletown Senior Center (Croydon Hall) at 900 Leonardville Road.
For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/site/midramblers/home.
Other clubs can work out the mind, like the Monmouth Chess School and Club in Red Bank.
Dr. Michael Koblentz, director of the club, said the organization is free to anyone who wants to join and meets every Sunday at 1 p.m. at 51 Monmouth St. for casual chess play.
“We want to encourage people to come in and not be concerned about fees,” he said. “The club itself typically has reasonably experienced people.
“They are not all ready to play for the world championship, but some of them are quite experienced, battle-hardened tournament players. Others are casual players, but in all cases they know the basic rules of the game and how to play a game of chess.”
Koblentz said since the club opened in 2009, there has been a steady flow of both regulars and newcomers who come in to play chess.
“It is open to the public and the club itself typically has older members,” he said. “People come in irregularly, there are some people who come in every week.
“Others come in maybe just for the tournaments — it’s kind of hard to put a number on it because people come and go.”
Koblentz said players are given the opportunity to participate in United States Chess Federation-sanctioned tournaments at the club at various points throughout the year. He said the tournaments usually draw between 12 and 30 players from mostly Monmouth and Ocean counties.
Koblentz also said he teaches Go, an ancient Chinese board game for anyone interested in learning.
Along with the club, there is also a school component of the Monmouth Chess School and Club, which Koblentz said involves students of all ages and skill levels.
For more information on the Monmouth Chess School and Club, visit http://www.monmouthchess.com/.
Another local club brings together individuals who have an interest in the sky and the larger universe beyond it.
Formed in 1957, the Society of Telescopy, Astronomy and Radio (S*T*A*R) is a focal point for amateur astronomy in Monmouth County and attracts members of all ages, occupations and backgrounds.
According to club member Robert Nunn, the initial mission of the group was to collect observations on man-made satellites, so that accurate orbits could be calculated.
“It’s evolved now to a club where there’s a lot of observing, outreach to the public, we do telescope building, have meetings with speakers … it is quite a fun club,” Nunn said.
S*T*A*R meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month from September to June at 8 p.m. at the Monmouth Museum in the Lincroft section of Middletown Township.
“I joined the club about 15 years ago and it was a wonderful experience for me to be able to learn about how to observe and what sort of equipment I can use and found that it’s really a nice social [experience] too because there are a lot of people who are fun to be around.”
Along with observing, Nunn said speakers come in and provide many interesting facts about numerous areas of astronomy.
“We’ve had some fascinating talks,” he said. “We had a talk about the history of the Hubble Telescope and what went wrong with it, we had a talk by a man who helped develop the software that landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars which was just astonishing … [and] there are few other places where I would hear these sort of lectures on these kinds of topics and research in astronomy.
“The talks are a lot of fun and they generate a lot of interest in the club members.”
Nunn said members also bring their own individual knowledge and skills to the club, which he felt makes it better.
“We have people who are excellent observers, they know the sky very well; we have people who know a lot about telescope equipment and about how it works and how to make it work correctly; and there are people in our club who do imaging and take pictures of the sky and it is amazing the images they produce,” he said.
“There are many aspects to astronomy, and we have people who know a lot … and it’s really helpful to go to the club and if there is something you have a question [about], there will likely be someone there who can help you with it.”
While there are many different opportunities for adults to join clubs, there are opportunities for dogs as well.
Susan Soviero, vice president of the Bayshore Companion Dog Club, said the club offers a social experience for both dogs and their owners.
“It does have a certain social aspect because you have like-minded people who are interested in a specific activity and competition or just interested in dogs and that’s how they found their way into the club,” she said. “It is like anything else, it all depends on what you’re trying to get out of it.”
The Bayshore Companion Dog Club is a not-for-profit organization based in Eatontown that offers training for all aspects of competitive dog sports, as well as basic dog training for non-competitive pets.
However, she estimated the majority of members put their dogs through the more rigorous training programs, including the popular agility training classes that have led to some owners and dogs to participate in the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
According to Soviero, members of the club, which was founded in 1950, predominantly come from Monmouth and Middlesex counties, but also come from Ocean and Mercer counties and Staten Island.
She estimated that there are currently about 140 members in the club. For more information, visit http://www.bayshoredogclub.org/AboutBCDC.php.