In May of 1992, a group of four Dayton-area rowers met to discuss promoting rowing. They were Jim Wall, Charlie Doyle, Dr. Todd Sobol, and Steve Herbert. By November of 1992, the group had incorporated the Greater Dayton Rowing Association (GDRA) as a not for profit corporation. GDRA became a prime sponsor of rowing in the Greater Dayton area.
In 1994 GDRA started both an adult Learn-to-Row program and the area’s first junior rowing program, providing access to classes and equipment for those interested in the sport and introducing young people to rowing. GDRA currently offers both recreational rowing on the Great Miami River and opportunities for competitive rowers to travel to regattas.
GDRA began hosting a regatta in 1995, originally known as the Five Rivers Fall Regatta. It was renamed the Charlie Doyle Memorial Regatta in honor of founding member Charlie Doyle, who passed away in 2007. The regatta began as a 2000-meter head race on the Great Miami River between the I-75 and Helena Street bridges, and it was held each year through 2016. After a lengthy hiatus caused by bridge construction work, the Charlie Doyle Memorial Regatta became a virtual race in 2021, with the options of live racing on Concept2 rowing machines and asynchronous racing on the water.
From its early days, GDRA has worked closely with Five Rivers MetroParks to ensure a safe and well-maintained location for rowers. In 1995, the Island MetroParks boathouse was completed and became the permanent home for GDRA. This boathouse provides safe and secure housing for rowing shells, oars, and other equipment. GDRA now has a sturdy 96-foot dock manufactured and installed by AccuDock, which replaced the original wooden docks.