WATCH NOW: Freedom Boat Club launches in Richmond; membership club offers boating fun,

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Members must earn a boating certificate — a state requirement — before they can operate the boat. Once they have that, they also take a two- to three-hour on-the-water training course, provided by the boat club, with a Coast Guard-licensed captain. Once they pass, they’re free to be on the water on their own.

That training element, Russo said, is a valuable piece of membership.

“For someone who’s a novice boat enthusiast, that was probably the best part of it — it was really simple,” Russo said about getting licensed and certified in boat and water safety.

He said he and his family planned to keep the membership only through the pandemic, but now have no plans to end it.

“When the pandemic hit, it canceled out everything you would have normally done for fun,” he said, and buying a boat “wasn’t financially feasible.”

They now go boating about once a week, and especially love the reciprocal program that allows them to utilize clubs all over the country, which they’ve already done in three other states, as well as in Virginia Beach, he said.

Parker, a Florida native who grew up boating, said he opened the Woodbridge club in 2017, the first one in Virginia.

It started with five boats and now includes a fleet of 27. As memberships grow, and as long as there’s slip space, Freedom will add boats as needed, he said. Within his four locations, there are more than 400 members.

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