Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports.
Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions.
It calls upon the limits of human endurance.
George Yeoman Pocock, Boat Builder & Rowing Coach, (1891 1976)
After swimming for the previous ten years I had assumed that I would swim at UNH. I even met with the swim coach during my visit prior to enrolling.
During my first week in Durham I encountered The Crew Team. What stood out about them was the special passion they had for what they were doing. I had to find out more about what had them so inspired.
Joining the Team
I joined the team that fall and was immediately pulled into the famously intense crew workouts. Apparently they were legendary on campus. I soon came to find out why rowing is one of the most physically demanding sports there is. We rowed until ice formed on the oarlocks, then switched to dry land workouts. We were lifting weights and getting timed on rowing machines all week in the gym, and then running 6 miles through frozen New England sunrises every Friday until the river thawed, then were back on the water before the geese returned. The workouts only got harder as the year went on.
Learning to Row
During the fall the goal of the workouts is just learning the proper way to row, which it is generally agreed takes most of a full year just to become reliable in. The second goal is conditioning, which is essential to being able to compete at the collegiate level. The workouts quickly became progressively more intense and I found myself eating all the food I could get my hands on and building a lot of muscle while losing around 30 pounds in the process.
Instead of going to Fort Lauderdale, Florida the Crew Team spent the week of Spring Break living in a Howard Johnson's hotel and rowing out of Harvard's boathouse on the Charles River in downtown Boston. This was a great opportunity to not only see a little more of Boston, but also see how the rowers in the Ivy League lived. It was a great experience and, of course, a LOT of rowing.
My boat the novice heavyweight eight did fairly well at New England's, but we didn't win any medals. We beat Tufts in our one head-to-head race on the Piscataqua River (our home course). The big event of the season for UNH was the Dad Veil Regatta which was held ironically enough on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, only a few miles from Haddonfield. We rowed well to end our first season, taking first in our qualifying heat, but finishing well back in the final.
Thoughts on Crew
To say I was hooked on rowing was an understatement. There is something about the sport which only works with total commitment, but if you are ready to give that total commitment the satisfaction it can bring is like nothing else. The work is almost inhuman, but like Army Ranger Training the accomplishment of things that look impossible serves to make you realize how much is possible, and to push yourself always forward.
I finished my first season on the water with an deep passion for rowing and a very tight group of friends on the Crew Team.