Happy Learn-to-Row Day!

Today is National Learn-to-Row Day! Hopefully many more people will have a chance to  try out this growing sport and get hooked.

USRowing posed the question, “where did you learn to row?”

Since I’m young, I often get asked, “Where did you row in college?”  It’s great that people recognize rowing as a collegiate sport!  Sometimes I’m asked, “Did you row in high school?” trying to see if I learned with one of our local youth teams or with ROCCS, the club I rowed with before Sarasota.

The answer is “No, I didn’t  learn to row in college–other than when I studied abroad. I rowed then.”

Not that I didn’t want to. In the weeks leading up to high school graduation, fliers appeared in the corridors: We’re starting a Citrus County rowing team! Bummed that I was graduating and not able to row–because it sounded so cool to have a real rowing team in our little slice of nowhere–I vowed to give it to in college.

At freshman orientation, buff crew men in red t-shirts helped unload our junk and women passed out fliers for novice try-outs. Unfortunately, they happened to be Monday-Friday, 2:30 p.m, and I had classes at that time everyday but Friday. I went the first Friday I could, but by then the coaches had a sense of who was dedicated and already had them on ergs.  Just an unremarkable face in a crowd of thirty or so girls, I wouldn’t be able to catch up; the coaches ignored me and I never even sat on an erg. I vowed to re-arrange my schedule next term.  No luck.

When the Honors college selected me for their study abroad Oxford, I vowed I would try to row!  I’d go out for my college team.  It was my luck–they needed one more willing woman to fill out at boat for Torpids.  So it was there I learned to row, on the freezing waters of the Isis, at 5:30 in the morning on boathouse row for Trinity College.

I consider myself lucky that I learned to row there. I can’t say I remember too much about particular drills or technique lessons–I became caught up in all the opportunities rowing opened up for me, like eating dinner at Christ Church College where Harry Potter was filmed–but I must have had great instruction.  I do know I was the only novice in the boat, and the only rower from America.

Usually the practice began 5:30 a.m. long before the sun peaked over the cathedral towers.  It was winter, dark, and freezing cold.  I’d borrow my roommate’s bike and join the other throngs of rowers streaming towards boathouse row for morning practice.  The boat was incredibly heavy and boathouse tight.  Our coach, a graduate student named Claire, would wait for us on the bike trail on the opposite side of the river and yell at us while cycling.   We’d clear the water by 8:15 or so and make it back in time for the end of breakfast at the hall. No one ever took pictures–we were too busy rowing. The afternoon and evening practices were in the weight room or the erg room in the basement.

The only pictures I have are from race day, a miserably cold day. In the course of our time trial, the skies doused us with rain, sleet, hail, and snow.

Rowing at Trinity College, Oxford.

Rowing at Trinity College, Oxford.

This was cox’n, a sweet girl named Elizabeth. I always wore the blue headband and gloves until it was time to race. I don’t think the temperature ever broke 40 degrees.

Just before we row Row on Trinity W 2

Unfortunately I wasn’t there long enough to get a unisuit, so I simply wore a Trinity College t-shirt to race. Makes it clear it’s me racing.

Sit the boat

Now I know why I row so well at starboard.  I raced 5 seat.  I do remember learning to row in 3-seat, and thought I raced it, until looking at these pictures.  Taking off down the IsisThere you have it: proof I learned to row in England at Oxford.  I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world!


About camckenna

I write; I row.
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