Thursday, May 12, 2011


I love rowing, but I love the idea of rowing even more.

Who is that man in the green cap?
I rowed for The University of Texas "back in the day." I know - Texas is not exactly synonymous with the life aquatic or rowing, to be sure. But with my intentions being as pure as the lake we rowed on, I took it up as a club sport. (More on that in a sec.)

Sidebar: In Austin, most rowing is done on Lady Bird Lake, which is really just a dammed-up spot on the Colorado River. The lake used to be  called "Town Lake" because it courses through the middle of downtown Austin. The "lake" is spanned by the Congress Avenue bridge, which is home to the world's largest colony of urban-dwelling bats.  (Can you say "guano"?) The lake - none too pure.

Back to a now-Cascadian, then-transient prep trying to explain r-o-w-i-n-g in Texas, for Pete's sake. At the time, rowing wasn't just any "club sport."  If you are like me, the idea of  "club sports" in college evokes images of frisbee golf, competitive hackysack, or late night dwarf-tossing. But rowing, as a club sport, was different in that it enabled marginally-athletic guys like me to think we were cool on campus. It also gave us that  "je ne sais liberal arts smugness" hard to achieve with, say, club rugby or club pickelball. It gave us a chance to travel, wear henleys, talk about how we don't drink because we're athletes, not talk about how we ate magic brownies after regattas because we're club sport athletes, etc.
It's different now.  Texas actually has a nationally ranked rowing program... #15 in the country! This fact takes the fun out of it for me, since my motivation was to impress liberal arts lassies, not actually work hard and take it seriously. There's no messing with successful Texas sports programs.

"The Cut" with Montlake Bridge in the background (Seattle)

In Cascadia - Washington to be exact - it's the same as it has been for a long time... they row well here... really well. So well, in fact, I had to ask myself why such a locally popular and strong preppy sport didn't radiate more preppiness through out the land.

I think I found the answer... it's because the traditional rowing powerhouses from back east are being challenged by schools from the West Coast, the Midwest and the South Central. The whole paradigm is shifting.  Cheating Tiger Woods in golf. Derrière-picking Nadal in tennis. Football-loving Texas in rowing. Don't get me wrong... I love each of these three sports establishments, but they can dilute the spirit, obscure the history, and cheapen the lore. Preps need spirit, history, and lore.

Division I
1) Tie - Cal & Princeton
7) Washington
9) Yale
12) Harvard
14) Washington State
15) Texas (seriously)

Division II
1) Western Washington Univ.
2) Seattle Pacific Univ.

The rowing Winklevoss dudes who "founded" FB... sorta

Opening Day of Boating Season was Saturday, May 7th, when  the Pacific Northwest's premier regatta - The Windemere Cup - is contested.  The fours crews rowing this year were Cambridge, Stanford, Oklahoma, and Washington. Washington won.

(A few pics taken in Tigre, Bs. As.... more reasons why rowing is great.)

Buenos Aires Rowing Club

La Marina Regata Club

Rowing Club Argentino


  1. Excellent. I rowed for three years at two universities. My prep school and universities still compete at Henley. A superb way to stay in shape--but deadly boring! A young man's sport, I think, though some continue with sculling; I never got into it.

  2. As a former rower in college, your reference to no drinking was quite true. We had a strict rule of no alcohol during the fall and spring seasons--if you got reported for drinking you were off the crew automatically. So I spent most of my college years cold sober. We were at the other end of the behavioral spectrum from the rugby players.

  3. Thank you for your comment, "Anonymous." I took pride in not drinking at the time and my reference to magic brownie consumption,to my knowledge, only happened one time - after the Dad Vails Regatta. And the only reason some rowers took the risk is because they would be graduating later that month; even so, like you said, on the other end of the behavioral spectrum from the rugby players.

  4. Rowed all four years of college. I even remember taking on Texas at the San Deigo Crew Classic, along with Yale AND Harvard in our heat. I didn't think it was possible to lose a 2,000 meter race by 3,000 meters, but I'm pretty sure we did.

    And, yes, we were dry, as well. Luckily only spring semester. We were a club sport after all.