Crew is No Joke Folks


The author rows.

I’ve tried a multitude of sports in my three years at SBP, but the sport of rowing is easily the most gruesome sport at the Hive, but many people don’t know that yet. To the innocent freshman looking to complete his activity requirements or the club hopper who loves to try every activity–this sport is for the tenacious. Let me tell you why:

I stood there waiting in a hallway full of sweaty people who had just finished their workout and those who were anxiously waiting for their turn. The stale air reeked of must and the only sounds you could hear were grunts and gasps. All I saw was suffering. The time has come: the 2,000 meter rowing sprint time trials.Today was the day that the crew head coach Craig White would test all of his athletes, veterans and amateurs.

I haven’t been running track lately, so I wasn’t exactly in cardiovascular shape. But I was weary of writing and looking at articles on a screen. As I was going down to the weight room for my biweekly weight lifting, I encountered a friend on my way there.Terror was plastered onto his face. I figured I’d show him how much he was overreacting. I headed down to the weight room and stretched for the suffering that was about to occur. Couldn’t be all that bad right?

It turns out I was wrong. Waiting for my turn on the ergometer machine (or erg for short), I didn’t feel the anxiety or uneasiness that the others beside me felt.They knew what was about to happen.

I sat on the erg and the coxswain told me three things: warm up properly, pull as fast as you can for the first 250 meters, and do not quit until you have reached zero meters to go.
On the first pull, I believed that this was gonna be an easy ride. My legs were moving back and forth with grace and my arms were easily exerting the pulling force of the machine. I had achieved the perfect form. Well I thought I did. Apparently there’s this whole process to rowing that I completely ignored. But I, the overconfident 16-year old, thought nothing of it.

I soon found out that I was missing something the other rowers had: experience. Instantly after I finished the 250 meter sprint, my upper body was attacked by an unremitting wave of cramps. With 1750 meters to go, I wasn’t exactly sure I could hold up for long. I wanted to quit already.

But they did not  let me. I had coxswains and fellow rowers who had completed their workout screaming in my face. Apparently, that was their custom of motivating one another. I did not know that though, so I was extremely scared. Perhaps I could run away and no one could catch me. But I was afraid that I was too fatigued to even move my legs. So I kept going.

1250 to go. I’m not even halfway done yet and the pain was staggering. “ Why am I here? Why am I not playing video games at my house right now?” I lamented. The pain did not subside for even a fraction of a second. Callouses superimposed on to one another until they ultimately busted. In a dark alley somewhere, the cramps in my body were mugging me for my joy and happiness. Even though I gave them all of it, they continued to assault me. Next thing you know I was on the floor and they were kicking me in my limbs, lungs and abdomen. They wouldn’t stop until I had 0 meters left to row.

870 to go. It feels like I’ve been rowing for all eternity, but only 4 minutes has gone by in reality. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, I’ve become “unstuck in time”. My mouth has gotten so dry that my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. My throat hurts every time I breathe. All atoms of moisture vanished.

300 to go. I know I’ll have to sprint but I actually feel better knowing that all my suffering will be over soon. I am the murder victim that finally sees the light while bleeding out from being stabbed to death.I began pulling my hardest. My arms are numb and my mind was blank. Pull. Pull.PULL!

0 meters left. Finally finished, I thought. But I was not ready to be hit in the face with the aftershock of extreme exhaustion, cottonmouth and fatigue. I could not set my foot off the ground and lift myself up from the erg with dignity and pride.There was no way I could portray myself as the hero who fought through adversity. Instead, I was the army veteran finally coming home from Afghanistan, packaged with the immobility of some of my limbs and full-blown PTSD. Nothing but time would be able to fix me. I limped and stumbled to the weight room fountain in pursuit of liquid relief. The water from the weight room fountain evaporated in the desert that was my mouth. I was fine within a few hours, but the cramps in my forearms lasted for an entire week. I don’t think I’m ever gonna sit on an erg again.

Looking back, I question myself–Why would anyone do this sport? Maybe it’s the old human drive of competition to see who can endure the longest. It might be the experience of rowing on water, which I haven’t tried, that mesmerizes the athletes. Or maybe some people just like pain.There must be a lot of masochists in the school, because the crew team is packed.