Friday, August 07, 2009

Post-Collegiate Rowing

Jeez, it's been almost a year since I last posted on here. Far too long. I'm going to try updating this thing more often, now that I'm working instead of studying.

Last night, I had a transformative experience. It was one of those things that reminded you why you fell in love with something long after you were first introduced to it; it was like a husband looking at his wife of 10 years and seeing something that reminded him of their first date. A few members of the rowing club I belong to went out for a row last night to catch the moon rising over the river.

I was nervous when I got there; I was going to row a double with Jon, a guy my father's age who runs a residential construction company. He's a pretty good sculler, and I had spent most of my time on the water in a single, where my rough slide control and messy handle heights affected only myself. At least the boat was nice; an old Fluidesign that was still nicer than anything I had rowed before.

We launched a little before 8:00, when the sun was still setting. It descended behind our shoulders as we rowed westward on the river. Despite the fact that Jon and I had never rowed together before and it had been almost 3 years since I had rowed in a team boat, we were moving together well. Once I realized that my hands were moving slow out of the finish, I was able to match his timing, and we quickly caught up with the other shells that had launched before us.

We rowed up to one of the creek inlets on the river, about 5km from the boathouse. Jon and I spun around to catch the moon as it came up over the horizon, partially hidden by the low cloud cover. The safety lights on the other boats were either dim or obscured from view, and the water was glassy and quiet. I could barely make out anything beyond the banks of the river.

As I sat there, watching the moon move higher and higher in the sky, I thought about all the things that I have done, things that I never would have experienced if I had never set foot in a shell.

I have rowed next to manatees and dolphins in Florida. I have rowed both with and against National Team members, worked alongside men who have Olympic gold medals somewhere at home. I have been able to watch the moon rise over the tobacco fields in New England. I have seen more sunrises than most people probably see in a lifetime. I have made friends and found mentors. Most importantly, there are the characteristics of any rower who continues in the sport for years that have served me well outside of the realm of sport: a good work ethic, sportsmanship, collaborative effort, the ability to push beyond perceived limits. The list could go on forever.

The most amazing thing is that all of these things have happened to me, a person with a less than distinguished rowing background. It's these things as much as the viscerally physical feeling of moving a boat that make me love the sport and keep me coming back to it over and over again.

We rowed back to the boathouse as the moon continued to rise higher into the sky. We crossed underneath the bridges near the boathouse, the red and green lights glittering off of the surface of the water. Clearing the bridges, we took a twenty, and the boat took off. I know we weren't going fast compared to most doubles, but the rock-solid set and absolute sense of swing made it feel like we were flying off the water. We spun back towards the dock and took another twenty, a fitting end to the best practice I'd had in a very long time.