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Rowing Adventure: The Final Day

April 18, 2011




By Stephen Pugh

As the sun started to rise over Biscayne Bay, I was ready for the challenge that faced me. Today I was going into the eight person boat for some drills and training that the team typically goes through. While I had about 30 minutes of work on Thursday as my only actual on-the-water practice, I was hopeful about my chances to hold my own with the team.

As we pushed away from the dock, you could feel the difference in the speed and power of the eight person boat compared to the four person boat. However, the most noticeable difference was how important rhythm was to the overall success of the boat. To maximize the speed and movement of the boat, everyone needed to be in unison. This meant that everyone needed to put the oar in the water at the same time, pull back at the same time, take the oar out of the water and control the slide in the seat at the same pace of the other seven members. When just one person wasn’t on the same page as the rest of the team, the boat jerked and snapped about in the water. While the speed and power of the crew is essential, allowing the boat to move through the water as uninhibited as possible is just as crucial to victory.

After we cleared the channel and were out on the calm water of Biscayne Bay we started going through different drills that focused on our rhythm. We would take turns rowing in different pairs and then add more pairs until we had all eight rowing together. With all eight rowers pulling together, you could feel the power. I also learned what happens if you can’t clear your oar out of the water when all eight are rowing. A few times, I had dropped my oar too deep into the water and was not able to get it out of the water when I tried. This resulted in the oar handle drilling me in the stomach and pinning me backwards. I was told by Coach Carter that going at full speed in race conditions, this can break your ribs. Fortunately, I don’t think anything I am involved in on a boat can achieve race conditions.

Despite some nice bruises in the area of my ribs, it was a successful final day on the water. I really got a taste of why so many enjoy rowing. There are bustling, busy world on both shores, but out on the water, there’s a certain quiet, peacefulness. You can just relax and focus in on simple strokes and moving the boat through the water.

Life will go back to normal for me this week, and I’m sure I will not miss the early wake up calls. But, I definitely have a new appreciation for the dedication, challenges and difficulties that these student athletes deal with on a daily basis. Every day they continue to work and push themselves to improve and hopefully they will get to see the fruits of their labor this upcoming weekend at the ACC Championships.

I’m thankful for my week spent with the team and am appreciative of the coaches and ladies for including me in their family for the week. It was a great experience that I won’t soon forget.