Rowing is arguably the most physically demanding and intense sport known to men and women. It fosters bonds between its athletes like that of no other sport. Rowing is also extraordinary in terms of another aspect: its rich and long history.

Every ancient power used rowing as a form of transportation, commerce and war. Yet over the years, rowing has evolved into a form of competition and sport. Competitive rowing for leisure was first recorded in 1430 BC, where a funerary carving for Pharaoh Amenhotep II depicted the king as a rower and detailed some of the competitions he won against rival Egyptian nobles (1). Who knew you could “Row Like an Egyptian”! During the fourteenth century, competitive rowing could be found at Carnevale regattas — events used to celebrate the beautiful aquatic setting of Venice. Rowing teams and individual rowers raced on the milky blue waters of Venice’s narrow canals and waterways (2). While rowing has been used for competition and celebration, it truly evolved into an organized sport in England.

In London, 1715, the first official “regatta” was a contest established by Irish actor and playwright Thomas Doggett, where the winning rower was awarded a coat and badge (3) Students at Eton College, located west of London, quickly picked up the sport, and once they graduated, brought rowing to Oxford and Cambridge. Founded in 1829, the famous Oxford Vs. Cambridge race is highly anticipated to this day (4). Organized sport rowing made its debut in the US with the Harvard-Yale race in 1852 (5). Its reputation as a pass time of blue-collared workers quickly morphed into leisure for the middle and upper class. Spectators began to bet on rowing and it became more commercialized as merchants situated on rivers with good racing waters saw the sport as an opportunity to sponsor regattas and draw consumers to their towns (6). Rowing picked up momentum as clubs and organizations were created in countries including Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Hong Kong. Everyone suddenly wanted a seat in the boat.

Today, rowing is truly a sport for anyone who wants to pick up an oar. We have technologies that can measure our power, tell us how fast we’re going or need to go, and improve our technique. We even have the ability to adapt boats for anyone with a disability. Programs around the world are changing lives by instilling in their rowers confidence, work ethic, and a sense of community. Anyone who is lucky enough to experience the joys of being on the water will find himself or herself a part of this great history.

It’s time to blast the Bangles in the erg room! (Remix anybody?)




“History of Crew.” Rockford Rowing. Accessed January 31, 2017. (5)

“Neglected.” Accessed January 31, 2017. (3,4,6)

“The History Of Rowing.” Accessed January 31, 2017. (1,2)


One of my favorite rowing jokes is “To find out who the rowers are in the room, scream 2k and see who wets themselves.”

To start off with some mind-blowing facts, physiologists have calculated that a 2k takes the same physiological toll as playing two basketball games back-to-back. That toll only takes about six minutes[1]. And, pound for pound, Olympic oarsmen can take in and process as much oxygen as a thoroughbred racehorse[2].

The 2k is highly competitive and can be a rower’s worst nightmare. It’s hard not to think of the painful buildup of lactic acid, the burning lungs and the mental fatigue that could make any intense athlete wince. Yet there are ways to beat the voice in your head that says you can’t accomplish your goal.

Make a race plan. If you have a coxswain, or are going it solo, make sure that you create a plan for your 2k. This race plan should include power 10’s, goal splits and mental motivation/calls. If you have a plan before getting on the erg, you will be much calmer.

Visualize the 2k. A technique that is being used by many teams is to visualize the warm-up and 2k in real time. Sit next to your erg in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Visualize yourself taking 10’s in the warm up. Then get on the erg and take your start five and lengthen 20. Think about how you will be feeling at certain points and have motivation ready to counter negative thoughts. By completing the 2k in your mind, there will be no surprises when it comes to the actual test, and you can challenge any mental obstacles before they occur that might inhibit a personal best.

Trust your training. Leading up to a 2k, rowers complete trying workouts such as 8x500m and 3x6x1 minute on one, one minute off, in addition to hours of steady state. Physically, sprint workouts are usually much more demanding than a 2k, yet the mental pressure often gets to the rower. If you have trained properly, your body can take a lot more than you think it can. You must trust at the start that you have prepared all you can to accomplish your goal split.

Take care of your body. Two nights before a 2k is the most important time to get a decent sleep. It will ensure that your body is rested, even if adrenaline keeps you awake the night before your awaited piece. Remember to hydrate (at least 3 bottles a day), and eat some form of carbs (preferably pasta or bread… yum J). Stretching and heating will also prepare your muscles for the workout. This will prevent any injuries from occurring.

Lastly, believe in yourself and know you’re not alone. It’s true that you are completing this erg test alone, but chances are you will be next to your teammates, who are working just as hard you. Every piece you complete will make you stronger for the season, and stronger for the boat. Unless you’re in a single, you have to pull for your fellow oarsmen. Envision your teammates around you and believe in the boat.


Photo Courtesy of Coach Libby Boghossian

[1] Robinson, Dean. 1372705990. “An Oarsman Is a Verb Meaning ‘to Row.’” The 6th Floor Blog.

[2] Ibid

Every “List of things a college freshman should know” will emphasize how different college is from high school. However, the life of a collegiate athlete is not your typical college experience. Today we bring you a list compiled by the Catch & Feather brand ambassadors with everything you need to know about mixing college life with rowing life.

  1. The Keurig is your new best friend.

Let’s face it. As a collegiate rower, you are going to be on a totally different schedule from everyone else. Attempting an early bedtime with your nocturnal roommate who needs music to study and schedules nightly Skype calls with her long distance boyfriend may result in you losing more hours of sleep than you would like. You and your roomie will eventually become best friends and learn to laugh about your differences but for now you may need a little caffeine to jump start your day. Having access to a hot water heater to make dinosaur egg oatmeal, a Cup-O-Noodles, and numerous other college staples will make your life a whole lot easier, especially when all the dining halls are closed after you get back from evening practice. If you are worried about your carbon footprint, try a French press. Everyone on your floor will think you are the coolest hipster around.

  1. Go to class.

Collegiate athletes miss classes. Professors genuinely want you to do well especially when you make an effort. All they ask is that you show up and do your best. A heavy regatta schedule may result in you missing more classes than you would like so it is important that you attend every class you can and stop by office hours to check in on things you have missed or will miss later. Getting to know your professors on a more personal level in office hours will help you in the long run – especially if you need to make up an exam or lab because of a regatta.

  1. Always carry 3 pairs of socks with you.

Carry them in your glove compartment box, backpack side pocket, whatever you choose! Having extra socks will keep you warm and chances are you can be there for a new teammate or a new friend. You can never be over prepared. College is a chance to use all those preparation tools for regattas as well as school.

  1. Be a good sport.

Be fair warned…your old high school rivalries should be put away (for the most part) by the time you get to school. As you may have heard college is nothing like high school. Collegiate sports and rowing specifically are just the same. You will become part of a larger community of athletes competing for a bigger goal, a bigger title and all the glory.

  1. You will never regret buying a regatta t-shirt.  #memories

…but make sure to save up for upcoming regattas. Learning to budget yourself at college can be hard for some. And it can be hard to maintain a job between practice, friends, eating and sleeping.

  1. Don’t be afraid to get involved with things other than rowing.

Getting involved is the best way to meet new people at school. You can find a club for almost anything and it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. You can usually find clubs for your major that might only meet once a month or clubs who go on trips during breaks. See what your teammates and friends are getting involved with and take a chance. College is the time to explore all of your interests and trying something new could help you discover a new talent or even spark a new career path.

  1. Try not to go home on the weekends.

Everyone gets homesick and if you are only a few hours away it can be tempting to head home with a bag of laundry to hide out for the weekend. It can be hard to get to know the people in your hall when you have practice, class, and team activities throughout the week. The weekends are the best time to hangout and make friends in your dorm. Some of your best college memories will be recounting last night’s shenanigans at Sunday brunch with the friends from your hall.

  1. Get advice from your older teammates.

They might seem scary and big and post a 2k time that blows yours out of the water but that is all just temporary. Remember that everyone starts out as the newbie at some point in his or her career. Look to them for advice and learning the culture of the crew. Remembering to be respectful, eager to learn and ready to pull hard will go a long way.

  1. Remember not to alienate your non-rowing friends

There will be a time when you might just need some space. The boat might not be meshing, you are worried about a seat race and you need to shave 2 whole seconds off your 6k split… Having a friend who has absolutely no clue what catching a crab means is sometimes refreshing and forces you to remember that college is a great big wonderful world with millions of things going on and people to meet. Your rowing friends could be your best friends but remember that variety is bliss.

  1. College rowing is actually the best.

Believe it or not, regatta moms are not really a thing in college. Chances are your coaches won’t be watching over you the way they did in high school. That means no more duct tape on the hotel dorm room and the freedom to make your own decisions. You will be held responsible to know where you need to be and how to act. We know from high school that there is nothing else quite like finishing a race, comparing blisters or winning shirts.

Collegiate rowing will bring you more places that you ever expected.



My mom bought me 2 pairs of gloves when I started rowing. Because I play the violin, she thought she’d help me save my hands (and a few angry lectures from my violin teacher).

They are still in my drawer.

She parades them out periodically, but the truth is, ugly hands are a badge of honor for rowers, aren’t they? They are like slide bites on your calves or rowers bum. All these badges are part of the secret vernacular of rowing and a part of the identifiers for rowers. You know a fellow rower by the “secret handshake” – if the hand you’re shaking feels like old bumpy ostrich skin, you know it belongs to a fellow rower. And we LOVE to talk about them. It’s like the scene in Jaws where Hooper and Captain Quint are comparing scars. (“… and this blister is from preseason, and this one calloused over after Head of the…”).

So, our hands are not pretty, our calves are scarred and our shoulders are always a bit wider than normal… but we are always smiling. Except of course, when someone yells “2K”.

Now, that’s another post altogether.


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