Pulling their weight

Nov 072005
Authors: Amanda Schank

The 5 a.m. fog embraces the stillness of the water. A 60-foot boat invades the tranquility, leaving its mark in countless ripples. Eight oars sit poised above the surface, two hands clutched tight around each.

On command, each oar simultaneously breaches the surface. Individual numbers disappear as the boat and its occupants become a single uniform mechanism, gliding effortlessly across the water.

The scene is all too familiar for the members of CSU's newest addition to club sports: the crew club.

"It's an orgasm on water," said Matt Kruggel, club vice president and sophomore health and exercise science major. "Trying to describe rowing is like trying to describe what sex is like – it's difficult if you haven't experienced it."

In the past month, the club has gathered equipment and members, attempting to bring the team-oriented sport from the coasts to the mountains.

"People say crew is the ultimate team sport," said Brianne Taylor, club president and sophomore criminology and pre-veterinarian major. "The level of unspoken communication is just incredible."

Although novel to this generation of students, crew club is nothing new to CSU. Taylor said CSU had a group in the 80s, but bad weather caused its only boat to overturn and crash, destroying it and the club.

With the new club, members hope to provide not only another opportunity for students to row, but also raise its level of recognition.

"It's a combination of grace and power," said Thomas Jennings, club captain sophomore political science major. "It's not a sport where there's one exciting moment – there's just too much that goes into it.

"The sensation of moving across the water quickly…that's an awesome experience."

Crew is raced in eight- and four-person boats, also called shells, and in doubles or singles. Each boat typically has an extra person sitting opposite the rowers at the back, or stern, of the boat that acts as the coxswain, directing and commanding the rowers.

The method of rowing depends on the type of boat and varies by the number of oars. In an eight-person boat the most common form is sweeping, which is one oar per person. Sculling allows each person to have two oars.

An average eight-person shell is approximately 60 feet long, weighs 2,000 to 3,000 pounds and has oars approximately 15 feet long. It is steered with a rudder and due to its size, Taylor said, "trying to steer it is like parallel parking a semi truck."

While crew is a year-round sport, competitions occur in the fall and spring seasons. Fall races, called headraces, are distance events generally between 4,000 and 7,000 meters. Sprinting races, at 2,000 meters, take place in spring.

Competition for CSU's crew materialize in the spring, but training, whether at Horsetooth Reservoir or on the rowing machines indoors, has already begun.

Kruggel said a level of mental training and preparation is necessary in addition to the "physical blend of raw endurance and power" the sport demands.

"Determination, a high pain threshold and willingness to put in the time and effort is what it takes to succeed in races," Kruggel said. "It's a tremendous amount of teamwork and fun to get out there and move a boat…and it's a tremendous feeling of accomplishment."

Currently, the club has one eight-person shell named Saiia, on loan from CU-Boulder's crew team. With time and an anticipated increase in membership, the club hopes to expand crew at CSU to high levels of competition and possibly one day gain the status of a collegiate sport.

"It's difficult at the beginning because there's a lot you have to learn with the strokes and everything that you have to do," said Lauren Jobin, club secretary sophomore open option biomedical sciences major. "Just stick with it, because the reward is definitely there. Make sure you're committed to the team, and it'll pay off for you."

The club has general team meetings every two weeks and practices on weekends at Horsetooth Reservoir until it freezes over, but hopes to begin morning weekday practices soon. A fee of $300 a year is required to offset the cost of equipment and potential travel. The club looks to begin fundraisers and gain sponsorships for the future.

Officers encourage anyone with an interest in rowing to try it out, regardless of skill level.

"There's an understanding of how everyone moves inside the boat," Jennings said. "It's the ultimate team sport – every little bit you do in your stroke will affect the boat and the way it moves, so you need that much more focus and understanding to get things going.

"Getting to that point where you can row well takes a lot of time…but once you get all those elements together and that boat moving, you're just making that boat hum. You tingle because you get that excited about it – it just feels that good."


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