Row, Row, Row Your Sculling Boat

When I was 15 or 16 my family went on a vacation to my Aunt's lake house in Colorado. One morning, I was outside looking down at the lake and saw a figure moving across in what looked like a long skinny canoe. On closer inspection, I realized that it wasn't a canoe, but a one man sculling boat. In that moment, a love was born in me that is difficult to describe. My heart yearned to be out on that boat in that person's place. Later that week, at a bookshop, I stumbled across a coffee table-style book on rowing. From that time on, I longed to glide across the water like the men and women in the book, with the sun about to rise and little droplets of water hitting my legs as the oars came up, swung forward and dipped back down into the glassy surface.

I made it my mission to find a way into the sport, despite the fact that I am from middle Tennessee where rowing is not exactly popular.  I could only imagine what it was like to actually row, but I was sure that I would be able to do it flawlessly if given the chance. I bought a used rowing machine and rowed in my bedroom to simulate the feeling....until the machine leaked oil all over the carpet and had to be put away.

My senior year of high school, I got my chance to finally see the sport up close. My English class was assigned the task of writing a research paper on the subject of our choice. I chose, not surprisingly, sculling. Since we had to have primary sources for the paper, I interviewed the coach for the Vanderbilt Rowing Club and attended one of their early morning practices out on Percy Priest lake. I was getting closer to my dream.

My choice of college was also somewhat influenced by rowing. My top picks had to have a rowing team or club; When I chose Pepperdine University, I promptly joined the rowing club. Our team was comprised of mostly non-athletes and frankly we weren't very good because most of us were freshman who had already put on the freshman 15...or 20, if I'm honest. We had to meet at 4 am to drive from Malibu to the marina at Venice. Those were the most exhausting mornings of my life. But in exchange, I was finally out on real water.....goodbye carpet rowing....and getting full-handed bloody blisters, with every muscle moaning, in the fishy smelling marina, the coach yelling, and truly loving it. It really was magical to be gliding, the water at lap level breezing by, and the sun on the low horizon.

I didn't rejoin the rowing team after that first year of college, despite my love for it. I spent my sophomore year in Germany and when I came back to campus in my third year, my workload was too busy to consider sports.

This morning, I went to the gym and watched a couple of people work out on the rowing machine. I try to keep from watching them to prevent myself from getting off my elliptical machine to let them know that their form is all wrong. How snobby would that sound coming from a non-gym employee. But I had rarely ever gotten on the machine myself. Today I spent 10 minutes reliving the feeling and reviving an old dream. Perhaps I can still buy my own sculling boat one of these days, drive down to the lake in early morning and get a quality workout doing the only sport I ever really felt a passion for.


MisCdaisy said...

you never cease to amaze me! I love learning new things about you!!!

Love, Mel

Amanda Conley said...

I didn't know the rowing machine leaked oil on the carpet. ooops.
We have a canoe you can borrow if you ever want to. It's no sculling boat - and it's really heavy, so take Jacob. ;)

Keely Brooke Keith said...

Great post, Annalise!

nessamcmonkey said...

awww, so sweet!

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