Memories of Long Beach Junior Crew

By Alumnus Anika Ballent

Back in sunny Southern California after graduating from Jacobs University in June, I am reminiscing about the beginning of my rowing days, that first year of disciplining, muscle aches, blisters, and some sweet victories. I can try to share those times with you, a bit of USAmerican crew culture. Today I was giving Andy Rose (the Lafayette exchange student who rowed with us during Spring semester 2011) a tour of the bay where I rowed almost every day in my senior year of high school. Being such a gorgeous day (in the end of December!), I remembered all those afternoons gliding through the golden and glinting waters and under the sinking sun, along the never ending array of sailboats and homes which line the shore of Naples Island and defined our daily circular course.

The waters in which we rowed are brackish; the bay surrounding Naples was once a wetland. The San Gabriel River and the Pacific Ocean waters mix in the bay cut off from the ocean by a spit of sand we call the Peninsula (see the satellite figure ;D) . While there are tides, there is no current other than the surface currents generated by the winds. So I can safely say, the water was usually much more rowing-friendly than the Lesum! In the early 1900s, rowing was starting to take foot in the area. The Olympics took place in Los Angeles in 1932 then again in 1984 for which a rowing stadium was built as an extension of the bay (I’ve posted two pictures of what the Long Beach rowing scene looked like then). A straight stretch of 2 kilometers marked in the middle by a looming bridge, is still the course used to train for races and host regattas. The Pete Archer Boat House was built in 1967 after the renowned coach and rower, and it’s still there today with 4 bays and a large erging and weight room. Rowing in saltwater isn’t any different from rowing in freshwater except for washing the boats needs to be done with a bit more care to prevent the metal from corroding.

I started rowing in my senior year of high school; I just signed up and tried it out. Having danced my whole life, I wasn’t a competitive person, nor very strong. The first weeks of training were almost tough enough to make me quit, but after a few weeks on the Girls novice team and the first 2K, I decided I would accept the challenge. Every afternoon and Saturday morning started with a warm up run along the Marine Stadium, a stretching and warm up session (including sit-ups and jumpies—those wonderful frog like hops Lars makes you do in the circuit training) and the announcement of the crews. After taking the boats out of the bay we would do the pig drills (arms, body, quarter, half, ¾ and full slide) then wait for the coaches on their motorboats at the corner of the bay to start the training for the day. Sometimes we would simply row around the island three times, other days we would do pyramid pieces, or mini races or balancing drills. In the end, we learned how to row together as a team; it took one long year to be able to beat our competition and get a first place. However, it wasn’t without drama, arguments disciplining from the coaches, and many days where we would be constantly leaning to stroke. But overcoming those challenges and creating a bond of trust, acceptance and faith with each of your teammates was our greatest victory and is what makes the sport of rowing and every rower admirable.
We attended several regattas: our first a 6K in Newport Beach, Crew Classic in San Diego, South West Regionals in Sacramento, an invitational regatta in Tempe Arizona and our own Invitational Regatta in Long Beach. Since there are so many Junior Crew teams in the States, races would generally require courses with 6-8 lanes, 2-3 heats and a final! Most regattas were line-up races, and we would enter different crews for each of the events. Regatta’s were usually 2 days and exhausting but always a lot of fun! Many fond memories in yellow unisuits and bad tan lines still stick with me

Having started crew in Long Beach, it was quite a change rowing on the Jacobs University Team, but it was an experience just as memorable and valuable if not more so I wish the entire team a successful semester, many victories, and fun times this Spring 2013! Warm greetings from Long Beach, and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!