California State University, Long Beach

My Connection With Joan Lind Van Blom as a Long Beach State Rower

Sunday, 11. October 2015


Photo by Ariana Gastelum


By Ariana Gastelum

Women’s Team President

Though I only experienced a handful of encounters with Joan Lind Van Blom, I have no doubt I will remember her the rest of my life.

I had such a strange feeling at yesterday’s ceremony because I expected to see her every time I turned a corner. Jean Strauss concluded the speeches beautifully by playing a few words from Joan. My mind immediately replayed the first conversation I ever had with her.

The first time I ever met Joan was two summers ago. Greg Yotsov, from the men’s team, and I had just finished our erg pieces when she approached us. I had just watched the documentary posted about her and John on the Beach Crew website about a week prior, and I knew exactly who she was. I tried to remain calm, but I could feel my heart beating rapidly, and it wasn’t because I just completed four pyramids on the erg.

The first thing she asked us was if we were on the Long Beach State Rowing Team. When I confirmed, her face lit up. “John! These two row for Long Beach! Hi, I’m Joan!” she said. I couldn’t believe how excited she was to meet me. She sounded even more enthused about it than I did!

I will never forget how I felt after our exchange. Here I was, a girl who had only been rowing for about a year and a half, having a genuine conversation with who I consider one of the strongest females in the world.

Watching the quad, Olympians double and Long Beach Rowing Association (LBRA) Master’s 8+ row at sunset was simply magical. I sat near the rocks with some members of the women’s team. I glanced over at them while the 8+ rowed by. They appeared completely mesmerized by LBRA’s perfect strokes. I’m so lucky, I thought. I get to perform the most beautiful sport with these fantastic, determined women.

If Joan hadn’t started up the Long Beach women’s team in 1970, I may have never picked up an oar. I probably wouldn’t have connected with over 100 people I’ve met from the team. And I would never have been a part of this incredible community that I consider a great part of my life. I couldn’t appreciate her more.


Photo by Matthew Wood

From right to left: Ariana Gastelum, Destanie Brush, Ranita Ram, Penelope Gallardo, Rikki Oden, Kristine Schneider, Emily Seiersen, Lucie Webb, Beatriz Camberos, Marissa Parks and Zee Guest

Like No Other

Friday, 9. October 2015


Women’s mixed 8+: Jayne Goodwin, Ranita Ram, Cecilia Guerrero, Megan Devore, Emily Seiersen, Diana Mejia, Kristy Yeung, Chloe Volz and Aimee Ramos

Photo by Sean Mccrea

By Chamille Mendoza

Novice Rower

On the morning of October 4th, 2015 I participated in my first-ever crew race. The morning brought ominous weather that had the entire team on edge. High winds and pouring rain doesn’t always make for the best rowing conditions. Thankfully, as soon as we were on the water, the rain subsided and the wind had mellowed out.

It was an honor to be in the stroke seat of the Women’s Novice 8+, but I placed an incredible amount of pressure on myself knowing that the entire boat would be following my pace. With an all novice boat (excluding our excellent and experienced cox, Megan), you could feel the nerves radiating through us.

Warming up was a little shaky, so that didn’t really help my anxiety. But in a blink of an eye, we began to make our way down Marine Stadium at full pressure. Then all of a sudden, not even 1000 meters down, I hear an unfamiliar sound. My seat refused to slide. Horrified, I informed the cox and the stern pair dropped out while I attempted to place my seat back on the tracks while holding on to my oar. The minute I spent trying to fix my seat felt like hours, and I was conscious that three-quarters of my team was pulling more weight than they should have to. I could see the other boats passing us and one of the men’s boats cheering us on. Finally I was gliding once more and getting back into the rhythm.

To make up for my down time, I pushed hard. Each time I heard a teammate give a struggling breath, I pushed even harder. I felt as if I owed my team everything. Although the weather conditions were different from what we were use to, the motions were the same and that’s what I tried to concentrate on. We were almost down to the last 1500 meters, and once again…pop! My seat wasn’t moving again. I was able to recover a lot faster this time, but I was extremely frustrated with myself for it. Knowing we were so close to the end, I decided to focus on what I could control in that moment forward. Under the bridge and a few power strokes down, we had just completed our first regatta.

At the earliest opportunity, I apologized to my pair and to my team. I felt as if I left them down. But to my surprise, everyone was in a state of euphoria. They all reassured me that it was not a big deal and that we were all new; bound to make mistakes. Everyone was so happy, cheerful and supportive.

I have played many sports before, but there is no team sport quite like rowing. In volleyball and basketball, if you’re having an “off day,” the coach has the option to take you out in the middle of game and bench you. But in rowing, it’s all or nothing. We start the race together and end the race together, one way or another. There’s no rest time or substitutions, all you can do is give everything you have for the team. Now, after my first race, I do understand magnitude of it all. This sport, this team, is like no other. Row Beach!

Being Put to the Test

Saturday, 3. October 2015


Photo by Lucie Webb


By Marissa Parks

Novice Rower

The first thing I noticed when coming to the boathouse and meeting all the ladies on the team was how inviting and happy they all were; that alone made me want to come back to practice the next day, and later on, join the team. I have waited in anticipation to be on the rowing team at CSULB. For a long time I have pictured myself rowing and competing in the sport, and now I could tangibly have those experiences.

After combining rowing on the water and the use of erg machines for about four weeks, it was time for me to take my first erging test. There was no way for varsity to fully explain to us what the erging test felt like or how we should prepare for it. Nonetheless, I came that morning ready to take the test, mentally blindfolded for what was about to come.

Once I saw varsity take their seats on the erging machines and heard the command, “Ready, row,” I was honestly terrified with what I saw. I could not believe how fast these ladies were going. I was thinking, what? Are these women even human? Do I have to actually do that too? I had never seen people push themselves so hard before in a sport. It scared me because I could finally see what I could potentially go through while pushing myself as hard as I could during the test.

While I erged, my mind wanted to quit so many times, but my body was telling me to keep going. People were yelling behind me left and right, motivating me to keep going, to have a steady stroke pressure, not rush, to have good posture; I could tell that varsity wanted all of us to succeed and see how far we could push ourselves.

I am always learning how to row better and am challenged on a daily basis with new techniques and observations. I am excited for the race on Sunday, and no matter what happens, I am willing and ready to know what it feels like to be in my first rowing race. I just have so much joy and excitement to be on this amazing team, full of people who have come together to have fun, to compete, to learn from each other, to be patient, and to connect and make lasting friendships.