Photo provided by Joshua Gagan
By Joshuah Gagan
Anxiety. Fear. Power. It’s what was on most rowers’ minds in the Gold Member — especially after an official cut us off and my shorts got stuck in my seat, we were to expect the unexpected. And within two seconds after making the start, we were off.
Sweaty palms, wet legs and screams by our coxswain Jackie Flietstra set us up for success. However, we did get passed by two other boats, making the scene look intimidating for most of us.
But as Coach Jon put it at the end, “You reached two goals: One, you crossed the finish line! And two, you didn’t crash into other boats.” But for some reason, I had the feeling that there was a third goal, just like there are usually three reasons to back up your evidence or in the way three is symbolic in many ideologies. So what is our third goal? To get into the Top 5? To beat the “USC wankers”?
It actually goes back a long way, to the reasons why you joined crew in the first place. For me, getting out on the water at 5 in the morning, riding across the waves with the wind blowing in your face is simply bliss. It’s like waking up with your dream and never forgetting it again. Every stroke you take is in continuity with the others and is set at a different pace each time. When going at a slower rate, you’re able to take in all of your surroundings in the quiet dawn. On the other hand, pushing at a faster rate makes it seem like you have nothing else to lose and you speed like a shaky bullet across the water. That first practice had me, and I joined crew.
Although I already knew crew was going to be difficult, I didn’t realize that it’s not just physical, but mental strength. You have to eliminate the voices in your head, sadly disregard the notes you studied for midterms and the memories from this week. Every bit of concentration is on the water, on the person behind you and in your surroundings. And if you don’t, try to bring a wet suit because you may do something called tipping the boat.
But crew is still tough. Up to this day, I’m not a master in crew. To be honest, technique and oar handle heights always get me. Sure I can put a lot of power into it, but it all comes down to one thing: making sure you work harder, so your teammates know you’re not just an observer, but someone that is active. I felt that putting in all of my efforts in each practice keeps me going to keep the boat’s serenity, my team’s confidence, and of course, a set boat.
So what is our third goal? Making sure we have done our best and enjoyed the ride. Waking up at 5 am isn’t a requirement, it’s a choice. It’s something that will either hurt you or make you stronger. But in the end, you’ll be happy with the choice you make — the one to row for the pleasure of being on the water.
To my novice team, you did a great job. Despite some mishaps, we all showed up to Sacramento, pushed our boat all the way out to the finish and made sure you pushed. Continue to work harder and make room for improvement and make the best out of it. Follow suit to our code: Teamwork. Commitment. Results.
Photo provided by Stefano Balbusso
Men’s Novice B Boat (left to right): Scott Morris, Curtis Coloma, George Servin, Joel Martinez, Paul O’Malley Pearce, Joshuah Gagan, Charlie Edgar, Justin Kayne and coxswain Jackie Flietstra