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


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