February 20, 2006
Deland, Florida - January 2006 - For the fifth consecutive year, I found myself in winter training along with 14 masters rowers in search of the elusive perfect stroke. Jim Dietz recounts a discussion he once had with a friend wherein they contemplated rowing nirvana - three perfect strokes in succession. While none of us left feeling we had attained this lofty goal, we all surely left with some sense of personal accomplishment for our efforts over the better part of a week.
This winter camp is not intended to be a humbling experience, yet learning and relearning the finer (and simpler) parts of the sculling stroke has proven to be an ever evolving process. As a masters rower, I find myself in agreement with a fellow camper that we have a lifetime to get it right. With two or three rowing sessions each day we covered thousands of kilometers under the eyes of attentive coaches who constructively addressed our technique. In video review we learned frame by frame of our strengths and weaknesses. We learned from the coaching; we learned from each other.
Almost a third of us were Florida residents who attended this year's sculling camp in Deland. In 2002, I was the only local rower joining the group in Tampa. This afternoon I'm back in my office, looking down from my window on the river I call home, feeling the "all good things must come to an end" letdown. My fellow campers, some returning to frozen climes and winter erging, undoubtedly feel the same.
Their reflections, however, will also include memories of five days, cool mornings, sunshine, sun screen, hours upon hours, miles upon miles, blisters upon blisters, different goals, shared goals, shared meals, shared stories, rowers all. While other pursuits might allow the boast of the same opportunity for camaraderie, this masters rowing camp took a group of individuals and moved them beyond the role of strangers to a sense of team. Recognizing the travel involved for many of these rowers to attend this camp surely reminds me that this is backyard camping for me, and further makes me appreciate the ability to row year round on miles of generally great water.
My experience as an "alumnus" of the camp tells me that the parting remarks at the "graduation" lunch of, "if you're ever in town or passing through...," are genuine, both from my fellow classmates and coaches. Participating in the 2003 Tampa camp led to me racing with the "Duxbury Boy" (so dubbed during that camp) in Providence during a summer vacation, as well as borrowing a double to compete in my first Head of the Charles. I've also been able to share a morning row with campers visiting on other occasions. Lest these sound like isolated circumstances, most rowers know that this sense of community extends beyond the confines of a camp experience.
I turn from my window and the river below to a to-do list that did not undo itself during my absence. No ice or erg will await me tomorrow. Forecasts tell me that Florida sunshine will allow me to continue the quest to find that perfect stroke - maybe, someday, three.