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April 12, 2009

The Quintessential Oxford Thing

It is said that rowing is the quintessential Oxford thing to do. Perhaps boxing and rugby come close, but rowing really is it! So when I came to Oxford, I of course had to try it!

My college, Trinity College, is quite fanatical about rowing and it was easy to just let myself get sucked into the thrill (initially) and routine (eventually) of early morning outings on the Isis, seemingly endless sessions on rowing machines ('ergs' as they're called here), weight lifting sessions and technique practises in an indoor water-tank that has an adapted rowing boat in it and is surrounded by mirrors.

With a group of other fanatics, I became a rowing slave, always available, up before dawn, bearing cold and wind and rain... Warmed by the exercise, by the beauty of early morning nature, by the encouragement of the girls in my boat... Slowly getting the technique down (it's harder than it looks!), slowly getting in shape and ever deepening the bond with my fellow boaties. It's amazing what shared sleep-deprivation, burning lungs, blistered hands and aching limbs can do to forge loyalties... Not to speak of the shared adrenaline of rowing in races together... Where you inevitably reach that point where it feels you've given everything you have to give and would under other circumstances give up-- but you cannot because your boat depends on you... You're in it together so you must go on... somehow tapping into resources you never thought you had.

Torpids, the most recent Oxford inter-collegiate race, was my highlight. For four consecutive days boats from different colleges line up with 1½ lengths apart and attempt to catch and 'bump' (hit) the boat they're chasing, while avoiding being bumped by the boat chasing them. It's great fun and a bit crazy if you think about how expensive these boats are! The coveted 'blades' are won when your boat bumps every day of the race. Torpids is held at the River Isis, and every university student comes out to the boathouses it seems, to cheer their respective college on. It was just great to be part of all the excitement. And (said with true Trinity pride) Trinity College was the most successful college on the water! Woo hoop! All our hard work paid off!

Rowing has been a blessing. Not only have I met some amazing people, was part of a great team, represented my college and became physically very fit, I've also been stretched beyond what I thought I was capable of. All of which reasons why rowing is the quintessential Oxford thing to do!

Emilie Noteboom
Fellow, Hilary Term '09


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