Debate: Is Rowing For Losers?

PETE LANSING reckons “rowing is for those who were laughed off the rugger field for being too cack-handed in a sport that relied upon some innate ability”. TUSHAR DABRAL disagrees.

Blues college rowing Rowing

Rowing is Cambridge’s Marmite, people seem to either love it or hate it. Is it the preserve of the sportingly and socially untalented or the key to getting gash? Pete Lansing and Tushar Dabral fight it out. Vote in our POLL at the bottom of the article.


Pete Lansing argues that rowing is a ridiculous sport.

Rowers, boaties, losers … whatever you call them, they’re somehow an omni-present part of college life whether you like it or not. Their oars litter rooms (see Emma’s Tab cribs), their lycra clad arses take over hall. Put that camel toe/ offensively large package away, it’s putting me off my chips.

No doubt you’ve been woken up by their ridiculously early alarms clocks that they ‘forget’ to turn off. College drown them in money (20k a boat. Fuck. Me. And then they go and fucking burn them when they win.) to practise their thing and refuse to give a penny to anyone else. Shit chat, mostly revolving around awful sexual puns (as if they have ever got laid) can be heard accross the bar coming from wankers wearing grim gaudy blazers.

Apart from all the lycra, what is the point? Why do people willingly volunteer themselves for sleep deprivation, hypothermia and the vitriol of all the non-boaties in college just to get a bit better at getting from A to B in a boat?

The answer: self-worth. Rowing is one of those sports, as many boaties will admit, where anyone, regardless of natural talent can reach a reasonable level provided they put the hours in.

This is where its allure lies. It allows those people that were laughed off the rugger field in school for being too cack-handed in a sport that relied upon some innate ability, to shake off their demons and pretend that they are real sportsmen. So why do they brag about it? If you’re shit at something, why would you tell everyone?

Two strapping specimens train for the University Lightweights. Photo: CULRC Flickr

Now, I’m not completely heartless. I’m not going to deny anyone that boost in self-confidence because I think everyone deserves it from time to time. But no one likes a girl with chunky thighs and huge tonk biceps, so give it a rest, ladies.

In addition, rowing is a stereotypical posh boy sport. Where is the Olympic rowing being held? Yes, Eton. No one likes toffs. Nuff said.

As with any sport, acting like a dick is excusable at the top level. I’m not about to mess with those chappies in the Hawks, because they look pretty hard. Some of the them might even row in the Olmpics. That’s cool. But this certainly does not excuse the plethora of twats that litters every college.

So there you have it: If you’re mal-coordinated and have no chat, give rowing a go. It may be your sporting haven. And if you like minging boys with bad backs then you’re onto a winner. Similarly, if you think you’d enjoy the challenge of mechanically acting like a robot, staring at the guy in front’s neck acne and being shouted at by a girl, then be my guest and row.


Tushar Dabral tells us what all boaties know, and what most non-boaties don’t.

Let’s get the obvious out the way. Rowing is fun. As you’re cruising around the Cam in a sleek shell with the subtle power of each stroke driving you on, you forget about those essays you have to write or the month of old laundry you have to do.

Face it, rowing keeps you fit. All those outings in the water and all those sessions in the gym give you a good body and get those endorphins flowing.

And who says those early morning are a pain? After you’ve spotted a few of your mates doing the walk of shame, things start to get a whole lot more interesting. Added to this, what better way to start your day than with some good exercise? Works better than coffee.

Which other college sport gets crowds like this?

To be honest, it is not all about the morning sessions either. Come Easter term, crews go for outings in the sunshine at 8pm to enjoy the spring sun and have a nice, relaxed time after a hard day of revision.

Rowing not only builds your endurance but also gives you a lot of rhythm and harmony, skills which are very transferrable to personal endeavours. Furthermore, in which other sport can you say that you’ve smacked a swan? The socials are good and are easily worth the effort on the ergs. Boat clubs dinners are renowned for getting quite messy. Besides, all that teamwork certainly comes in handy during a drinking boat-race-pint-off with your top college crew!

The fact remains that rowing is the most popular sport in the university. If 1500 students find it appealing, surely there must be something that keeps them asking for more? No one can deny that a race where the objective is to crash into the boat in front of you while avoiding the boat behind from ploughing into you is fun. Consider the fact that each shell costs more than an average car (I don’t understand how the boats are insured for the bumps), and that your aim is to smash it up: it is practically athletic vandalism, how can anyone not love that?

Rowing  is so popular that even a college’s 7th boat will have thousands of spectators cheering them on from the banks during Mays. The only spectators a college 4th Badminton team is going to get are their opponents (and probably not even them).

Rowing doesn’t just enhance your university life, but it sets you up in future too. Employers love rowers. All that teamwork and dedication I’ve been telling you about doesn’t get overlooked during job selections. So mentioning rowing as your extra curricular definitely pimps up your CV. And in these harsh economic times, I’d say students need all the advantages they can get.

All in all, rowing is a fantastic sport. It provides a good social life, keeps you fit and helps you get a job. It is a college sport which is enjoyed immensely by the thousands in Cambridge – and if you’re good enough to get into the light blue squad, you’ll have millions of people around the world cheering you on in the boat race. And as the saying goes goes, only in rowing is the slide always smooth and the oar always hard.