It's a new semester and a new year, looking to do something extraordinary? Something truly unique at Carolina? Rowing for UNC Men's Crew is just that. We're unlike any other organization on campus, and the sport of rowing unlike you've ever done before, no matter your athletic background. Don't worry if you've never touched an oar before or even aren't highly athletic, give us time and attention and we'll do the rest.
So no matter what you're feeling, come on out to a practice (info below) and let us show you why rowing at Carolina could be your best decision in college. And if you want even more info, scroll down for our full recruiting manifesto.
Meet in Woolen Gym Lobby
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 5:15 On the Erg (rowing machine)
Tuesday, Thursday: 5:15 Runs
Looking for Tall Athletes
Those Tough Enough to Make a Difference
Every year, UNC Men's Crew searches across campus for students willing to represent Carolina rowing on the national stage. We look for students of all sizes and athletic backgrounds as it is impossible to determine one's true potential in rowing before they even try it. Most people on our team had never touched an oar prior to their novice year. This page will give a breakdown of everything a rower can expect throughout his novice year from early recruitment to competing for a national championship at the end of May.
To contact us, SCroll down to the Bottom of this Page and fill out the Form
Why YOU Should Row
This is easily the most frequent question varsity rowers receive when trying to recruit a new class - why should I row? Why is it worth the time, the commitment, the effort, etc. Why shouldn't I spend my time at Carolina doing something else?
Any rower who as ever won a nail-biting, adrenaline pumping close race would quickly be able to tell you at least part of it - there is no greater feeling than beating another crew. Well of course, this could be said of any sport. It's always great to win. However winning in rowing, especially in a close race, feels different. The races are approximately six minutes long yet are still considered a sprint. Within those six minutes, there is a constant ebb and flow of action. From the sidelines rowers look very calm, however in the boat the stroke becomes a dance of art and raw aggression. Taking a perfect stroke becomes euphoric, and moving down another boat in perfect harmony with your teammates will often form your greatest memories.
One of the greatest aspects of rowing is that it, unlike almost any other sport, is an absolute direct result of how much work you put into it. Some people are born natural rowers, and some have a much higher level of potential in which they can reach. But in the end, only rowers who are actually willing to work in order to improve will ever be great. It is impossible to know how good of a rower someone will be until often years of doing the sport. It is such a complex and unique skill that sometimes the worst rowers the first time they sit down will be the best by the time they graduate. All of the work that is done throughout the year will be realized in the championship regattas, and the teams that win are not necessarily the most naturally talented, but the ones that put in the most work throughout the year.
The experiences that rowing provides are unparalleled amongst the clubs at UNC. Rowing is one of the oldest sports still active in the United States, and has created a wonderfully unique culture. Regattas turn into spectacles, and cities such as Philadelphia and Boston transform for some of the largest races (you many even be on ESPN if your boat does well enough). You will find yourself connecting with other rowers across the nation and sharing the experiences you have had throughout the years.
Finally, often the greatest experience of rowing is the friendships you will form. What often starts off as getting dinner after practice or chatting in the boat (not while rowing of course) will almost certainly lead to lasting friendships down the line. It is an absolute guarantee that those who row together throughout the years become amazing friends. No one else will understand what you do and why you do it better than the group of people you row with.
Rowing may appear to be a large commitment, however if you have any interest we ask that you come out for at least the first week of practices. The worst thing that can be done is to never give it a shot.
Where We Row
Most of our practices our held out of our boathouse at University Lake, which is located approximately 3 miles west of campus. It is a very secluded lake, and is sheltered from all but the strongest winds making it an ideal location to practice. If you aren't one of the lucky few people to have a car on campus, there are a number of bus routes that head that direction. Biking or even running is also a great alternative, especially to get a warm-up before practice.
The rowing season begins as soon as the dorms on campus open. Not physically of course, however this first week is a critical time for our team, and can determine our chances at winning a championship for the rest of the season. The first major recruitment event is Fall Fest, which is a club extravaganza that shuts down all of South Road for one night before school starts. Worried about finding us? Every group of rowers will be holding 12 ft oars, so we'll be easy to spot over the crowd. Feel free to come talk to us! We are all very happy to share our experiences with the sport and can give you information on upcoming information sessions.
Did you miss us at Fall Fest? We'll be handing out flyers all throughout the week in the Pit as well as in front of the SRC. Stop by on your way to class to pick one up!
Our recruitment season culminates in two interest meetings that will be held at designated times (check your flyers!). There, we will give you all the information necessary about how our team operates, what to expect, etc. This is the perfect time to ask any questions or concerns you have before wanting to commit to our team. Most of the varsity team will be in attendance, and likely many have been in the same situation or had the same concerns as you do.
Size Does NOT Matter
The old adage in rowing is that in order to be successful, you must be tall, lean, and athletic. Over the years our team has found this to not be the full truth. Many of our most impactful rowers are under 6 ft tall (if you don't believe me, check out our Roster). It is also highly common to see novices gain tremendous amounts of muscle mass even over their first few months as their bodies adapt to the sport. Success in rowing is never measured by someone's physical stature. The best rowers are the ones who are mentally tough enough to make a difference, as well as those who are willing to put in the work to constantly improve both in and out of practice.
What is a Coxswain?
You may have heard the term "coxswain" (pronounced "KOK-sen") before when learning about rowing. In simple terms, the coxswain is the pilot of the boat - they dictate the pace of the boat as well where the boat goes. However, the duties of a coxswain extend well beyond simply driving the boat, and the ability of a coxswain can often make or break a boat. A coxswain must be highly competitive and motivated in order to be successful in rowing.
A coxswain acts as a coach in the boat for the rowers. During practices, it is his or her responsibility to run drills and call out technical corrections that will lead to a more cohesive unit. A good coxswain will be able to point out the problems plaguing their boat and ultimately lead to a smooth boat by the end of practice. Over time, a coxswain will develop familiarity with their rowers and the skill set of their boat, and pinpoint technical calls will become second nature.
Where a coxswain really shines is during racing season. During the fall, many of the courses represent high degrees of steering difficulty. The Head of the Charles in Boston is notorious for being a "coxswain's course," as in the ability of a coxswain to take turns, cut corners, and pass boats may ultimately decide the outcome of the race. Spring season however is a whole separate atmosphere. In the spring, the courses are straight lanes, so steering is no longer a deciding factor. The coxswain is the commander of the boat - they need to be sharp and highly competitive in order to adapt to the changing landscape of the race. A good coxswains knows how to both stay ahead of another crew, as well as how to execute a power move to get back even when they fall behind.
First Few Weeks
The first few weeks of rowing will be centered around learning the sport. Rowing is a highly technical sport that requires an incredibly unique skill-set. Many people find it easy to pick up, yet mastering it takes years. Many of the varsity members will tell you they still have a lot to learn, so it is important to develop a good base in the sport during your novice year. Practices will be fairly short and very time-manageable as we understand you're transitioning into college.
During this time-period, you will be introduced to the outdoor, on-the-water portion of rowing (the boathouse, the rowing shells, etc) as well as the indoor, rowing machine focused aspect. Every rower picks up the rowing stroke at a different pace, so it may seem slow (or fast) at first. However, eventually the sport will increase in pace and the rows will begin to cover more distance.
Every rower has one year of eligibility as a novice as soon as they compete in their first race. This way, first-year rowers will compete against other first-year rowers at programs across the country in events separate from the Varsity events. Any sophomore, junior, or senior rowing for their first year in college will be on the novice team, not the varsity team. After your novice year, you will automatically be moved up to the varsity team.
So you've made it through the first month or so of rowing, and you feel like this sport is for you (which it is, I promise you). Now is when the REAL fun begins. In the fall, we race what are known as "head" races. The length of the course varies from approximately 5,000-6,000 meters, and takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes, depending on what type of boat you are in (4 vs. 8, etc). These races are held as time trials - each boat in the same event goes in order down the course, and a final time is taken at the end. The order is most often determined by last years results, and being able to go first leads to much better water. Since its difficult to know your time, the goal of the race is to pass the boat in front of you while walking away from the boat behind you. The most famous head race is the Head of the Charles held in Boston, MA. Every year the varsity team takes the top 12 rowers and top 2 coxswains to race against the best teams across the nation.
The fall racing season is fairly short, and often only last about a month and a half, beginning in late September and ending mid-November. During this time, the practices will get a little longer and the workouts will get a little more intense in order to prepare us to race. Attendance at practice will also become more critical as it is important to develop cohesiveness and chemistry within a boat.
Once fall season ends, the team moves inside for the winter. While you will gather some experience with the rowing machine, known as the "erg", early on, winter training will focus predominately on erging. Erging allows rowers to train strength and conditioning by providing a stable platform to row on. Success on the erg will directly translate to success in the boat, so it is important for all rowers to develop good erging habits and continues training throughout the winter.
In January and February, while the temperatures are still below freezing, you will be competing amongst your teammates on the erg. Now is your time to show your coach the physical and mental toughness that it takes to be a rower. Those that do well on the erg will often be rewarded with a seat in the top boat in the early spring, while those you do not succeed will have to put in extra work to show that they deserve a spot.
Spring Racing - Championship Season
When the ice thaws, the sun comes out, and spring break rolls around, we ditch the ergs and charge full-force into the spring season. Spring racing is immensely different from fall racing, and is the pinnacle of rowing. A spring race is a head-to-head, all out 2,000 meter sprint. Unlike Fall racing, now you line up directly alongside of your competition, so you will known exactly how you are doing in each race.
One of the greatest differences in spring racing is that now it is a sprint. The stroke rate increases, the race becomes more intense, and mistakes are much less forgivable. Every boat has to execute their own race plan to come out on top. Over time, rivalries will develop between clubs and you will begin to recognize the rowers you're up against.
Another major change from the fall is that in the spring you often race at least twice, and potentially as much as four times over the course of two days. The racing often breaks down like this:
The first race is known as "heats." While some regattas use random assignment, most of the championship and well-respected regattas will use a seeding system to assign teams. Therefore, the best three boats will not face off in the first race, and because of previous success will have the best path to advance. Most boats will typically advance from heats, however placement determines the seeding in the next round.
Some regattas have a second wave of races known as "reps," which is short for repechage. Reps is a second opportunity for teams who failed to qualify for the semi-finals in heats by a small margin. The top one or two placing teams in reps will move onto the semi-finals, while the rest of the field is eliminated from competition. When possible it is best to avoid reps in order to maximize rest time in preparation for the final rounds.
The second (or third) races are the semi-finals. All the top qualifiers from heats and reps are seeded into semi-final rounds, with the obvious goal to advance to the final. Here, the competition is much greater than in heats, as each team has already proven themselves once in the regatta. It is easy to see how you stack up against your competition based on how fast each boat was in heats, however it is also wise to take caution with this: conditions change rapidly on a course, so times in one race may not reflect the times of another. Different crews also execute different strategies when it comes to heats - some go as conservative as possible in order to save energy, while other crews go all-out in order to advance. Typically the top two or three crews will advance into the Grand Final and have a shot at a gold medal.
The Grand Final is the ultimate race of spring season. The top six crews will line up against one another in an all-out race to the finish. Every crew will execute their strongest race plan, and you can expect to see a significant increase in speed across the board. One of the most underrated aspects of a being successful in a Grand Final is experience. Teams that have been to finals before and have had success are often much better at controlling nerves, and will be able to execute their plan at full force. Coming out tight and nervous can often be the downfall of less experienced crews, and can often lead to them dropping from medal contention. In the end, only one crew can be a champion.
Ask any varsity rower, and they will tell you Spring season is the greatest 10 weeks of the year. All of the hard work from the beginning of August until the last weekend in May will be realized during Championship Season.
Once the season comes to a close, summer time begins and everyone can take a break. Year-round training can be ruthless on your body, so everyone takes a few weeks break after ACRAs to get some R&R. Once the aches and knots fade, it's time to get back on the grind. Summer training is one of the most difficult aspects of the sport - not from a physical standpoint but a motivational standpoint. Summer training will often be done on your own, so it'll be up to you to decide your workouts and what you personally need to do to prepare yourself. Coming off of a long season it is very easy to let yourself slip at the beginning of the summer and quickly get out of shape. The best rowers will train everyday with increasing intensity, and eventually enter the fall season in peak physical condition. There is often a direct correlation between the amount of work someone puts in during the summer and which boat they are placed in for the early fall races.
Many rowers will remain in Chapel Hill over the summer for work, school, and sometimes just wanting to be close to everyone else. That being said there will never be a shortage of guys in the area willing to work out with you. In 2015, ten rowers and one coxswain traveled to St. Catharine's, ON, Canada to race in the Canadian Henley Regatta after spending all summer rowing together.
When you come back to school mid-way through August, you will officially become a member of the varsity team. The work you put in as a novice and over the summer will quickly become realized as the practices get longer, the pieces get harder, and the competition becomes more fierce. Many sophomores who are willing to work hard and be dedicated will find themselves sitting in the top eight in the fall, beating out some of the more seasoned rowers. It will now be on you to welcome in the next class of novice rowers and shape the future of UNC Men's Crew.
Thinking of rowing for UNC Men's Crew? Fill out this interest form with a brief statement about yourself as well as any questions/comments you have, and a rower or coach will get in contact with you shortly.