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Newport Sea Base Rowing

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The Darker Side of Rowing in Newport Beach

As the oarsmen slice through the water and pry the boat down the course, they unquestionably follow the cadence of their coxswain's call “catch-swing-send.” The water is disrupted, churned - an unseen war is waged.

The Darker Side of Rowing in Newport Beach
Newport Beach, CA, April 13, 2016 --( It’s Saturday morning and the sun has barely begun to peek over the horizon. A boat glides through the water as eight bodies move together, propelling the shell almost silently, but quickly. The rowers move simultaneously in their seats, as the wheels echo across the bay, and the blades glide in and out of the water. There is a beauty in the quiet determination of the rowers. A respite from the daily chaos of life through watching their confidence as they take each stroke. This is what most onlookers see. The action looks simple. But there is a torrent beneath the surface. As the oarsmen slice through the water and pry the boat down the course, they unquestionably follow the cadence of their coxswain's call “catch-swing-send.” The water is disrupted, churned - an unseen war is waged.

The Newport Sea Base is a Boy Scouts of America facility, which sits on PCH overlooking Newport harbor and is home to Newport Sea Base Rowing (NSBR). The program has existed for less than two years and was created as a response to the need for more options for athletes in Orange County who have a desire to row. In the brief time since the program's inception, members of NSBR have been subject to bullying and harassment at school as well as online, property vandalization, and slander by members of another organization. The program itself has experienced incidences of graffiti, stolen property, and trespassing. Program coaches, board members, and the Sea Base director have reached out to both the offending organization as well as the school to attempt and protect the athletes from the attacks, but to no avail. The slurs shouted across the campus continue, the athletes take a longer route to avoid inciting harassment, and one has even left school to get away from the problems.

Despite the adversity that its athletes experience, NSBR has flourished in the boathouse and on the water. The NSBR top boat, the Men’s Varsity Lightweight 8 is currently ranked first in the South West Region (Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah) and is favored to medal, if not win, at the National Championships, in June. Despite having one-fifth the number of athletes that other programs have, the team finished in third place this past weekend against 25 other programs in a regatta set-up to emulate the regional championships. Many of the female athletes are freshman, first-year competitors, and they frequently compete in the Varsity category against Juniors and Seniors who have been racing for three or more years. The majority of NSBR athletes are walk-on rowers who were simply looking for a new sport to try and have fallen in love with it. They have goals of recruitment to college, scholarships, and potential Olympic dreams.

When you are part of a rowing program, you spend countless hours day after day, year after year, training for a race that is over in 6 minutes. That’s all you have. 6 minutes to show that you worked harder, smarter, and longer. 6 minutes to prove that the bullying, the harassment, and the antagonizing was worth it. When the wind blows and the water churns choppy, you plant your blade, you pry your boat down the course - and you keep your head up!
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Newport Sea Base Rowing
Candice Long-Lerno

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