The University of Calgary boasts many club sport teams, from Nordic skiing to tennis. However, one of the most unique programs is the U of C rowing club.
A prairie university seems an unlikely place for a sport that requires ice-free bodies of water, a difficult thing to find during most of the university calendar.
Regardless, there has been a rowing team at the U of C since the early 2000s. The club has a membership of roughly 50 athletes and competes at regattas across western Canada.
President of the rowing club Travis Braddell has been with the club for three years and takes pride in the type of program the U of C is able to offer.
“It’s a very unique program that we have here at U of C because we cater to novices as well as competitive athletes. Students can compete as much or as little as they want depending on how they feel and what their schedule is like,” said Braddell.
The U of C rowing club may not be as high-profile as some rowing programs on the west coast, such as those at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, but Braddell believes the club offers something more valuable than medals — a chance to learn a new sport.
“It’s a little harder to get onto the university rowing team and this approach allows anybody to learn how to row and be part of the lifestyle,” said Braddell.
First-year rower and first-year U of C engineering student Judy Zhu was one of the many athletes who profited from this style of program at the U of C.
“I saw an advertisement on the back of a bathroom stall and I went to the information session. Then they had a ‘try it out for a day’ event followed by a week of practices before the actual registration date,” said Zhu.
Zhu said it was a love of all boating sports that caused her to join the U of C rowing club.
“Personally, I just enjoy being out on the water. I used to do sailing and then I did dragon boating, which is ending, so now I’m doing rowing. It’s a great way to exercise and you get to be on a team and be with friends who also like to row,” said Zhu.
The beginning of the school year is a crucial stage for rowers, as they try to get as much training in as possible to be prepared for regattas that take place in October.
“We do two kinds of training: on water and dry-land. The on water ones are more frequent right now because the reservoir is still open to us. It’s not going to be open for very long and we are trying to take advantage of the time we do have on the water, so we have training almost every day,” said Zhu.
Once the reservoir closes at the end of October, training will have a heavier focus on rowing machine practices — “erging” in rowing jargon — and weight training.
One of the biggest challenges the U of C rowing club faces is procuring funds to support the team. The club receives Students’ Union grants but, as Braddell explains, the grants only go so far.
“We have to pay for a lot of our own expenses. We have to pay our own coach, we have to buy our own equipment if we need it and we have to send our athletes to regattas across western Canada. There are no subsidies for that,” said Braddell.
One of the main goals of the club is fundraising, a key to the club’s future. Getting the rowing club name out to the student body is another huge goal of the team. By combining raising money and raising their profile on campus, the club looks to continue building their unique program.