I’ve been called Ginger Rogers by Ken Robinson, a fellow rower, and I’m pretty sure he’s referring to my ongoing duet with Stefan Benton, my doubles partner and no-holds-barred open water rower extraordinaire.
Stefan and I have rowed together for years. We’ve won the Catalina crossing and a handful of other open water races – and we really do tap dance over waves and waltz over flat water with a certain grace.
But I have a confession to make.
I have rowed around. It’s true. I’ve dipped my oars into the water with many a rowing partner, not just Stefan. Up and down the California coast, on the Charles River, and even on the Thames. Flat water and open water rowers.
Fortunately, we’re all still friends – and that is a pretty big deal.
For those of you who have never attempted rowing a double or a quad, let me be clear: it can make the messiest of relationships look like a cakewalk.
I’ve heard doubles partners yelling at each other so loudly that not even the din of the tides tumbling under the Golden Gate can drown them out. I’ve seen rowing partners pull up to the dock and wash the boat with such a chilly silence it’s a wonder that the drops of water on the boat don’t turn into tiny ice cubes.
Okay, mutual exasperation is a perfectly natural reaction to trying to match every stroke, time every catch, and mirror every infinitesimal turn of the oar. But here’s the thing – when it’s good, it’s magic.
I’ve jumped into boats whereupon returning to the dock I have this weird craving for a cigarette. I don’t smoke. Never have. Never will. But that’s just how powerful it can be when rowers match up and the going is good.
So, with Valentine’s Day coming up, here’s a little love letter to rowing partners past and present: Brennan Agajan, Dede Birch, Stefan Benton, Bev Bentley, Rachel Berman, Chris Dadd, Kathi DeFremery, Judy Davis, Nita Dupen, Maggie Fillmore, Christine Flowers, Aerial Gilbert, Beth Geismar, Sara Hall, Peggy Johnston, Dana King, Julie Moore, Nancy Rose Sorrel, and Nancy Wright. And if perchance, I’ve missed any of you, apologies.
I “heart” you all. Thanks for dancing with me.