It's cold. It's dark. It's way to early. I'm vaguely aware that I'm on a very frigid, very icy thwart. I'm vaguely aware that my frozen feet are wedged in the corner of the ice filled hull. I know I have a 50lb oar in my mittened hands, and that's about it I guess. Well, I know how warm my bed was when I left it at five.
By now my cold existence has fully registered in my numb brain. I look around. My team mates are slowly gaining consciousness. It's amazing how cold can do that. Here we are, ten teenagers, a dog, and one spunky, hero of a woman. Sitting in our gig. In Rockland harbor. At 6am in February 2003. That is the part we try to ignore, it's simply too painful to think about.
We hear the command, "Come to oars!" Followed by "Pull you horrible adolescents!" Followed by "I love my life." It's generally something to that effect. This is what I mean by spunky. Somehow, I find myself smiling as I pull my oar out, and begin to chip my way through the frozen bay.
Now, whenever I tell anyone about these morning escapades, they inevitably ask "why the hell would you do that?" This is the same questions we often ask ourselves. This question cannot be explained. It can only be experienced.
Until someone actually gets out there and pulls on a hand made oar, and competes in a challenge, they will never understand why. Until they smell, taste, and feel the salt air, and hear the crowds cheering in all different languages on shore.
Until they walk down the dock surrounded by flags from 20 different countries. People will ask why, until they live for 2 weeks in a school with 500 people from around the world. Until they have pulled their hardest, hurt so badly they feel they'll never move again, and cared so deeply that their world nothing beyond the race. Until they have felt their oar snap in their hands, and felt their breath stop as their body gets thrown back into the bottom of the Gig.
Until they have cried, and laughed, and laid silently in the boat watching the stars at night. Until they have known 20 people so well that a lifetime couldn't break them apart.
Until they have crossed all pain thresholds and dug down to unknown depths to finish a race. Until adrenaline is all they have left to power row to the finish of a 2 mile sprint.
Until they have given it all, and then some to win. After they have screamed, and cheered, and felt intense joy, and excitement and thrill all at once.
When the colors and noise have blended together into a fog of bone draining fatigue as they stumble from the boat. Maybe, after everyone has experienced what we experienced, maybe then they will understand why we row in the mornings. We're hooked. It's that simple. It is a part of us, and it's way too late to go back.Rowing is not just rowing, it is everything to do with the water. It is navigation, and charts, and geometry, and carpentry, and work, and joy, and dedication. It is for these reasons that we're here. And it is deeper than that, it is the feeling of perfect harmony and connection with a group of people. It's listening to guys from Wales, France, and Maine, sitting in the halls playing guitar and singing. It's being woken up at God awful hours to go out for a morning run before the day begins. It's canceling sailing race on account of no wind, and getting into a giant international water fight in the middle of the harbor. It's realizing that the Irish team are all olympic rowers, and thinking merely "Wow." It is the sound the oars make when they all clunk together at once, the power one feels when the boat surges forward.
We're here because this is part of us.
For the past year the hours we've spent together, working on, and rowing in this Gig are countless. It is such a huge part of our lives at this point, that it seems only natural to be on the boat, even at 6am. But by now it is past 6. It's seven and we're heading to the dock. We turn, to take a final look at the harbor. The sun is rising. The day is beginning. And us, well, we're cold, but we're SO ALIVE.
Brianna wrote this essay describing her experience for a school speech class.