In Oxford we’re lucky enough to be situated next to a river, and so water sports, such as rowing and punting (if we can class punting as a sport!) are popular pastimes here. Most colleges either have their own college team, or for the case of very small colleges, contribute rowers to a larger college’s team, so, whichever college you’re at, you’ll have a chance to row!
It’s hard to deny that rowing has a rather prestigious reputation in Oxford; with the annual Oxford - Cambridge boat race, and so you might feel initially intimidated by it, especially if you haven’t rowed before. But worry not! One of the great things about how popular rowing is in Oxford is that there are SO many different levels of rowing available; many colleges have 3 or even 4 boats (of 8 people) per gender. This allows for everything from novice (never having rowed before) rowing (and this was most of us when we started!), to rowing for the first team of your college, if you have had experience before coming (if not you could very much end up here in the latter part of your first, or second year), to rowing in ‘blues’ (the University team). All have different levels of commitment - if you’re a novice you can expect to go on 2 - 3 outings a week, which is very manageable.
One of the things that makes rowing so special in Oxford is the termly inter-collegeate races. At the end of Hilary term (second term of the year) we have Torpids, and near the end of Trinity term (third term of the year) we have Summer VIIIs. The format of these races is unique to Oxbridge; due to the narrowness of the river, boats don’t race side by side, but line up behind each other at equal, pre-measured distances, with the aim being to catch up with the boat in front, either making contact with it, getting into a position to impede it from continuing, forcing the cox to concede, or by completely overtaking it. This makes bumps racing a fantastic spectator sport, as with so many boats on the river bumping each other, carnage is always guaranteed! Summer VIIIs, in particular has an amazing atmosphere, with every college coming out with pimms and BBQs on the riverside, music playing and a general festival feeling. It’s a truly fantastic day; there aren’t many occasions when a good proportion of the University is all in the same place, celebrating together (although with some friendly rivalry of course), and very much makes 6:00 am outings worth it!