By Nicola Boys
Ah rowing, that fabled rich-person sport that only the elite do. Of course, that is if you believe the myths.
Rowing at Oxford is where I’ve found the most acceptance. I know it has a reputation as being elitist, and I held that opinion before I came too, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I began rowing during the vac, when the coach had a spare spot in a novice boat and the offer was open. Bored and wanting to get back into a boat after a hiatus from canoeing, I though ‘why not?’. I went along and fell in love with it. In the words of non-rowers, I joined the cult. And as for elitism, rowing at Oxford is completely free. The colleges each have their own boathouse in Christ Church Meadows, and fully fund the whole sport. Even the unisuits (those tight, colourful outfits) can be borrowed for the racing seasons.
A few weeks later, I was fully in love with it. Due to the high volume of female novices and the complete lack of men's ones, our men's boats ended up with quite a few women in, including me. And let me tell you, you don’t have to match any stereotype to row. To better illustrate this point, my racing crew consisted of a Norwegian-Russian bodybuilder, a 30-year-old investment banker, a former Dolce & Gabbana model (also the son of our principal) and a very tall Dutchman. Not to mention the masters student from Imperial College London who coxed us. I now count them all among some of the best friends I’ve ever had.
If you’re looking for a cheap, social sport, then rowing is for you. It is fantastic for keeping fit and building strength, but also for meeting some fantastic people! Its also great for resetting your sleep schedule with those early starts. You can join either through your college, or, if you fancy more of a challenging regime, you can try out for the University teams. There are a number of races throughout the year, some of which you actually have to be a novice for to race in, so please don’t be scared of trying rowing out if you’ve never done it before!