If a rower doesn’t pull the blade of his or her oar out from the water in sync with the other rowers in the boat, it can become submerged, and act as a brake. It’s called catching a crab, and it shatters the rhythm of a boat, potentially ruining a race.
Texas Crew, UT’s co-ed rowing club team, has experienced a similar phenomenon in the course of the past season and year. First, the group was evicted from its boathouse of 20 years. With limited access to docks, the women’s squad was left to push its boats into the water under Interstate 35 — waist-deep in December.
The team’s recruiting was also affected by the lack of a boathouse. The team ended tryouts with 40 novice rowers last fall. Struggling with a separated team working out of different boathouses on Town Lake, only six remained at the end of this season.
“I feel like last year was definitely a low point for Texas Crew,” varsity rower Trinidad Gaytan said.
After starting the season with a new full-time coach, the team continued to face challenges this semester when some of its boats and training equipment were damaged beyond use during the recent flash floods in Austin.
Despite the hardship the team has faced, varsity rower Karsten Alexander said he feels more optimistic, and the team has become addicted to the progress it’s made. “When you’re rowing, you can’t stop,” varsity rower Richard Bagans said. “You just keep going. No matter what hits you, you just keep rowing.”
It’s this mentality that is the driving force of this sport. “It’s not that you caught a crab, it’s how fast you recover from catching the crab,” Bagans said. “And that’s what matters.”