Books on Rowing, pt. 2

Previously: Books on Rowing, pt. 1

There’s sort of a theme with these ones in that three of the books are written by the same author and two of the other books are written by rowers who competed together.

Seat With a View

A book with that title could only be written by a coxswain, right? This one was written by Steven Segaloff, the coxswain of the men’s 8+ between 1993 and 1996. The emotions in this book range from ecstatic with a win at the World Championships to the lowest of lows following a loss at the Atlanta games, both things I know we can all relate to. One of the things I’m really looking forward to reading in this book – and one of my favorite things about “real” stories – is the inside scoop. This would be a great book for coxswains because a) there aren’t many books out there written by coxswains and b) it’d be a great opportunity to get inside the head of someone who shared the same ambitions that most of us have.

Four Men in a Boat

As several other firsthand-accounts do, this book talks about the tension leading up to a big race (the 2000 Sydney games), the relationships between a rower, his teammates, and coaches, his struggle to make the team, and in this case, all the drama surrounding one night at a boat club party involving booze, broken glass, and a severed tendon that nearly cost this rower his spot in the boat. Something he’s quoted as saying is that it didn’t feel like everyone was in the same boat until they had a pre-race talk the night before their Olympic final. That’s pretty powerful. If you saw the Gold Fever documentary that BBC did, this is that same crew.

Related: Gold Fever

Assault on Lake Casitas

This is probably one of the most well known books about rowing. Written by former rower Brad Alan Lewis, this book chronicles what it was like trying to earn a spot on the 1984 national team. The 1980 team didn’t travel to Moscow and he knew competing in 1988 would be tough due to his age (he would have been 34), so 1984 was it. Twice he failed to make it before finally earning a spot on the team in the 2x with his partner, Paul Enquist. If you’ve trained hard for a spot in a boat and had it slip away by slim margins (like 0.9 seconds), you’ll most likely be able to relate to this book. Hard work and commitment do pay off and BAL’s story is proof of that.

Wanted: Rowing Coach

This book is another by Brad Alan Lewis and is a dated, journaled account of the year he decided to coach at UC Santa Barbara with their men’s club team. I think the best description that I read of his experience was “Stuff happens. Some good stuff, some not so good, pretty much all of it interesting.” That alone makes me want to read this book because I think every coaching experience I’ve had so far can be summed up by that same sentence. If you’ve ever wondered what’s going through the minds of your coach(es) at any given point in time, this is definitely a book you should check out.

A Lifetime in a Race

Matthew Pinsent is one of the legends of rowing in the UK. Four Olympics, four Olympic golds, 10 World Championship golds, two Boat Race wins … he’s done, seen, and experienced a lot. If you watched Gold Fever you kind of got a sense of how obsessive these guys were with their training and how downright brutal it all was, which is why I think this would be a good read for high school-aged rowers. There’s a big difference between what you perceive as being “obsessed” when you’re 16 and how you perceive it when you’re 30. He also talks about rowing with Steve Redgrave (the ultimate British rowing legend), the buildup to Athens, and what it takes to be a champion. Coming from someone as successful as him, his words are worth their weight in gold.

Lido for Time: 14:39

The last book on the list is another written by BAL and another that I can’t wait to read. The book consists solely of excerpts from his training diary between October 1983 and the Olympic games in August 1984. As he says, it includes “plenty of elaborations, insights, explanations are included, plus an exceptional waffle recipe.” One of the best quotes I’ve seen from this book (and trust me, there are so many) is this one: “If you want to be your best, spend a lot of time exploring what is more than enough. Push yourself until the bar is lying immobile across your chest. Push yourself right off the edge of your capacity.” A rumor I’ve also heard is that if you buy the book and then email Brad (his address is at the end) he’ll send you DVDs of his training footage and the heat, semi-final, and final of his Olympic race. (Edit: Confirmed. Bought the book, got the DVDs.)

Image via // @petereed

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Comments (6)

  1. I’m reading the Boys in the Boat, and the beginning is a ton about their personal lives so it’s a little slow in the beginning. I have also read The Eight(life in the season of Harvard Crew) by Susan Saint Sing, and I highly recommend it, a great read.

    1. I’m reading Boys in the Boat too and I agree with you about the beginning. I haven’t read The Eight yet but I’ve heard mixed reviews on it. Some people enjoyed it and some thought that it didn’t do a good job portraying Harvard rowing. I’m gonna pick it up at some point regardless though.

  2. I recently picked up Wanted: Rowing Coach from my coach’s bookshelf. The book talked very little about his days as an elite rower, so I’m excited to read his other to books!