The Big Kahuna

By Andy Anderson | Photos Peter Spurrier

Wasting time recently on Facebook—I mean networking on social media—I came across one of the most incredible photos I’ve ever seen. What unhappy confluence of events had produced this incredible wave, one that is breaking on both cox and bow with tsunami-like power? I had to know more, so I wrote to Dan Sayner, the fellow who used this on his home page. I got an immediate response. The race was in Poznan, Poland, during the 2011 FISA world masters championships. It shows Occoquan International, a rolodex club in the spirit of Kent Mitchell, Rocky Mountain, and Palm Beach rowing clubs. Many of the club members were former Olympians or national team members from the 1960s to the 1980s.

“The race was in the masters F group, a 1,000-meter race, with only the winner medaling. Jann Byrd was the coxswain. You can see her hands pushing the wave up over me; surprisingly, she remained dry. I was in the bow. Walter Updegrave (Penn) was in two seat; Paul Knight (Cal) three seat; and the stroke was Bill Byrd (Washington). We finished the race but did not medal. The water was rough, this wave seemed to be a rogue wave. It brought back my memories of rowing on the Severn River in the 1970s.”

What unhappy confluence of events had produced this incredible wave?

Really? The cox stayed dry? How could that be? Not surprisingly, the driver remembers it a bit differently. “I saw the wave and the three before it coming. The conditions were horrific. Swells, rollers, and whitecaps—the wind was blowing—and I got soaked. Especially on that big wave. I was completely engulfed. I put my hands up trying to protect my face. It went right through me and up Dan’s back, shoulders, and head. Until I saw the photo, I had no idea it was that big. The conditions were so rough it’s hard to believe we made the finish line, but we kept going—plowed through it. It didn’t stop the boat, but certainly didn’t help our boat speed.”

She adds, “It really was a fun regatta. The Occoquan guys are a nice group to compete with.” Byrd rows and coxes at Willamette Rowing Club in Portland, Ore. She’s done two Ironman competitions and a marathon, so her toughness is not in question.

If you’ve ever suspected that bowmen see the world a little bit differently than the rest of us, here’s your proof.

Dry? I think not.

 

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