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Hannah and John Huppi: Team USA’s Coastal Rowing Power Couple

BY JAMEY BULLOCH
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY USROWING

Hannah and John Huppi took the meaning of honeymoon to Europe to the next level.

Instead of a cozy exploit through ancient cities, the newlyweds took the opportunity to qualify and race a mixed double at the 2017 Master’s World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia establishing their status as one of rowing’s power couples.

“We got married and then we set a goal that we were going to—in our first year of marriage—as part of our anniversary and our honeymoon to compete,” John Huppi said.

The two first met at a learn-to-row program at Tulane University as freshmen. John still remembers sitting on an erg across from Hannah. The two have been inseparable as teammates and soulmates ever since.

“Literally from the very first stroke, we’ve been there, side-by-side with each other all the way through,” said John.

Through their years together at Tulane as a couple—where John is now a professor of architecture—they’d become co-captains of their respective men’s and women’s programs and grow their love for rowing and each other as one.

Only in 2014, did the pair start officially rowing in the same boats together after moving back to their hometown in New Orleans and rebuilding the club there, and searching for opportunities to race mixed events.

“We’re at the point where we’ve been rowing together for so long in the double, that we know what each other are thinking,” said Hannah Huppi.

This year the pair raced for the first time at the World Rowing Beach Sprints Championshipin Oeiras, Portugal as a part of the United States’ first-ever beach sprint national team delegation. The two then raced at Coastal Championships the next week.

The Huppi’s were joined by John Olbrys, Christine Cavallo, and coxswain, Bennett Rossell. The mixed quad won the first-ever beach sprints medal for the U.S., beating Sweden to third place by just .21 seconds.

The beach sprints format differs completely from any flat-water racing in that it includes a 50-meter dash to the water, with the boat at the ready. A 250-meter sprint as a crew to the turnaround buoy and another 250-meter sprint back to the shore and a final 50-meter dash to the finish line. The quarterfinal, semifinal, and final were all raced on September 25 within an hour, meaning short intervals between each race.

“I almost equate this, because I came from a ball sports background, almost like a basketball game where the rounds represent a quarter in basketball,” said John. “You might go sit on the bench for a little bit, but when you go back in you’ve got to be able to go right back into the rhythm of the race.”

The trick with coastal rowing is in the conditions and preparing the body and mind to not react to a gust of wind or a crashing wave while sprinting back and forth. The Huppi’s reminisced on the number of crabs caught and small mistakes made that were addressed during their short intervals.

“What we’ve learned through all our training and racing that we’ve done so far, is that in coastal rowing and beach sprints, we almost expect something wrong to happen every single race,” said John. “And it seems that every time we go out, something different goes wrong.”

In recollecting the event, the pair laughed and exchanged many memories of the light-heartedness and joy spread all over the shore between each athlete and crew regardless of their result.

Keep an eye out as the two prepare for the next round of U.S. Trials. Their two-year-old daughter, whose favorite song is already ‘row row row your boat’ is in good stead to race the coastal single before she is twelve, laughed Hannah.

“We are hooked,” said John.

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