When it comes to sheer intensity, few sports can compare to rowing. Though the gliding of boats across water appears tranquil, for the duration of every race, nearly every muscle in your body is strained as each rower works in tandem with his or her crew to pull their boat across the water, their successes and failures the product of years of training, sweat and a lot of pain. Until last month, Jacob Derewenda was one of UBC’s varsity rowers -- but now, thanks to a shoulder injury, he’s been cut off at the peak of his career, before one of his most important rowing seasons.
Derewenda, born in Edmonton and raised in Virginia, is in his fifth and final year of a philosophy and economics degree. He’s currently in the process of applying to law schools, and plans on going to school in Ontario or continuing at UBC.
“I want to help the speed of scientific and technological progress through law. I think that law is an important aspect and one that’s not necessarily thought of too often in regards to science and technology, because there are a number of inventions or fields of study that are going to require either philosophical inquiry as to whether or not the field should be practiced or what our approach should be ethically and morally.”
Derewenda’s first semester at UBC was relatively typical, with more of a focus on meeting people than academics or clubs, but in his second term he wanted to become more involved.
“I’ve always played sports … so I looked to do that again but I also wanted to do something new and different. I played baseball and basketball in high school and I was looking for something different so I looked at all the sports that UBC had, and I basically figured that I wasn’t good enough at anything else and I maybe could try rowing … So I gave it a shot and did pretty well … I started September of my second year full time.”
Most weeks, varsity rowers train 11 times per week -- including the infamous 5:00 a.m. rows. Many varsity rowers -- including Derewenda -- started at UBC with no rowing experience, and joined the program as novices training six or seven times per week. At his peak last summer, Derewenda was rowing 12 times per week.
“In novice, it’s basically like a 5,000 piece puzzle. You’re only given five pieces a day. By the time that you put it all together you can see what it can offer you and how much of a commitment it really is. But, because it’s done incrementally, it’s not overwhelming or burdensome.”
Derewenda’s injury -- a torn labrum -- first surfaced two years ago, though he remembers having shoulder pain as early as high school. While racing in Seattle in late 2014, he realized that the injury had progressed to the point where it was impairing his performance and also threatening his long-term health.
“As soon as that was done, I kind of realized that I needed to get this fixed soon. If I didn’t, I wasn’t going to be able to do a lot of things that I enjoy doing,” Derewenda said. “The unfortunate thing about the surgery being when it is is that I won’t be able to get to row for this next term -- my last term -- which is kind of an important season for us, because we have one of our bigger races of the year: the brown cup, against UVic.”
Derewenda, who considers himself to only be a “decent” rower, stressed the importance of teamwork in rowing -- if someone doesn’t pull their weight it’s felt by the whole crew … literally. He also highlighted the impact that rowing has had on his personality and his development of a more disciplined lifestyle.
“ … I couldn’t have done it without the rest of the team. It’s one thing to promise something to yourself, but it’s something completely different when other people are depending on you. When it’s seven other people or 15 other people depending on you, it’s that much more of a reason to stop whining and get about what you need to get about doing.“
Having rowed full time for almost four years, Derewenda is going to have a much more open schedule for his last few months at UBC.
“I’m only taking three classes this term, but doing so with one arm for three weeks will probably be pretty interesting. I’m sure I’ll have my hand full in that regard.”
Though Derewenda’s competitive rowing career is over, he plans on staying involved with the UBC rowing community and helping out wherever he can. He hopes to build awareness of the sport at UBC and encourages anyone interested to try out.
“Again, there’s no experience necessary -- I didn’t have any experience … you can wake up at 6:40 when we have our morning practice, head to the Doug Mitchell Arena and just follow the noises of music and grunting and you’ll find yourself in the erg room and you can introduce yourself and say that you want to become a part of the music and grunting.”