As one of the oldest athletic teams at Long Beach State, rowing—better known as crew—continues to be a popular varsity club sport whose members compete nationally.
Being part of such a renowned group brought back fond memories, so three years ago a group of former men and women rowers formed the Beach Crew Alumni Association (BCA) to build camaraderie, recall the team’s rich legacy of accomplishments as well as raise money to support current teams.
As a way to build momentum, alum Dave Straley spearheaded the inaugural Alumni Challenge race for 1960s and ’70s alums at the Long Beach State Fall Regatta that will become part of the annual competition. (See the accompanying article, Picking Up the Oars Again.)
Many of the alums hadn’t seen each other nor rowed since college, while others had stayed in touch with teammates.
“I was more than thrilled to receive such an opportunity to get back on the water and reunite with rowing buddies from the past,” said alum Steve Ryan. “I think we all had the similar feeling that it would be somewhat like riding a bicycle. We were able to schedule one practice row before the big race, and it was indeed just like getting back on a bicycle. We were all a bit rusty with our technique but it didn’t take long to feel like a team. After more than 40 years away from the sport, all of the required skills were laying dormant, just waiting for the opportunity to row again in an eight-man shell.
“The event and reunion was a blockbuster hit,” Ryan said. “Friendships were renewed. Our spirit of rowing was renewed. And, the team enthusiasm has led to a first Saturday of each month alumni row. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Reunion guests also attended the dedication of a new CSULB Empacher racing shell called “KillaGrams” funded by 2010 alum Brandin Grams and other crew alumni donors and heard remarks from Ludwig Spolyar, a former student activities adviser who organized the first Long Beach State team in 1957.
Starting with 64 charter members, the BCA has identified more than 600 alumni and hopes to increase its membership across all generations of Long Beach State rowers.