Green Lake Crew celebrates 60th anniversary

The camaraderie of competitive rowing is infectious.

"They aren't competing with each other," said Bob Christie, of the young people who participate in Seattle's Green Lake Crew team.

Christie, president of the Rowing Advisory Council and a rower in the adult master's program, explained that rowing fosters a strong sense of community and cooperation.

"Crew is one of those sports where there are no heroes - you're only as fast as the boat you're in," he said.

On Saturday, Aug. 4, that community spirit will be on display as Green Lake Crew marks its 60th anniversary at its 46th-annual Summer Extravaganza Regatta. The event is free and open to the public, with races from approximately 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"The reunion is focused on getting kids who were junior rowers together," Christie said, adding that Green Lake Crew hopes to start a database that will make it easier for alumni to stay in touch.

Christie said the best place to see the races is on the southwest shore of Green Lake.


Jason Frisk, director of the Green Lake Small Craft Center, said Green Lake Crew was founded in 1947, when the bowling team Ten Pins donated its championship winnings.

The original idea behind the crew was to find a way to keep boys off the street.

The community still benefits from Green Lake Crew, Frisk said. "There have been kids who were on the fence, and this turned their lives around," he said.

He said that trust is a big part of rowing, and this builds character: "It takes a lot of discipline; it's a very team-oriented sport. Your boat is only as good as the weakest link."

John Herb, who joined the crew as a seventh-grader in 1986 and went on to coach in the late 1990s, said, "There are examples of kids who might have dropped out of high school, but went on to Ivy League schools as a result of rowing with Green Lake Crew."

Christie said that because of Title IX, girls particularly are able to benefit from rowing since colleges are recruiting female athletes.

He said the daughter of one of his friends was doing well with basketball, but when she proved particularly adept at rowing, she was recruited by Ivy League colleges for their rowing programs.

Christie said the girl was bright, but added, "A good 2K score can get you into schools that a high SAT can't get you into." Two thousand meters is a standard length for championship races.

"It's a sport that finds kids who aren't superstars but are hard-working," he said. "There's no sport that's more challenging than what these kids do at Green Lake."

Herb said rowing prepared him for life more than high school did.

"It had a huge impact on my life," he said. "As a kid, I was not a gifted athlete, but I found with hard work I could compete."

And the Green Lake Crew does compete. Frisk said the crew has gone to every major regatta in the world.

According to Christie, his own son's boat was judged by the magazine Rowing News as one of the 10 best "eights," or eight-person boats, in history after it won the national championship in 2002.

Green Lake Crew won the Chris Ann Orten (overall points) trophy so many times it was retired, Frisk said.

Additionally, Green Lake Crew veteran Lianne Nelson won a silver medal at the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens.

Green Lake Crew has created an on-line group to help its alumni stay in touch and to recruit for the anniversary celebration. Alumni can sign up for the group at, which also links to classes.


Herb and Christie both talked about how friends and family got them started with rowing. Christie said it was his kids who got him into rowing a couple years ago, and now he rows at least four days per week.

He said he sometimes jokes with adult rowers who are more experienced and who were in their prime condition years ago.

"You're getting worse, and I'm getting better," he would say, "because I've only been doing this for a little while."

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