Rowing, and an embarrassing (but educational) anecdote

I’ve attended the welcome BBQ. I’ve had a tank session. I’ve passed the swim test (with only minor flashbacks to Mrs Wennberg’s traumatising Year 7 life-saving classes where I’d thrash about trying to save a baby (i.e. brick with a smiley face) from the pool floor, fully-clad in winter tracksuit…)

Guys, I’m going to be a (novice) rower! I only hope that actually participating in the sport goes better for me than my history as a spectator…

Here’s a little essay I wrote about my last brush with rowing: Sydney, 2009

They say the proof is in the pudding. In my case, it was 80 proof, and I’d just vomited the pudding all over my feet.

Week 2 of college and I was a newly-minted Fresher, keen to escape the quiet, line-toeing nerd image I had at high school, and desperate to make friends. What better way to do this than complaisantly downing drinks on a coach ride to the annual Intercollege Rowing Regatta?

Sure I’d drunk before – my aunt always over-egged the Christmas cake with brandy, and I’d supped on sugary grapefruit Breezers at my friend’s ‘You’ve Been Great, Summer ‘08’ barbeque. The preceding couple of weeks had given me a crash course in beer, which didn’t taste too bad when gulped down alongside my newly-adopted freedom diet of smiley potatoes and burgerbites.

But this was a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. The regatta was strictly a dry event, meaning that us spectators had to imbibe an entire bus load of alcohol before we reached the venue. 5am kickoff, no time to wolf down stomach-lining hashbrowns, and 2 hours to get buzzed.

Stupid wanting to appear Chilled and Carefree (you know, the kind of girl who can wear lace croptops and cowboy boots, and rack a snooker table like a pro), I tossed shot after burning shot down my gullet. Hyperaware of the gorgeous guy next to me (a twinkly-eyed lad with dimples you could pitch a tent in), I clutched at a goon sack like it was a medically necessary IV bag.

Getting off the bus, my brain was spinning. While I could make out the other Freshers rollicking down the grassy slopes towards the race course, my limbs wouldn’t allow me to follow suit. I dipped one way, then the other; my legs giving way like one of those flailing inflatable tube men you see at car yards. The rest is…a fog.

By all accounts (and boy, were there a LOT of those) I was a legless bozoid that day. None other than our college President, a man with the gravitas of a Viking and the piercing wolf eyes of Alec Baldwin, had to direct a couple of the (beefier) rugby boys to haul my sodden arse around. A few girls had to chip in change to procure some strawberry pudding cups for me, which I promptly regurgitated all over myself.

The victory of our rowers was overshadowed by my shame. Though I could cope with the good-natured tittering of my fellow Freshers (who would soon suffer similar if not quite so public humiliations of their own), for a year I couldn’t look the President in the eyes without turning red and melting into the floor…much like a puddle of strawberry pudding puke.

However, by telling and retelling the story as a funny anecdote, I eventually got over it. This episode taught me a valuable lesson: Embarrassment, like the worst hangover you’ve ever had, is soothed by time and by purging your guts.

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