Washington Rowing - 100+ Year History
The University of Washington campus as we know it was less than ten years old when the first students took to the water to row. The shores of Lake Washington that bordered the 600-acre campus were a natural draw to the students and faculty. Still heavily forested, most access around the lake was by dirt logging roads and trails with travel by horseback (if you were lucky) or foot down to the pristine water. (Click here --> UW Early Years on Union Bay for an overview of campus at the turn of the century.) Yet given the natural limitations of an age when Seattle was striving to be viewed as more than a pioneer town, an estimated 5,000 people showed up on shore and by boat to watch the first intercollegiate rowing race between California and Washington in 1903.
Although it looks very different today, little has changed in the caliber of athlete or the community support that Washington Rowing enjoys. From the very beginning Seattle embraced - in fact virtually demanded - the sport. The men and women that participated, although not privy to weight rooms, ergometers, indoor training facilities or sports medicine, trained extensively and with an ethic that lives on today.
The history that is presented here tells the story of Husky Crew supported through pictures. Many of them are your pictures - pictures taken by fellow athletes, friends and parents that ended up in scrapbooks or in boxes, but that now tell a story of amateur athletics in the purest form.
We would like you to participate with us in this history. We welcome any personal photographs or memorabilia you can share (see below), and also encourage you to write down a memory or two about the more personally important events that shaped your rowing experience at Washington. Pick out a particular race, a particular event, a particular practice, or a special memory and get it to us. We will post under the year that it relates. Click here ---> My Best Memory from Rowing - and it will become a permanent part of the history of Husky Crew.
This project is an open book. It is a work in progress. We hope you visit it often to read what your classmates and friends have to say and to enjoy the new pictures/videos/stories that will be consistently added. Like walking back into Conibear Shellhouse after being away for a decade, the history of Washington Crew is not about someone else. It is about you - our alums, our friends and our fans. Thank you for a spectacular 111 (and counting) - years!
|1900-1909 men - The first years, including Coach James Knight, trips to California via steamship, Hiram Conibear, and a number of power crabs, broken boats, swampings, and sinkings.|
|1900-1909 women - The women at the University embrace the sport from the beginning, setting the stage for an explosive rise in popularity under the progressive and passionate (and controversial) leadership of Hiram Conibear.|
|1910-1919 men - The Varsity Boat Club is born, a world renowned boat building business is born, and national coaching stars are born. Tragically however, a legend dies.|
|1910-1919 women - A decade where the sport becomes the most popular on campus for women, mostly to the chagrin of the University establishment, and only through the leadership of a number of women on campus and the commitment of Hiram Conibear.|
|1920-1929 men - Ed Leader and Rusty Callow take the reins from Conibear and build a dynasty on the west coast.|
|1930-1939 men - Al Ulbrickson guides Washington through a decade of boat racing at the highest level, culminating in the now legendary Olympic victory in pre-war Germany.|
|1940-1949 men - Both before and after a war that would forever change the landscape of intercollegiate sport, Washington produces some of the finest crews in the history of the program.|
|1950-1959 men - An IRA sweep and a stunning victory behind the Iron Curtain bookend a decade of Washington dominance on the west coast, ending with the retirement of two of the greatest coaches in rowing history.|
|1960-1969 men - Some of the toughest men to wear the purple and gold continue to control the west, and compete in a sport undergoing rapid change - along with everything around them.|
|1970-1979 men - The program drops the IRA and adds a permanent, international dimension under the guidance of Dick Erickson, a tireless man with an unwavering vision of what the sport could bring to the young men at Conibear.|
|1980-1989 men - A decade of wild ups and downs, but also a decade of fierce and varied competition - the strongest field on the west coast in the history of the sport testing the very core of the tradition at Washington.|
|1990-1999 men - Bob Ernst takes a stair-step approach to the re-development of the program, gradually building the crew into a national contender again, leading into an era on the west coast reminiscent of the early/mid-century.|
|2000-2006 men - Cal begins the decade in dominant fashion, yet the Washington/California rivalry is still as competitive as ever, leading to both teams matching speed on the national level.|
This website, and all history and other content are copyrighted © 2001 - 2021 by Eric Cohen. Sources and pictures are credited, and any reproduction must be approved by the owner.
The Washington Rowing Foundation is a non-profit 501 C (3) corporation supported by volunteers, and all proceeds from donations go to the Washington rowing team. Thank you for supporting Washington Rowing.
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