Respect the Rower: An Argument for the Ergometer

The article starts with a quote from a friend of mine, who says “Rowing is like being in love.” I agree. You feel something when you are rowing. When you think about it, there isn’t anything else that matches the feeling of rowing.

I have been involved in rowing since my first year at high school (1962). My first experience was a bad one. I had just turned 16 years old and had been assigned to row crew for a varsity team. During practice, I got into an argument with my coach because he wanted me to row faster than everyone else. After the race, I didn’t win.

Instead, I lost by two lengths! That’s how much I hated rowing!

In 1968, when I graduated from high school, my life changed forever. I joined the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, where I majored in English. While at UW–SP, I met my wife. She was a freshman rower on our varsity team. Our relationship lasted until she left for college in California.

After graduation, we moved to San Francisco to work as writers/reporters for a newspaper called The Chronicle (now known as The Examiner). I continued rowing during my spare time and managed to get a spot on the Oakland Estuary Rowing Club. Our team raced against several other clubs in the area. I rowed in both singles and doubles boats.

In 1977, we moved back to my home town of Milwaukee so that my wife could be closer to her family. In 1979, while working for a popular magazine called Home Mechanix, she gave birth to twins: a boy and a girl. With my wife at home taking care of the kids, I had to find a way to fill my spare time. That’s when I joined a local rowing club called the Milwaukee Junior Rowing Association. It was a fun way to stay in shape and stay connected with the sport that I loved so much.

In 1981, my wife and I separated and eventually divorced. As the years went by, I continued to race and enjoyed spending time with my kids whenever I could.

My daughter Lisa was always a strong, fast runner in the local Mile of Mettle race. One year, she won a slot to compete in the Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships (high school) and finished the race in one of the top spots. While she didn’t win, she still managed to qualify for Nationals. Unfortunately, a week before the big competition, she tripped and broke her ankle while running at school. It was a terrible experience for her.

In the meantime, my son Peter took up rowing in middle school and continued through high school. He later told me that it was the only thing he found that kept him out of trouble. During his time at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, he rowed on a club team called Rowing Thunder. This is where I got my name: ThunderNLightnin’.

In the spring of 1992, I went to a local health club to use their rowing machine. It was the first time in years that I had tried one. To my surprise, I found it to be very easy and felt stronger than ever before. The following fall, I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee to finish what my son had started. He told me that I would love it.

Before long, my passion for rowing returned and I started racing again. During my first year, I raced against club teams and high school crews. It was a great feeling to beat them! My nickname of “Thunder” started during this time.

Respect the Rower: An Argument for the Ergometer - Picture

The following year, I entered the WIRA (Wisconsin Indoor Rowing Association) Championships for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect. But, after winning several gold medals in the Masters (over 30) category, my name got out there. I was dubbed “Thunder.”

In the years that followed, I continued to win races. As my fitness level increased, so did my desire to race others my own age. So, I started racing in open categories. My fitness allowed me to win medals in these races as well. It didn’t matter if the competition was younger or older than me – I won!

In 1999, I won the WIRA Lightweight Single Sculls Championship. In 2000, I won the WIRA Lightweight Double Sculls Championship with my partner Tom Paskvan. Last year (2001), I repeated as the WIRA Lightweight Single Sculls Champion with my new partner, Ed Betz. It was the first time in over twenty years that a team had repeated in this category.

Since 2001 was such an exceptional year for us, I’ve decided to try to make it three-peat in the WIRA Lightweight Single Sculls Championship this year. I know that it won’t be easy. But, I’m confident that if anyone can do it – it’s me!

Thank you for taking the time to learn about my life. Good luck to all of you!

Your friend,


Sources & references used in this article:

A kinematic comparison of ergometer and on-water rowing by DH Lamb – The American journal of sports medicine, 1989 –

Fixed versus free-floating stretcher mechanism in rowing ergometers: mechanical aspects by F Colloud, P Bahuaud, N Doriot… – Journal of sports …, 2006 – Taylor & Francis

Anthropometric and metabolic determinants of 6,000-m rowing ergometer performance in internationally competitive rowers by P Mikulic – The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2009 –

Reliability and validity of the modified Conconi test on concept II rowing ergometers by Ö Çelik, SN Kosar, F Korkusuz… – Journal of strength and …, 2005 –

Forces Applied on Rowing Ergometer Concept2®: a Kinetic Approach for Development (P94) by N Découfour, F Barbier, P Pudlo… – The Engineering of …, 2008 –

Effect of Rowing Ergometer Compliance on Biomechanical and Physiological Indicators during Simulated 2,000-metre Race by A Baca, P Kornfeind – The engineering of sport 7, 2008 – Springer

Don’t rock the boat: how antiphase crew coordination affects rowing by N Šarabon, Ž Kozinc, J Babič… – Journal of sports science …, 2019 –