Spotlight on a Member: Elizabeth Van Dyk

One of newest masters members, Susan Edge, recently sat down with a slightly more seasoned, Elizabeth Van Dyk, to ask her a few basic questions about how she came to rowing in general, to VBR specifically.

Susan:  What drew you to the sport of rowing? Was it your father, our beautiful location, the new boathouse, or the Covid restrictions on many activities?

Elizabeth: I often saw the high school teams in sweep boats on the river and thought I would have loved to have done that at their age.  Then early one morning I was walking over the Barber Bridge and saw the “Adult Learn to Row” group heading up the river and just knew I had to be out there on the water with them. 

Susan: Is your father your primary inspiration regarding rowing?

Elizabeth: I have always loved the water.  My father rowed while attending Trinity College in Ireland. He spent hours each day rowing on the River Liffey that flows through center of Dublin. I recall seeing pictures of him on an 8 man sweep and recalled how fun it would be to do that one day.

My brother learned to row on the East River in New York launching from Columbia’s boat house.  I recently learned my cousin was also an avid rower who was once the Captain of the Commercial Rowing Club in Dublin Ireland. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Who would have guessed I would now be rowing at age 65. But here I am loving every minute of it

Susan: What have you found to be the most gratifying about the sport?

Elizabeth: That I can do it!  LOL.  Seriously, after having gone through cancer three years ago and 7 broken ribs a year later, I have found that rowing engages my mind, body, and spirit and gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment that makes me appreciate life even more.

Susan: How long have you been rowing?  

Elizabeth: Just one year.  I had just enrolled in the “Adult Learn to Row” when COVID hit.  After a couple of months of waiting I reached out to Coach Megan and asked how I could continue to learn to row.  I loved her answer, she said come on down and we’ll get you on the river.

Susan: What has been the most challenging aspect?  

Elizabeth: For the first few weeks there is a lot to learn and take in along with the technical part of actually rowing before going out on the water safely. Timing, coordination, and balance are critical for anyone contemplating rowing. There is no white glove service, so everyone learns how to do everything.  

Susan: What have you found to be the biggest unexpected pleasure?  

Elizabeth: Once I learned how to row in a single, being out on the river at dawn, it’s just me, the boat, the oars and the river all dancing together in the calm of the morning. For those that row with me, they know exactly what I am talking about.  To me there is nothing more beautiful or makes you feel more alive. 

I recently started rowing in a quad which brings new challenges and even more to learn but most of all its fun to be out there with your friends enjoying all that rowing and the river has to offer.  On my learn to row list is becoming proficient as a Coxswain.

Susan: Your spirit of helping others is evident in your actions – is that a value you enjoy about the sport?  

Elizabeth: Even though I’m new at rowing I feel as though I now have enough basic knowledge to help the newer members by volunteering in the “Learn to Row” classes and more recently “Friends After Diagnosis”.

Susan: Would you encourage others of all shapes, sizes and athletic abilities to give it a try?  

Elizabeth: I am 5”1’, fortunately I had no idea most rowers were tall or I may not have signed up. But I’m so glad I did. I soon realized rowing is for everyone regardless of height, age, or gender.   When I am at the club, I am working side by side with younger, stronger, older, taller, much more experienced, less experienced rowers and there is one thing we all have in common, the love of rowing. Whether you are helping a newer member or learning from someone more experienced. We are surrounded by a library of people always ready to provide guidance.  It’s a team sport even if you decide to row in a single shell.