Camper Profiles

George Park


September 1998 was an eventful time in my life, and not all of it was pleasant. Probably the most positive change that occurred was that I became interested in sculling through a friend, Meryl Streep's sculling at the beginning of "The River Wild", and the internet. Living in Columbia, SC, (not exactly a hotbed of rowing in those days) but armed with five minutes of instruction, Joe Paduda's "The Art of Sculling" and a 14-year old Little River "Wing-it", I set out to learn to scull at age 53. I did a lot of swimming that fall and became adept at climbing back into a single from the water.

The next summer I was on temporary assignment in Appleton, WI, and started rowing with the Fox Valley Rowing Club in a Little River Wing-it identical to mine back in South Carolina. Hans Wuester talked me into racing for the club in the Men's Masters 1X at the Badger State Games. I had no idea of how to execute a racing start, let alone a floating start versus a field of experienced Wisconsin scullers. I was just happy not to cause a problem for everyone else. Of course, my pulse was racing..."what do you mean 'bring it up a foot?' I am just trying to stay upright!" Needless to say, I finished dead last! What impressed me, though, was that everyone was waiting for me at the finish line and made a point of rowing over to me to congratulate me on my first race.

Hans Wuester went to Craftsbury later that summer and returned with glowing reports. I was determined to attend Craftsbury in 2000!

During winter of 1999/2000, I learned of a rowing club being formed in Columbia and immediately joined. In May of 2000, I purchased my first real racing shell, a 1997 Kaschper single. With Craftsbury coming up, sculling was becoming an important part of my life! At the introduction session on Sunday afternoon I described my aspirations as, "I want to learn to row well enough to do it for another 40 years, and I would like to be good enough to finish something other than last in a race, any race." That week at Craftsbury introduced me to proper technique and showed me what is possible in a single. By the end of the week, I hadn't mastered everything but I accomplished my second goal by not finishing last in the Head of the Hosmer.

Building on what I learned at Craftsbury, I started training and competing in the Southeast and actually placed in a few small races. With further work, times started improving, and I found myself competitive at local and regional regattas, but not winning. I sought out coaching and advice from anywhere I could find it. Even with a local club, Columbia still was not a hotbed of rowing! A fellow club member and I started rowing doubles together and I bought half interest in a Filippi double, primarily so that my life-partner, Rosa, and I could row together when she visited. Now my racing expanded from singles to men's doubles and mixed doubles. Rosa and I had a great time and won several medals, including one gold medal. In the men's doubles, John Worrell and I won the Head of the South and had respectable showings in a number of other regattas, in spite of a non-rowing injury to John that has since put him out of competitive rowing.

2003 marked a real turning point in my short rowing career. Having won Silver at the USRowing Southeast Regional Regatta in 2002, I had my sights set on the Gold in 2003 but had to settle for a disappointing third place finish. I decided to change my approach. I signed on with Marlene Royle and her internet training program and attended Craftsbury a second time.

At Craftsbury, I was determined to improve my technique so that I could "win a big one". I found the coaching staff responsive to my pre-camp objectives and to questions I had throughout the week. The intensive time on the water, and spending a week thinking about nothing but rowing, helped me focus and make major improvements. I left camp with more confidence and a better stroke.

Two weeks after Craftsbury, I won the George State Games in the 1X and the Men's Masters 2X (with a new partner) and then won the Oak Ridge Sprints in the 1X, beating Dimitri Ledkovsky, the silver medalist at the SE Regionals earlier in the summer.

On a lark, I decided to compete in the 2003 Master's Nationals in Sacramento. A business trip was taking me to California that same week anyway, so why not? The qualifiers were tough and I didn't get to row on the weekend, but it had been a successful first trip to the Masters Nationals. Jim Mohs and I just missed qualifying for the finals by 1.8 seconds in the 2X, and I finished 4th in my qualifying heat. It was fun to watch the action on the weekend, but I hope to be rowing on the weekend this year!

November 2, 2003 was a red-letter day! Competing in only my second singles head race, and my first Head of the Chattahoochee, I won the second largest regatta in the United States! Starting just behind Dimitri, I tried my best to close the gap on him throughout the race, but I couldn't seem to make any headway. At the end of the race, neither of us knew who had won. When the results were posted, I had beaten Dimitri by 1.9 seconds over 20+ minutes of racing! To have won that race against the calibre of competition in my event was by far my greatest achievement in sport!

Since the Head of the Chattahoochee, Dimitri and I have joined forces in the Men's Masters 2X, Rosa and I continue having fun rowing together and competing, and of course, I continue to try to improve in my single. Craftsbury has been a key element in my development as a sculler. A week in Craftsbury is a great vacation in itself, and it is a wonderful way to jump-start a rowing career, make breakthrough improvements or learn to row for life. In addition, Marlene's training regimen has taken the guesswork and drudgery out of training. Thank you Craftsbury for helping me go "From Worst to First!" Now I will continue working on my primary goal...36 more years of rowing are ahead of me!

Personal Information:

  • Male
  • Born 1946
  • Started rowing in September 1998
  • Current boats:
    • 2003 Kaschper Extreme 1X
    • 1997 Filippi Italia 2X
  • Club: Columbia Rowing Club -
  • Home: Columbia, SC
  • Favorite Training Site away from home: Ithaca, NY
  • Other Activities in Rowing:
    • President, Columbia Rowing Club
    • USRowing Level I coach
    • USRowing Referee Trainee
    • enjoys teaching and coaching others.