Book Reviews

From Mom to Author: Navigating the Waters of Rowing Opens a New Life Chapter

A Story of Resilience, Parenthood, and the Uncharted Currents of High School Rowing

Southerlyn Marino. (Photo: Eliza North)

Alexandria, VA – Author Southerlyn Marino shares her insights on rowing with Zebra Press after the release of her book Crew: A Guide to Rowing.

Speaking to Marino, you quickly sense that there is another world to rowing, hiding in plain sight.

“I’ve grown up in Alexandria, VA, and I’ve seen these boats going up and down the river all my life, but I never thought much of it. I really wanted to demystify the sport and what goes into it.”

: A boat named after Navy Seal Erik S Kristensen, who was killed in action during Operation Red Wings. Marino was high school friends with Kristensen. Mariono’s son crews the boat named after him. (Photo: Southerlyn Marino)

Marino speaks passionately about this captivating water sport that demands a great deal from the participants and doesn’t come without risk. Whether during practice or competitive regattas, rowing on the Potomac River, while offering a picturesque experience, comes with its fair share of dangers. The river’s currents can pose challenges even for experienced rowers.

The official website for the Potomac River states, “Great Falls might be a no-brainer, but what about the calm water, nowhere near the falls, where it looks nice and flat? Like in Georgetown, for instance? Don’t let the calm-looking water fool you! There are still extremely strong currents under the water that can pull the unaware swimmer down into the river’s depths.”

Beyond the physical aspect involved, rowing fosters a strong camaraderie for the athletes who must work in unison to navigate the water with speed and precision. Marino has dedicated a chapter to the etiquette of the sport, where she delves into some of the things required of rowers to practice good teammanship and create a supportive environment.

Spectators at the edge of the river waiting for a glimpse of their children. Crew is not much of a spectator sport, and there is a lot of waiting around and getting to know others. (Photo: Southerlyn Marino)

“These are skills that these rowers can take to any challenge in life,” says the author.

The sport’s rich history dates back centuries but came to Alexandrian schools in the 1940s. “High school rowing began in Alexandria in 1947 with the George Washington high school rowing program,” writes Jim Dooley, Rowing Committee Chairman for the Old Dominion Boat Club, in the book’s foreword.

“What started as a club program quickly grew and became a sanctioned high school sport. Back then, rowing was only for boys. Since then, girls’ teams have been added, and I have watched the sport flourish in public and private schools.”

Determined to support her son’s passion for rowing actively, Marino embarked on a journey of discovery by immersing herself in the intricacies of the sport, delving into its language, terminology, and rich history. As she gained an understanding of the culture of rowing, not only did she become a more engaged participant in her son’s life, but her newfound knowledge inspired her to go a step further. Driven to encourage others, Marino channeled her experience into a book.

Occoquan River, Sandy Run Regional Park. The rowers must learn to carry the boat out of the water and work as a team. (Photo: Southerlyn Marino)

“I wrote the book because I knew nothing about the sport. My son became interested in it when he went to high school, and I couldn’t find many books about it, so I wrote one. I wanted to share what I have learned.”

She added, “My kids have played many different sports over the years, such as football, where there’s always someone sitting next to you who can explain what’s happening, but I found it wasn’t the case with rowing.”

Her journey from novice to author exemplifies the extraordinary impact a parent’s genuine interest can have on a child’s life and the profound rewards of the shared pursuit of passion.

Through her writing, Marino hopes to inspire people to take on this sport and to learn more about it.

“I have a great deal of admiration for the students. An unbelievable amount of training and discipline goes into it. But also for the parents who come to support them. The races can go on all day, so you’re sitting there for hours and you’re lucky to see your child for 30 seconds as they go past. Sometimes you’re not even sure which one is yours because they’re far away.”

Photo of Marino’s book. (Photo: Eliza North)

Despite the depth of technicalities the book delves into, it is an uplifting read. It touches on many useful dimensions that even those with no interest in rowing perhaps can appreciate. Its conversational and lighthearted delivery makes this book a delightful escape during these chilly winter months. For those curious about rowing or where to go to see it, the book lists several events that occur annually.

When asked for any tips on the physicality of rowing, Marino told Zebra Press, “Whether you’re on the water or on a rowing machine, it’s all about form and where you pull from. You have to get the technique right, or you can cause a lot of damage.” In the book, she delves deeper into what that looks like with tips on avoiding injury.

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Eliza North

Eliza North is a British/American writer. She is currently a freelance reporter at Zebra Press. Eliza studied Social Sciences at Kensington and Chelsea College, and went on to earn her Bachelors in Psychology at the University of Kent in Canterbury England. She recently graduated from The University of Cambridge, earning her Masters degree in Creative Writing.

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