UCSB Crew was founded in 1965 by a handful of ambitious students, making it not only UCSB’s first rowing team, but also UCSB’s first club sport. While the team had a slow start, beginning with just nine self-taught men and a few borrowed boats, the state of the program today indicates that the team is anything but slow: thousands of members later, personally commemorated and etched into the team’s history with individually assigned varsity numbers, the Women’s and Men’s programs combined have grown to become a forced to be reckoned with.
While the Men’s team officially began in 1965, the Women’s team did not come to exist until 1972 when the Shell and Oar group transformed themselves from supporters to rowers. Shell and Oar was a group of women who supported the original rowing team, conducting important behind-the-scenes business such as traveling to all the regattas and races to cheer on the team as well as organizing fundraising opportunities to buy new equipment. Realizing that they wanted to be part of the action as well, they took a stand and formed the Women’s team, which today continues to grow and prosper.
Today not only do both teams challenge their west-coast rivals at every chance, earning trophies at huge regattas such as Crew Classic, they also step up to the immense challenge of facing east-coast rivals at events such as Head of the Charles River in Boston and the club national championship regatta, ACRA. But they don’t just step up to the challenge, they absolutely smash it. As of last year, UCSB has secured the national club championship title for two consecutive years for Women’s and Men’s combined team points. The teams not only race against club programs, they also go toe to toe with Division I programs – and win! Teams from everywhere throughout the country both recognize and fear those “damn gold tanks” that UCSB proudly sports.
Just last year, in 2015, UCSB Crew celebrated its 50th anniversary. The team hosted a reunion weekend full of fun events such as a welcome reception at a team residence in Isla Vista, a beautiful banquet dinner where past and current team members were able to share personal accounts of how their time on the team shaped their lives, and a Sunday brunch at Lake Cachuma where past team members were able to return to their old practice venue and remember exactly how beautiful it is to see the sun rise over the mountains as one sits peacefully on the water. This anniversary was a remarkable milestone for the program and its history; it indicated that all of the hard work dedicated by the founders of the team and everyone who came after them, carefully building up the team year after year and ensuring its survival for generations to come, had not only paid off but had inspired many other Gauchos to find their passion in rowing and take pride in being a Gaucho rower.
As for the future, past and current members continue to invest in opportunities for the program’s growth so that we may pass on a legacy of pride, passion, and winning on to future Gaucho rowers. Thanks to generous donations from ardent supporters and pledges such as the Fund the Oar initiative, the program has been able to thrive comfortably and support itself at the capacity and quality needed in order to maintain an award-winning program.