Rower Connection: Sonja Randall

How did you find the sport of rowing? Or did it find you?

I waited a long time for rowing. As a sophomore in college I saw the movie The River Wild. The opening scene is a sculler making her way down the Charles River. I instantly knew I wanted to do exactly what she was doing although I didn’t know what it was called. About five years later I was with colleagues eating lunch on the Charles River and they explained it to me. Two more years pass before I was able to sign up for a learn-to-row in Los Angeles.  I grabbed a port oar and stepped into my first 8+, and before I took my first stroke, I knew I had found the right place.  I rowed there with a group of people for two years, but their lack of seriousness frustrated me so I just stopped. Ten years later, back on the east coast, I found FVRA and I’ve been with them since. 

What do you enjoy most about the sport: What do you enjoy most about FVRA?

An early morning row in the fall when the morning air is crispy is hard to beat. I love the excitement before a race when we have to derig boats and load up the trailer sometimes until 8 or 9 at night. I’m equally fond of working hard with a consistent group of people who have similar goals. I also enjoy the quiet, out-of-way space we have on Rainbow Reservoir. I love just about everything related to rowing except rigging the quad.

What keeps you coming back for more?

Simply the desire to be a better rower and to hang out with good people. If you’re going to work out to stay healthy, you might as well do a workout you love with people who bring you joy. 

Do you have any rowing related goals for the 2023 season?

I took a year off from rowing before the pandemic hit, and during COVID I only rowed my 1x and that was sporadic at best. This is my first year back to rowing with any consistency and with people. I’m working on building skill and speed and focusing on racing in a few fall regattas. I’d like to race a fast 2x. I’m also trying to discover who I am with this latest FVRA group. As the people on the team change, so too does the role of the remaining rowers in the boat. You have to find your place again.

Are you facing any challenges in the sport, and how are you overcoming them?

My biggest challenge is accepting change. I’ve rowed with FVRA for ten years and I’ve seen so many people come and go for myriad reasons. It’s challenging for me to get used to new people-not just their rowing skill and style, but also their personalities and quirks. At the same time, it’s heartbreaking to build relationships with people and then have them disappear- sometimes from your life altogether.

Do you have advice for someone who wants to start rowing?

Two pieces of advice here. The first is that if you are even slightly curious about rowing-don’t be afraid or intimidated. Just try it! I firmly believe you’ll know if you love it or hate it within the first five minutes. Either way you get to experience something new be it good or bad. The second piece of advice is that the rowing community at large is overwhelmingly supportive and welcoming. You couldn’t ask for a better community of people.