Most seniors choose their colleges by May 1. Richard Walter, ‘11, did that, too. He decided on Chico State, where he had been recruited for basketball.
But a month before he graduated high school, Walter started rowing to stay in shape. Within weeks coaches began recruiting him for crew. Three weeks after he picked up oars for the first time, Walter was recruited by UC Berkeley’s number three rated rowing team.
A little over a year later Walter completed his first season as a freshman rower for Cal.
Early on at Cal, Walter described himself as the guy who was good at the erg (rowing machine) because his size (6’6’’) and build allowed him to row harder than most new rowers.
But after practicing with the Cal team, Walter’s technique improved dramatically from his raw initial talent.
“I went from not even being in the second freshman boat to being one of the equally technically skilled guys in the first freshman boat,” Walter said. “I pushed other guys to go harder when they ergged, and eventually I earned a seat in the first boat.”
Walter described this position as a technical seat because those seats are responsible for making sure the boat is set.
“In the front of the boat, the first two set the rhythm,” Walter said. “The middle four are the powerhouse, and the two in the back set the boat because they are very direct to the water and lead (since in rowing you are facing the opposite direction that you are moving).”
His lifestyle has also changed. Now Walter says he has better time management skills and he has become more responsible with his workouts school work.
“If I’m getting free time or time to do something other than crew I know I should be doing schoolwork,” he said. “In high school, I could do it after practice or after dinner, but now I have to do it whenever I can because I might not get another chance to.”
Walter also works out every day, usually three hours in the morning, three in the afternoon and sometimes an additional hour on the (stationary) bicycle.
His mindset towards working out has changed as well. “If I’m doing nothing—like sitting on the couch or something, I think about how I could be getting better or what the rowers up at Washington (University of Washington, Cal’s biggest rival in the Pac-12) are doing,” he said.
Walter’s freshman eight boat at Cal also placed second at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s National Championship regatta in July in Cherryhill, NJ.
Although Walter was unhappy with his boat’s second-place finish, Cal as a team placed third. And last summer Walter was one of the few selected to row for the California Rowing Club (CRC).
Since CRC uses the same boathouse as Cal and other Cal rowers were on the CRC team, Walter joined over the summer to improve his technique.
His CRC boat placed first at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catherines, Ontario, a world-class event with the best amateurs in North America.
“It was really cool to see guys who were so good and knew what they were doing,” Walter said. Walter hopes one day to be in these rowers’ shoes on the national team.
“I’d love to row at the Olympics in 2016,” Walter said.
And after talking to his coaches, Walter thinks this goal is achievable.
Walter’s 2K time is 6:03 (Walter has had only two 2K tests while at Cal, so he feels there is room for improvement) only slightly behind that of Olympians, which generally are around 5:51 or 5:52.
For now, though, Walter is just focusing on making the varsity boat.