What is Berkeley High Crew?

Berkeley High Crew is the varsity rowing team at Berkeley High School.   Established in 1967, Berkeley High Crew is the oldest and only public high school rowing team in the West.

Our competitors are either private school teams, like St. Ignatius College Prep and Serra High School, or club teams that draw from many schools, both public and private.

Why Crew?

Crew is a demanding, highly collaborative physical activity. Unlike other team sports, there are no “stars” on a crew team; a boat either wins or loses, and everyone is equally responsible for the outcome of the race. Glory-hogs and show-offs gravitate to other sports.

Crew is a genuine team effort, from beginning to end. Curiously, a large number of crew recruits have never participated in organized sports, only to find that they thrive on the challenge of rowing. Many students have discovered the athlete within behind an oar. And many crew team members (as well as some parents) become rowers for life.

Colleges and universities are interested in recruiting rowers for their crew teams (this is especially true for women), so involvement in the team can chart a course to college.


What is the registration process?

The registration process is detailed on the Registration page.

Why do I have to join US Rowing?

To be eligible to race with the team, your athlete will need to join US Rowing, the national organization governing U.S. rowing competitions. This is organized and completed by the coaches. Once registered, you are assigned a unique US Rowing member number that identifies you. Yearly renewal is necessary and completed by the coaches.

Please note that the US Rowing waiver but be completed online by each athlete themselves every year.

How does a rower get started?


If you’re in middle school, attend BHS Crew’s Learn-to-Row Day, which historically has taken place in April or May at the Jack London Aquatic Center (JLAC).  Check our calendar for the exact date and time. This is a great opportunity for prospective team members (middle schoolers and BHS students as well) to meet the coaches, team members, and families that make up the Crew community, try out an erg machine, and get hands-on experience rowing in the team training barge. If you think you might be interested in crew, this is a fun, easy way to find out with minimal commitment.


This is a great time for a head start! Learn to row during BHS Crew's week-long Learn-to-Row Camps held at the Crew boathouse at Jack London Aquatic Center. By the time school starts in the last week of August, you’ll be ahead. If you miss the BHS camps, you can check out the summer youth rowing programs at Lake Merritt. Just before school starts or in the first weeks of school, keep on the lookout (on the website and on Berkeley High e-trees) for an announcement about the Crew / Novice Rower meeting, during which prospective team members receive important information about joining the team and starting in on Fall training.


Join the team! We practice, conditioning, and race throughout the Fall semester. Even if you missed the summer or fall intro-to-rowing activities, you should still come out. In fact, some athletes have played another sport in the fall and joined crew in the spring. It’s not typical, but it’s absolutely possible.

Do I need a doctor's physical? 

Yes. Crew is a physically demanding sport, so it’s important (and Berkeley High requires it) that your doctor check you out and confirm that you’re eligible to participate. It’s a good idea to get this exam done before school starts, when your doctor is less likely to be swamped with requests for physicals.

Children’s Hospital Oakland also sometimes offers an athletic physical in August each year; check their website for details. You can download the physical form here.

Do I need a swim test?

Don’t worry; no one is going to have to swim to shore. But crew is an aquatic sport, so coaches must be sure rowers can take care of themselves in the water‚-in the unlikely event they end up in it.

The swim test is required to enroll in the summer rowing programs and before getting into a boat in the fall and is very simple: If you can demonstrate an overhand stroke for 25 yards, a backstroke for 25 yards, and tread water for five minutes, you’ve aced it. It takes less than ten minutes, and must only be submitted once.

Where can I take the swim test?

Any lifeguard with Water Safety Instructor certification can administer the test and sign the form. King Pool, Strawberry Canyon (at Cal), and Oakland Temescal Pool (at Oakland Tech, not at Lake Temescal) all have WSI-certified lifeguards, although it is a good idea to call ahead to make sure a WSI lifeguard is on duty and can run the swim test. The Berkeley Y may offer tests to members only; call ahead to confirm. With the exception of the Y, most venues conduct the test free of charge.

Will I receive P.E. credit?



Rowers require a PE waiver for  fall semester PE credit. Because of its size, the Crew team submits a letter with the names of rowers to the Dean of Attendance for PE credit consideration rather than each rower submitting a waiver individually. The Dean keeps the letter on file until the end of the semester, when a crew coach submits an updated letter listing the names of team members who satisfied the requirement.


A waiver is not necessary in the spring. Make sure the coaches have your rower's Berkeley High I.D. number.

What does it cost to participate? Are their scholarships?

The nature of rowing makes it more expensive than, say, Ultimate Frisbee. Boats, oars, hardware, boat trailers, launches (coaches’ motorboats) and the fuel to run them, not to mention rent at the boathouse all add up. The school supplies only a small stipend for two of the coaches, so it has always been the team’s responsibility to raise funds to cover the rest of the operating budget.

BHS Crew tries to keep things affordable for individual families by organizing fundraisers (like the Rowathon) throughout the school year. We are also determined that no one will be turned away due to financial need, so we offer rowerships to qualifying students as our budget allows.

There’s another way to look at this. The intense, immersive BHS Crew experience builds a positive foundation of teamwork and discipline that lasts a lifetime. Amortized from that perspective, the cost is an investment in the future.


What is expected in parents/guardians?

Crew demands a lot from team members; running the team demands a lot from their parents/guardians as well. Berkeley High provides only a small portion of the support needed to keep the team afloat, so the rest of the effort has to come from rowers‚’ families: administrative support (through the Crew Board)‚ financial support (directly, and through various fundraisers)‚ logistical support (driving the team, equipment, and boats to and from competitions), and emotional, moral, and nutritional support‚ cheering from the sidelines and staffing the food table at races and regattas. To put it plainly, successful rowers have active parental support behind them. Families are required to donate 20 hours of volunteer time per year and many put in much, much more. If you are ready and willing to accept the commitment, we welcome you and you'll find the rewards are tremendous.

How do parents/guardians stay current?

When are the races?

Although there are  several races in the fall, the spring semester is when we have the most races and those that lead up to our championships (both Scholastic Regionals and the USRowing District Championships).

How frequent are races?

Typically, spring races occur every other week, although there are occasionally back-to-back weekend races. You can get a sense of the timing and frequency of races by checking our calendar.

What's a race day like?

Race days start the night before, when the boats are loaded onto the trailers at JLAC, and carbs are loaded into the rowers at the Pasta Feeds. Everyone gets an early bedtime‚ by 8:30 or 9:00. The next morning starts early; races can range as far afield as Sacramento (with a 6:30 arrival time). Individual “sprints” occur over the course of the day, with team families cheering on the racers, while staffing and stocking the food table to keep hungry rowers fueled. At the end of the day, the boats are loaded up on the trailers and everyone meets back at JLAC to unload the boats from the trailer and store them in the boat house. Coaches won’t dismiss the rowers until everything is put away, which usually takes about an hour or less. Then everybody can go home. Race day pretty much takes up the whole day, so don’t plan anything else.

What about Spring Break?

Don’t go away for Spring Break. Team members are expected to practice during part of spring vacation in order to be ready for the Regional competitions in April and May.

What are the carpool rules?

All cars used for carpools must comply with the BHS crew insurance requirements and be listed in the Automobile Financial Responsibility Certificate form (included in the registration packet). Please be aware that the California Education Code and Berkeley Unified School District stipulate that anyone who drives to or from any school related activity assumes full financial responsibility for any claims of loss arising from such travel.

All drivers must have a current, legal driver’s license and be legally allowed to drive other minors in their cars.

Rowers are not allowed to drive themselves or their teammates to the races. Carpools are organized for the rowers and driven by parents. It is up to individual parents to make arrangements with other parents to form carpools.


Do I have to get up early before school?


The men’s and women’s teams practice AFTER school, either on campus or on the water at the JLAC Boathouse.

Saturday morning water workouts are staggered, with men practicing before the women. 

Will I have to wake up at 4:00 AM?

No!  We practice after school on weekdays and on Saturday mornings. We usually practice five days a week in the fall and winter and five to six days a week in the spring.

The schedule is maintained via TeamSnap.

Where are practices held?

BHS Crew rents space in the Jack London Aquatic Center (JLAC) boathouse at the southern end of Jack London Square.

Land practices are on the BHS campus at the Bleachers Building, and consist of running, weight lifting, and training on erg machines.

How do I get to JLAC and back?

JLAC is easy to reach via car or BART (via the Lake Merritt station). On water practice days, rowers typically leave BHS as a group and take BART from the Downtown Berkeley station after school. Some get home the same way, others take advantage of carpools. If you know several rowers in your neighborhood, consider arranging a carpool.

Do I need any special equipment?

Shorts, shirts, shoes. At first, this is all you’ll need. Some lightweight, close-fitting workout clothes‚ shorts and tops‚ and some comfortable running shoes (for pre-rowing running workouts). Choose quick-drying fabrics like nylon or polypropylene, and avoid cotton, which holds onto water and draws warmth away from the body. No jeans or flip-flops. Loose or baggy clothing runs a risk of snagging in the seat runners of the boat. Close-fitting, lightweight synthetic sweaters are welcome on chilly days. Look for “compression” clothing at the sporting goods store, or search for “rowing gear” online.


Sport caps or visors help keep the sun off. For those with sensitive eyes, sport sunglasses are a good idea. Sunscreen is a must. Coaches have some valuable observations about proper clothing.


As you continue with your training, you’ll probably want several pair of “trou”, which are form-fitting Lycra or polypro shorts (resembling bike shorts, but without the chamois liner).You can also ask returning rowers about their favorite brands and stores.


It may surprise you to learn that BHS rowers don’t wear gloves. For tactical and safety reasons, it’s important to have a firm and controlling grip on the oar at all times, so gloves are not allowed. This can be a little uncomfortable at first, but eventually calluses build up in the right places.

How does crew fit with the many other activities I plan to pursue at BHS?

While it’s great to get as much out of high school as you can, there are some limits. Between schoolwork and participation in crew, many students find there’s not much time left for other pursuits, so be realistic in the load you take on. While there have been some extraordinary individuals who have successfully balanced seemingly mutually exclusive activities like crew and theater, they are the great exception. Take some time to get used to your course load and crew participation before stacking on other activities.

What happens at practice?

Rowers are expected to attend all practices.

Land practice

These include body resistance exercises, running, and training on “ergs” (an ergometer is a land-based rowing machine).

Their purpose is to build strength and endurance, perfect technique, and quantify rowing skills.

Water Practice

Water training is in the rowing shells on the water, weather permitting. Boats go out on rainy days if conditions are deemed safe, as determined by the coaches.

The coaches accompany boats on the water in launches (small motor boats), from which they continually monitor and give instruction to the rowers.

Bring multiple layers of clothing during winter practices. In addition, each rower should bring a change of clothes and a water bottle to practice.

The Boats Etc.

What are the boats like?

If you’ve ever rowed in a rowboat, you know that you’re facing toward the rear (“stern”) of the boat, with your back toward the place you’re headed. But that’s where the similarities end.

Crew boats, called “shells,” are long‚ up to 60 feet‚ quite narrow (less than 2 feet), and surprisingly light; many are made of carbon fiber. They can carry 8, 4, 2, or a single rower. The 8- and 4-person boats have a special, extra teammate, the coxswain (COX‚’un), who faces forward and “drives” the boat, through steering and commands to the rowers. The USRowing page and glossary (see pages 4.3 and 4.7) are good sources of information.

What's the deal with the oars?

Crew teams use two different kinds of oars. The first is a sweep oar, which is a large (10 foot), single oar rigged either to port (left) or starboard (right) that each person in an 8-rower boat works with two hands. The other kind is a scull oar, which is shorter and used as a pair by each rower. Just to make things more complicated, if a 4-person boat is rigged with scull oars, it’s called a Quad (and typically does not carry a coxswain).

What's a novice? Where's the JV?

BHS Crew consists of two divisions, Varsity and Novice. Novice rowers are all first-year team members regardless of grade level; a senior rowing for the first time is still a Novice. “Novice” is one of those terms unique to rowing. After the novice year, returning rowers join the varsity squad, and the rankings are fluid throughout the season. Varsity rowers may participate in a “JV” event at a regatta, but there is no official “junior varsity” in BHS Crew.