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Morgan Hill
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December 2, 2022

From wrestling to boat racing

One local athlete is rowing his boat merrily down the stream –
but he is doing it anything but gently.
One local athlete is rowing his boat merrily down the stream – but he is doing it anything but gently.

David Puder, who graduated from Live Oak last year, was on the wrestling and football team and never imagined that he would be racing. He is now part of the Cal-Berkeley freshman rowing team which placed first in the San Diego Classic. The JV and varsity teams also took first place.

His interest in the sport was first sparked when he made an official visit to tour the university in his senior year and saw the team practicing.

“It was a really spontaneous decision of mine,” Puder said. “I emailed all the schools my athletic resume. I really liked the CAL coaches, and it was kind of the next step for me athletically. The coach told me if I came to row, he would get me into Cal. I decided it was something I wanted to do.”

Puder finished second in the Central Coast Section in the 215 wrestling bracket his senior year of high school and was a state qualifier. In football, he was a second-team All-MBL pick.

“They don’t have a wrestling team here,” Puder said. “I could gone to Stanford to wrestle. But I kind of decided I wanted to have a change.”

The new challenge was never planned, Puder said.

“It was a really random thing for me.” said Puder, a walk-on at Cal. “I had never seen a boat before and I knew nothing about the sport. I hadn’t even seen a race or anything on TV.”

Puder has put in many hours to make his bulging biceps adapt to rowing through water rather than pinning human flesh.

“We have been training really hard throughout the year,” Puder said. “Unlike wrestling and football, you actually get to compete at race pace maybe three times a week. It is an extremely competitive atmosphere.”

“Sometimes we race the JV and varsity and give them a run for the money,” Puder added. “So come race day, you are not rowing any harder than a hard practice. How hard you work in practice shows up when you race.”

The sport also requires more of a team mindset, Puder said.

“Rowing is the greatest team sport I have ever been in,” Puder said. “No one really shines. The boat is as fast as its slowest guys.”

Puder anchors the middle position in the boat – which is considered as a power position.

The team has rowed past Pacific Bell Park in San Franciso and also around Treasure Island. Although Puder has had the chance to see parts of the bay that few people have the chance to see, he has little time to enjoy it.

“Sometimes the sun is setting, and it is like totally beautiful, but you don’t realize it because you are concentrating.” Puder said.

Normal practice runs are about 12 miles, and the team practices about 24 hours each week. In addition to the practices, Puder does weight training twice a week working not just on his upper body.

“That is actually a common misconception among non rowers,” Puder said. “Most of your strength actually comes from your legs. There is a slide that takes you up and back, so it is not just your arms.

“During the race it is a total anaerobic exercise like an exercise bike, and you have this intense burning in your butt,” Puder added.

Each boat consists of eight rowers and one coxswain. There were seven boats in each of the heats during the San Diego Classic. The top two boats with the best scores raced in the finals.

“During the race we usually start off on a sprint, which is about 45 strokes per minute,” Puder said. “Then we go down to a base pace – about 34 strokes per minute. With about a minute and a half, we start a sprint at the end.”

CAL heads to Washington to face one of their toughest rivals this weekend.

Puder said he doesn’t have any plans to compete in any other college sports. Being in one of the toughest majors offered – Molecular Cell Biology – Puder doesn’t have time for anything else.

“I am thinking about doing it next year for sure,” said Puder about his racing career. “The farther I go into it, the more I like it.

Nathan Mixter
A staff member edited this provided article.

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