Welcome to rowing with PCBC!

Every year PCBC has been eager to welcome any incoming freshers that are keen to try out rowing, and the same goes for this year. What better way is there to experience a different side of life in Cambridge than by participating in the iconic tradition of rowing! 

Whether you are a novice who has never rowed before, or you have a little experience, PCBC is an incredibly warm and welcoming environment that promotes sportsmanship and camaraderie to each of its members. 

Rowing is not only a thrilling form of exercise that helps your physical and mental health. Rowing down the beautiful Cam River is such a wonderful way to relax and relish in the wonderful setting of Cambridge, take a break from studying, and make friendships along the way. Alongside rowing itself, here at PCBC, you can enjoy socials, crew meals, game nights and much more. 

It is so much more than just a sport; it is like a second family. We truly encourage you to join PCBC and try rowing. I for one can say with certainty that it has made my experience here at Pembroke even richer and more enjoyable, and I know the same can be said for many others. Row on PCBC!

Esyllt Parry-Lowther
Women's and Non-Binary Captain 2022-2023

Why Try Novice Rowing

Rowing is (as Kev, our boatman, always reminds us) the ultimate team sport. It takes a lot of work to reach perfect coordination between eight people, but when you reach this point and feel the boat fly through the water,  it’s a uniquely satisfying and unifying sensation.

PCBC is the largest club at Pembroke, which makes it a brilliant way to make friends around College.

You’ll make friends for life with the people you row with, from Fresher to Final Year PHD student. In this regard PCBC represents a unique opportunity to make friends of people you might never otherwise know.

Beyond the (very fun experience of) rowing, PCBC has a strong social side which makes it a fun place to be.

Between crew meals and socials, swaps with other colleges, termly boat club dinners and more, PCBC is as much about the sportspeople as it is the sport.

Rowing is a super quirky culture full of weird traditions which make for fun stories. And you’ll be part of that community forever. 

As a low-impact sport that works nearly all the muscles in the body, rowing is fantastic for those looking to get into better shape. A typical session on the erg (rowing machine) can easily be a great workout without causing any harmful impact on the joints.

The accountability of rowing can also be a great way to maintain regular exercise, as you’re part of a team who can’t row without you!

Rowing is also good for your mental, as well as physical, health. It forces you to go outdoors even during the winter, which can have a very positive impact on your mental well-being. There is nothing quite like watching the sun rise from the water in the early morning and seeing the birds of the river strolling about. It’s a very peaceful feeling.

Members of PCBC perform exceptionally well at all levels of the sport.

Some highlights of the past few years involve PCBC members rowing in the university lightweights boat, chasing for Headship during May Bumps, and having the fastest individual time at the Queen’s Ergs novices competition.

Read some of our Novice stories

I started rowing in the final term of my 2nd year at Cambridge mainly for something to do, my friends enjoyed it and talked about it a lot so I wanted to see what the hype was about… 

Since it was just post-lockdown, it also meant that we could see more than 1 human being at a time. 

I came for rather trivial reasons but stayed because I loved the sport and the camaraderie it brought! I’m so glad I started rowing and wish I’d joined the boat club earlier! But my experience just goes to show that it’s never too late to start!

The first time I picked up an oar was on the Big Rowing Day, no clue which way was what. Novicing was so much fun with silly fancy dress races and lots of crashes! We built a really strong crew spirit and had some strong races to match it.

After the first term, I began to get the hang of it and was ready to commit to more sessions. At the beginning of Lent Term, we had to do a 2k test on the ergs to help decide crews for the term. I got into M2! It was a big step up from my novice boat, and I learned a lot in a short space of time.

PCBC is such a lovely community to be part of and everyone gave useful tips to help me improve. The social side of rowing is great fun with pub trips and crew dinners (eating a lot of Nandos!). With my M2 crew, we went to London and rowed on the Thames in Quintin Head and the Head of River Race. Just a few months after first getting in a boat, I was suddenly racing under bridges filled with cheering spectators.

I am now getting ready for the next rowing year. Starting off with a one-week rowing camp with PCBC in Budapest!!!

I started rowing in my first term because friends had told me that it would be a great way to meet new people, and it was a must-do checklist type thing for an Oxbridge student — “you have to try at least once”. I had close to zero interest in sport and couldn’t run 1k to save my life; I was pretty much predisposed to hate it.   

Getting into rowing, I had a very complicated relationship with competition and I was apprehensive of the group pressure I might have to negotiate, but my crew was supportive and encouraging. I ended up in the Stroke seat, which is arguably the most stressful seat to be in during competitions…and liking it. Because of the efforts and dedication that everybody brings to the crew, I felt like we were always a united front, both in victory and defeat. That’s a different feeling of invincibility.

What was supposed to be just a fun activity to try once or twice ended up helping my personal development more than I would have imagined. I have built confidence, and unlocked a new level of dedication and drive which I hadn’t found in any other hobby.   

I went to the big rowing day because I was curious about rowing, but more importantly, wanted free food. Three years later and I’m still here!

PCBC has been the most welcoming community I have ever been a part of. Particularly during the pandemic, it gave me a way to connect to people at Pembroke. Everyone –  your crew, your coaches and the wider club – wants you to succeed. A boat can only move with eight people (plus a cox), and it doesn’t matter how strong you are if you aren’t working together. I’ve always liked that about rowing.

As someone who showed no interest in sport at school, I could never have imagined that I would become the type of person to train nine times a week to make a boat go fast. But nothing beats being out on the river with some of your closest friends, feeling a million miles away from your desk and the pressures of the Cambridge degree. Winning races and crashing into other college’s boats is pretty fun as well!

Prior to the big rowing day, I had never picked up an oar, but pretty soon I was hooked!

Since then, I’ve rowed every term possible (minus Covid), and in every boat – from NM2 (the lowest novice boat) to M1 (the men’s top boat), which I was in for my final year at Pembroke.

I’ve had the chance to compete at some national events, including at the Head of the River Race (on the same course as the Boat Race) and at Henley Royal Regatta Qualifiers, all whilst making some great friends. 

I found that with rowing you get out what you put in, both from a social side and from a sporting aspect (especially as most people will have never done it before), and would recommend anyone give it a go – rowing at PCBC was one of the highlights of my time at Pembroke.