In the same boat: Sophomore Revan Aponso inherits his love for rowing

Sophomore Revan Aponso wakes up at 4:15 a.m. every Monday. He needs to be at the Redwood City Port by 5 a.m. When he arrives, he grabs a boat and fixes LED lights onto the boat – it’s still dark out. The crew rows for an hour, sometimes as far as twelve kilometers, and carries the boats back in, washes them and ties them up. By this time it’s 7 a.m. and Revan has to leave for school.

Revan is one of few MVHS athletes who participates in rowing. After playing both baseball and basketball, sports that he felt require athletes to start at a young age, Revan wanted a sport he could pick up later in life. His dad, who used to row, encouraged Revan to join the sport. Even though he began last year, he was able to transition pretty quickly since his teammates had similar levels of experience.

“It’s easier for you to keep up with your teammates and the other people in your club or league,” Revan said.

Revan soon realized that rowing was perfect for him. Unlike most sports, he was able to practice without feeling pressure from experienced athletes. Revan also liked the full body workout that rowing provided, without applying excessive stress on his body and causing any serious injuries.

As a high school junior in Sri Lanka, Revan’s father, Bimal Aponso, got into rowing through a friend. He rowed through high school, and started up again a couple of years ago. Bimal no longer races, although he still rows recreationally.

“Rowing is the ultimate team sport,” Bimal said.  “If everyone in the boat does not row in perfect synchrony you expend a lot of energy and get nowhere.”

Revan’s coach, Lynn Gardner, echoed this sentiment.

“Everybody has to be totally in sync, and everybody has to be able to depend on the other people in the boat,” Gardner said. “You want to know that everybody is giving a hundred percent just like you.”

Despite all the appealing aspects of rowing, Revan admits his passion  for the sport didn’t develop immediately.

“It was a growing-in period,” Revan said. “At the beginning, I remember getting up at four in the morning and [thinking to myself], ‘Wait, why am I doing this? Is it even worth it?’”

Revan cleans up after tying the team’s boat up at the dock. The team has to rinse off the boats after every practice, to prevent salt water from corroding the hulls.
Revan cleans up after tying the team’s boat up at the dock. The team has to rinse off the boats after every practice, to prevent salt water from corroding the hulls. Photo by Sannidhi Menon

Now, he has learned to love the sport, even if waking up early is still challenging. As a varsity rower, Revan has practices three times a week on the water: Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Weekday practices usually start at 5:00 a.m., while practices on Saturdays start at 6:00 a.m. In addition to practices on the water, the team meets in its coach’s garage twice a week and practices on rowing machines, or ergs, as the crew calls them.

Every few months, Revan competes in regattas, or rowing competitions, with his team. Local regattas usually take place in Oakland or San Francisco on weekends and involve parents, coaches and rowers. Although regattas usually last the whole day, Revan states that for most of the time, he is not rowing.

“A regatta is a huge team effort,” Revan said. “Most of the time is down-time between races so it’s a great way to get to know your teammates and bond with [them] and your coaches.”

Through rowing, Revan has built strong relationships with people in his community that he wouldn’t have met otherwise, and his coach has seen him grow tremendously.

“Personality wise, he’s become more confident,” Gardner said. “He interacts with everybody a lot more – it’s kinda pulled him out of his shell.”

And on top of his personal growth, the hard work and discipline that rowing has taught Revan make him want to pursue the sport through high school and college. Experience is no limiting factor in the sport; everyone is in the same boat.

Originally published in print magazine El Estoque Oct. issue

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