The Story of Seize The Oar

First, We Seize'd The Oar-pporunity...

It all started with an email.  In late March 2013, Coach Tara was forwarded the following from Peggy Tosdal, then director of the Mount Baker Rowing & Sailing Center, with a simple "Are you interested?":

-----Original Message-----
From: A Bunnell
Sent: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 12:41 PM
To: Mount Baker, Rowing And Sailing Center
Subject: Individual Rowing Instruction

I'm an individual with mild impairments from a spinal cord injury who is interested in individual classes. I'm able to swim, walk, ride a bicycle, go up stairs without any assistive device, and would like to explore rowing as a way to enjoy the outdoors and exercise. I saw you have lessons for $45/hr. Would there be an instructor comfortable teaching someone with impairments? I'd love to sign up!

Aaron B.

What happened next....

From Coach Tara: When Aaron met me at the boathouse that first day, it was a truly mind-blowing experience.  This new rower, already very athletic, but came towards me with a remarkable gait and using a Razor scooter.  I knew almost nothing about adaptive rowing, much less para-, hemi-, quad-, tetra-plegia, so it was an adventure from the start.  Lucky for me, when I asked him what he did for work, he revealed that he was not only a doctor, but he specialized in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation* and at Harborview, a Level I Trauma Center AND worked with SCI patients new to their injuries.  Aaron and I trained on land for almost a year before we tackled our the first racing opportunity - NW Ergomania, an indoor competition.  Aaron was the only adaptive entry, an all-too common occurrence we discovered.  But something didn't sit right with me.  The way the race was set up, with him being the only entry, made it so he was going to erg alone in a corralled area.  So I decided to sit next to him and pace him.  It's how Seize The Oar's inclusive and unified methodology was born.  That April, we tried out rowing a Maas Aero double scull at the Lake Stevens Spring Sprints Regatta.  Entering in the Novice Men's double event made sense and, with the little time (and good weather) to practice, we decided to row about 30 strokes each while the other sat out and balanced the boat.  Aaron did the start and off we went.  I took over at the appointed 30 strokes and we cycled back and forth like that until the last 250m.  He looked over his shoulder and said - want to go together? Sure!  We crossed the line in third place, I think.  The marshal following us, it turns out, had no idea Aaron was an adaptive athlete but then remarked, "if you two had rowed together, you could've won!"  We learned about race directors and referees getting advance notice we learned about borrowing equipment, we learned about racing, I got to see how people watched him get around and would sometimes stare, and we took home a great bunch of memories.  

That's the gist! 5 years later now we are going strong.  Join us as an athlete, an athlete-in-training, a sponsor or a donor!

All donations to the Foundation are tax-deductible and will receive an official receipt at the end of the calendar year!

*Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also known as physiatry or rehabilitation medicine, aims to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Source: