C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints: The World Indoor Rowing Championship | Sports Destination Management

C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints: The World Indoor Rowing Championship

Feb 06, 2019 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Natasha Strom, Co-Commodore


The C.R.A.S.H.-B. World Indoor Rowing Championship, a one-day event drawing international talent, was started in the 1980s by rowers (who called themselves the Charles River All-Star Has-Beens, or C.R.A.S.H.-B.) – who wanted to break up the monotony of indoor training. The popularity of indoor rowing as a workout, coupled with the advancement of rowing equipment technology, resulted in the growth of the sport on a competitive level.

As the event gained participants, the C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints became the World Indoor Rowing Championship. It outgrew its original location (Harvard’s Newell Boathouse) and in less than three decades, has moved seven times to accommodate the increasing number of registrants. The event offers multiple registration divisions for youth, adult and adaptive rowers. This year, the event will take place on February 17 at the Boston University Track and Tennis Center. It will also include a vendor marketplace.

Sports Destination Management: The C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints has grown over the years. How many competitors are you expecting in this event?

All images, unless otherwise stated, courtesy of the C.R.A.S.H.-B. website
Natasha Strom: We expect between 1500 and 2000 athletes this year. 

SDM: Do people need to qualify for it or is registration open to anyone who wants to sign up? 

Strom: Registration is open to everyone. 

SDM: Why are indoor rowing competitions so popular? 

Strom: Everyone wants to be fit, and indoor rowing is a tool that does it all. In addition to the rowing community, Crossfit has become a big component in the growth of indoor rowing. CrossFit gyms include rowing on the Concept2 as part of their workouts. Those athletes tend to do really well and have become a great new part of our community.

SDM: How long have you been seeing that trend? 

Strom: CrossFit growth has happened over the last five years or so.

SDM: Are a lot of other athletes – the ones who aren’t in CrossFit – rowers who only work out indoors or are they athletes who row on water as well? 

Strom: When C.R.A.S.H.-B. started, it was 100 percent people who rowed on the water because these were all people looking for something to do in the offseason. Now, I would guess that 70 percent of our registration is made up of people who are rowing on the water.

SDM: What kind of facilities are necessary to host an indoor rowing competition?

Strom: It depends on how many athletes you’re actually having. Local clubs run their events all the time in high school gyms. Apart from having enough space for the equipment, you also need locker rooms, parking, showers and so on. Larger events like ours need a bigger space to accommodate the number and type of athletes we’re having. We have a diverse group – adults, juniors, youth and adaptive rowers, who need a certain amount of space to get in and out.

Something else we use – and a lot of other indoor races use it too – is the Concept2 software, since it allows competitors to see what other people in their category are doing.

SDM: What type of connectivity do you need for that? 

Strom: Ours is hardwired – it’s safer. 

SDM: What advice do you have for event owners who want to start a competition? 

Strom: Reach out to Concept2. They can help direct people on how to set up ergs, and how to set up the software so that everything is running. 

Image by ScullingFool Photogtraphy
SDM: What’s the demographic like for your event? 

Strom: We have athletes of all ages and abilities. The para events are growing every year. We’re also seeing more veterans participate. We have junior and youth rowing, with the middle school age is a category growing every year. We also have large numbers of masters athletes, some racing well into their 90s.

SDM: What is it that makes your event such a draw?

Strom: People love to come to Boston, especially if they’re rowers. Boston is known for the Head of the Charles and for the C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints.

SDM: Do you have any kind of economic impact figures or any sense of the benefit on the area around where the event is held?

Strom: We have a really great relationship with the Boston Royal Sonesta; they’re always glad to work with us. Our athletes love staying downtown where they can take advantage of restaurants and other wonderful things Boston has to offer. 

SDM: Are there other big indoor rowing events held in the U.S.?

Strom: FISA, which is the international governing body for rowing, started their own indoor championship last year in Alexandria Virginia. This year they will be held in Long Beach.

SDM: Has registration been strong in C.R.A.S.H.-B. every year anyway? 

Strom: There is some ebb and flow but the sport itself is definitely growing overall. 

SDM: And your event has a lot of history; it is unique.

Strom: Yes, it is. It is just a really happy, fun event. Our awards ceremony is unique too; in addition to giving out medals, we give out hammers – a hammer being a term in rowing. Everyone wants to win a hammer at C.R.A.S.H.-B!

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