Rowing To The Top With John Nunn

This Interview Was Published In The January 2014 Issue Of The Long Beach Junior Crew ‘Cox Box’ Publication 

Introducing The LBJC Chairman Of The Board, John Nunn

 John has had a long ijohn 3involvement with the sport of rowing stretching back 54 years. He began rowing on the Cornell University Team in 1960. He had considerable success winning the Varsity Eight IRA Championship in 1962 and 1963. He currently is a member of the Cornell University Athletic Hall of Fame. After graduation John moved to California and took up sculling. He won a Silver Medal in the Single at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada in 1967. At the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 he was a Bronze Medal winner in the Double Sculls. In 1971 at the Pan American Games in Cali Columbia he won a Bronze Medal in the Double Sculls. Over the past 23 years he has won medals in numerous Masters Races all around the world. In 2013 John won Gold in the Club Masters Race at the San Diego Crew Classic. He also won Gold again with the Cornell Alumni boat at the IRA Regatta at Lake Natoma.

Why and when did you start rowing? 

johnMy involvement with rowing began totally by chance. I played football and basketball at my high school, Ridley in Saint Catharine’s, Ontario, Canada. When I was there they had no rowing team. Today they have one of the top high school rowing programs in Canada. My Dad played football and lacrosse for Cornell. After graduation he played professional football for the Boston Shamrocks of the original American Football League. In 1936 they won the League Championship. This was the path that I intended to follow. However when I arrived for Freshmen Registration the Football Coach told me he had his team already picked and he didn’t need any walk- on wasting his time. I still intended to pursue playing football, but I walked right from the Football Coach’s office over to Barton Hall for registration. The building was massive, accommodating an indoor 400 meter running track. Computers didn’t exist in those days, so everyone had to mill around in a huge crowd to get the classes they needed. Members of the Crew Team were strategically placed around the hall, looking for lost looking tall students to find Freshman Recruits for the Crew Team. Bill Stowe asked me to accompany him to the crew table and talk to the coach. On our way there he said to me.” Your Graduation year 1964 is an Olympic Year and Cornell is going for Gold at the Olympics. Right there Bill planted a seed that stayed with me for eight years. I wanted to make the Olympic Team and go for Gold! When I got to the crew table the Coach asked “how tall are you and how much do you weigh” I replied” 6’6” and 197.” Coach said” that’s perfect” and then he asked” Have you had an experience?” I replied “No.” He then said “that’s the way we like ’em.” I started the next day and found rowing was a sport that I very much enjoyed and I was naturally suited john 2for. Later I discovered that rowing wasn’t foreign to my family at all. My grandfather rowed for Columbia University in the IRA National Championships on the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie in 1910.

How did you end up rowing for the Long Beach Rowing Association? 

After graduating from Cornell I went to the University of Michigan to work on my MBA. In my first year at Michigan I had no single to row so I started practicing with Olympic Flat- water Kayakers who were also studying at the University of Michigan. Olympic Kayaks are incredibly tippy so I spent a lot of time swimming until I got the hang of it. In my second year I bought a single and began my sculling training. At that time MBA degrees were highly desirable and I was offered multiple jobs. Companies were flying me around the country. It was a much different environment than what exists now. I had in mind what would be the best place to fulfill my Olympic dreams. So when I was offered a job with Dart industries in Beverly Hills, I knew this was It. Long Beach was perfect because it was the 1932 Olympic venue and rowing conditions were ideal. What I didn’t know at the time john 1was that U.S. Olympic teams on the way to Melbourne in 1956 and Tokyo in 1964 had both used the Marine Stadium for Olympic preparations. In 1966 I rowed out of the Olympic Boathouse at the end of Marine Stadium. However in 1967 the city of Long Beach filled in the end of Marine Stadium land locking the Olympic Boathouse. They were in the process of building a new boathouse at the 800M Mark of the Olympic Course. However it was not available for use in 1967, so I had to find an alternate boathouse to use. The USC coach was nice enough to let me use the USC Boathouse in the Port of Los Angeles. That was an adventure. Dealing with massive ships in the dark and in the fog was scary and life threatening at times. Eventually the Long Beach Boathouse was completed and I moved back to train in Long Beach for most of 1968.

How did you become the Olympic Sculling Coach in Montreal in 1976? 

From 1972 through 1975 I was the Junior Varsity Rowing Coach at USC. In 1974 the USC pair that I coached won Gold at the IRA Regatta in Syracuse, New York. A.C. DuPont was one of the USC rowers that  I coached. In 1975 I moved over to Long Beach to train. A large group of women showed up at Long Beach, because rowing had become an Olympic sport for women for the first time and Long Beach was the Training Center. As I was rowing around the John Nunnisland in my single, I would give some of the women coaching on their technique. Apparently they felt it was helpful, because when Ernie Arlett was medically unable to continue as men sculling coach, I was selected to replace him based on their recommendations. The USA Olympic Men’s Quad that I coached made the Finals in Montreal. Since then the only other USA Men’s Quad to make the finals was in Atlanta in 1996 when they won the silver medal.

What are the current prospects for an LBJC rower making a college team?

The prospects for college admission and varsity crew participation have never been better. The number of Colleges and Universities with LBJCRowing Programs is an all-time high. At the same time the number of Junior Crews is way fewer than the High School Teams in Football, Basketball, Baseball, Soccer, Volleyball and Softball. In addition LBJC has established itself over the years as a top junior program. It has produced Champions at the Head of the Charles Regatta, Nationals and Worlds. A college coach greatly values the quality of the program that the junior rower comes from. Rowers that learn good technique from the start are much easier to coach than the ones who have to change bad habits. Just as my Cornell Coach in the old days, said when he first met me, he would rather have recruits with no experience than try to retrain established defective muscle memory.

What are College Coaches looking for? First-what is your Academic Record? What is your GPA, SAT Math, SAT Critical Reading, SAT Writing, SAT 11{subject and score}, ACT Math, ACT English, Academic Honors and Interests. Second-College Coaches will look at your height, weight, rowing program, coach’s name, your years of experience, port, and starboard or sculling. Third-what are your best ERG scores: 2K, 5K&6K? Fourth-what have been your Race Results? 

lbjc 4The more you concentrate on improving your academic record, the more choices you will have of schools with both the programs of study and the rowing program that are best for you. A crew coach can definitely improve your odds of admission if he designates you as someone he wants. Having worked for Cornell University Admissions for a number of years, I can attest to the capriciousness of the process. If a coach wants you, he can definitely tip the odds of admission in your favor.

How does Long Beach stack up as a Venue for the Sport of Rowing? 

Starting my rowing career at Cornell, I became keenly aware of the limitations of many rowing venues. Whistling winds, towering waves, freezing temperatures, ice and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are all things we don’t have to deal with in Long Beach. At the World Master Games in Melbourne in 2002, I met a young lady from the Anchorage Rowing Club of Alaska. I asked her,” What is your training program in the winter.” She replied,” We Cross Country Ski.” I asked,” How do you cross country ski in the dark?” she replied,” We wear Miners Lights on our heads, and last year my dog saved my life.” I asked,” What happened.” She continued,” As I was cross country skiing in the dark, I came around a bend in the trail and there in the middle of the trail was a 4000 pound Bull Moose. My dog, which was with me, started barking the moose started pawing the ground. I slowly started backing up and managed to escape without the moose charging.” I keep myself on the Anchorage Rowing Club E-mail Bulletin list just to keep my sense of perspective and reality. Sand Lake froze over on October 13 and they believe all the ice will be gone by May 28 and they will be back on the water. Since the whole Junior Racing Season is over by May 28, it makes one appreciate how great we have it here.

For More Information On How To Get Your Children Involved In Junior Rowing Either On Or Off The Water Please Contact The Long Beach Junior Crew Organization At  Or Contact Keith Johnson At 

If You Would Like Indoor Class Lessons On The Concept 2 Rowing Machine Or For Those Interested In Rowing Class Workouts Please Visit Or Contact Jack Nunn at

Location For The Long Beach Junior Crew And Roworx Indoor Rowing Are At:  Pete Archer Rowing Center, 5750 Boathouse Lane, Long Beach, CA 90803

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Jack Nunn

Jack Nunn is the head trainer and owner of Roworx. Jack is a former national team rower who has competed in more than 100 triathlons, including 9 full Ironmans. He has created a system of rowing that prepares the whole body for both competition and fitness longevity.

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