50th anniversary celebration of PLU’s ‘Rowdown Crew’

Posted by: Date: June 15, 2017
Photo of the 1967's PLU men's rowing team

The PLU men’s rowing team takes a bold risk to row the ‘Loyal Shoudy’ shell down from Union Bay to Point Defiance in 1967. (Photo: Cary Tolman)

In 1967, University of Washington requested the men's rowing crew return of the famed ``Husky Clipper,`` which the Huskies had used to win at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Huskies committed to loaning another in trade, but there was one significant issue. The Lutes were responsible for retrieving it.

The estimated moving cost to transport the new boat was far beyond the team’s resources and shell trailers were unheard of in those days. Needing the shell for the program to survive, they responded positively when somebody asked: “Why not row it down?”

That’s what they did. The Lutes endured a marathon paddle from Seattle’s Union Bay to Tacoma’s Point Defiance—an estimated 45 miles. It took more than 15 hours to complete, in the chill of a mid-December day.

Pacific Lutheran rowers who were on the working end of those oars will gather and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Rowdown” on June 20-22. Part of the festivities will be an afternoon boat trip tracing the route they rowed in 1967, with one difference. It will be aboard a 75-foot powerboat rather than a rowing shell.

50th Anniversary Rowdown Reunion Schedule

Tuesday, June 20: Hospitality gathering as rowers arrive, followed by kickoff banquet 7 p.m., Hotel Murano, Tacoma.

Wednesday, June 21: The crew will visit the Husky Clipper and the Conibear Shellhouse at the University of Washington at 12:15 p.m. then board a powerboat to trace the route of their marathon dawn-to-dusk row 50 years ago from Lake Union in Seattle to Point Defiance in Tacoma.

Thursday, June 22: The group will visit the PLU rowing crewhouse at 9 a.m. and take a short celebratory row on American Lake. Then it’s back to PLU for lunch!

Media Accessibility

The PLU rowers will be available to share memories of their row throughout the three days of the reunion. Interviews prior to and following the event will be available by request. Contact the reunion organizer and team captain Jim Ojala at or 206-310-0229.

1967 Rowdown Crew
The Rowdown Crew launching their epic journey off a dock in Lake Union. (Photo courtesy of PLU Archives & Special Collections)
1967 Rowdown Crew on the water
The Lutes arrive home safely at the Point Defiance Boathouse after 15 hours of rough water in the Puget Sound. (Photo: Cary Tolman)

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