As Aztec Rowing celebrates its 90th year, we remember commitment and sacrifice of all those who have rowed before us. Each morning as we carry our aching legs to the boathouse, we know that we are continuing a tradition of excellence that has perpetuated this team since 1925. As we pass this milestone, we take a look back at the life and legacy of the founding father of Aztec Crew, and San Diego rowing as a whole: H. Del Beekley (pictured left)
“The reason he rose in the dark was to watch oars strike the water at a perfect angle, to coax rowers into precise form, and for a time, to be the winningest coxswain in the country. As a teenager , he took a seat in the stern of a shell with the San Diego Rowing Club–you can find aged photographs of him at the old rowing club turned Chart House restaurant–and went on to coach high school and San Diego State College teams. He says he watched San Diego rowing grow from a couple of state competitions to the annual Crew Classic he helped initiate 14 years ago. When the Mission Bay Aquatic Center opened a new Rowing Center in 1976, it was named for H. Del Beekley, “San Diego’s father of collegiate rowing.” At 88, the morning breeze is chilly, but Beekley is up coaching a crew of businessmen to win a race in the annual competition in April. “
Del, as most of his friends called him, joined SDRC in 1917 and remained an active member until his death in 2001 at the age of 102. He was not only a member of several championship teams from SDRC, but is also credited for reviving rowing at San Diego State University. As World War II veterans were coming home and taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, there was a renewed interest in rowing. Beekley restarted the program at SDSU in 1946. The program was discontinued after the 1948 season and then revived once again permanently in 1960. He retired as the Aztec’s coach in 1971, but remained on board as an advisor to the team until 1982. In 1975, when the Mission Bay Aquatic Center was opened, the wing that currently houses the rowing teams of SDSU men and women was dubbed the H. Del Beekley Rowing Center. Beekley, who stood barely 5 feet tall and weighed 110 pounds, was a loud and boisterous coxswain, coach, and ambassador for the sport. Even at 96, he would attend to the matters of repairing racing and rowing equipment as well as cleaning and worked for Prudential Insurance (SanDiegoHistory.org).
Read more about Del here