Conversation with Charlie Palanza '10

Charlie Palanza '10
Charlie Palanza '10
This is the 18th installment in a series of interviews with Hamilton College student-athletes. Charlie Palanza '10 is one of four seniors for the men's crew program this spring. He has been a fixture recently on Hamilton's varsity boats, and traveled with the team to Tampa, Florida, for some training during the College's two-week spring break. Charlie aims to help Hamilton defeat Union College for the Gilman Cup on the Erie Canal in Rome, N.Y., on Saturday, April 3. Racing gets underway at 11 a.m.
Q: Tell us a little bit about where you grew up.
A: I am from New Mexico but grew up in Tucson, Arizona. There wasn't a lot of water there to row in, but I loved the desert and the wildness of that area, as well as its proximity to Mexico. I brace myself in that culture and still consider it home. The food can't be beat. 

Q: Did you participate in any other sports before you came to Hamilton?
A: I played soccer through high school and raced bikes as well. The biking translated well into rowing as the mentality of racing in a boat or bike is very similar. 

Q: How did you get interested in rowing?
A: My uncle put the idea in my head, and it seemed like one of those things people did "out East". I wanted something new, so I showed up at the novice meeting. I endured some brutal first races and fell in love with its difficulty and nuances. It's a rare sport that you can walk into it totally green and pick it up after a season ... and then spend a lifetime trying to master. 

Q: What attracted you to travel all the way across the country to attend Hamilton?
A: I knew I wanted to head east for school, and something clicked when I visited Hamilton. It was the kindness and sincerity of the people. In any case, I applied early decision and never looked back.

Q: Ever since I attended my first regatta here at Hamilton, I thought crew was the ultimate team sport. Would you agree with that point of view?
A: Absolutely, though it's a rare kind. There is only so much you can teach and discuss, and it's not communication or "teamwork" in the normal sense. Rowers must intuit swinging together. I like to think of it as a sort of collective zen thing. If any one bit is off, a head tilt, a blade depth, a hand an inch too high, then everything gets thrown. And they must be perfectly together 36 times a minute for seven or so minutes (or 20 in the longer head races). Individual power does matter, but not as much as a group that swings well and trusts each other. 

Q: You recently returned from a training trip to Tampa, Florida during spring break. What was that experience like?
A: I loved the trip. In the past we have headed to Augusta, Georgia, or elsewhere, but Tampa is a place lots of crew come to train, and it was fun to be amongst that. All the bridges along the river are covered with 20-plus years of graffiti that crews paint up late at night to assert their artistic if not rowing dominance. We, of course, contributed. Also, flying there certainly beat the 19-hour bus ride we've endured in the past, flight cancellations included. 

Q: Union comes to the Erie Canal in Rome on Saturday to compete for the Gilman Cup and Gilman Bowl on the men's side. Is this an important weekend for the program?
A: The Gilman Cup is our first real race of the spring season, and helps qualify us for future regattas, so it is an important race in that regard. It is also an old rivalry with Union which has some history behind it, and gives some weight to the race. It makes it more fun to win. 

Q: Hamilton has defeated Union for the hardware in each of the last three years. What has been the reason or reasons for that recent dominance?
A: It has been a mixed bag of reasons every year, but mostly it comes down to a need to win on the home front at all costs. We want it more. Also, a giant shiny trophy is on the line, and who doesn't want that? It has its uses in post-race celebrations as well. 

Q: Out of anywhere you have been so far, where's your favorite place to row?
A: The Charles River in Boston is always super fun, but home on the Erie Canal is still my favorite. It's always calm and beautiful, and even though it's not glamorous (to say the least), it belongs only to us. No other crews row on our section and it's like a private course.

Q: What are some of your favorite Hamilton crew memories?
A: Well, the worst days are always memorable. Changing into dry clothes in the back of a moving bus crammed with people and gear after a freezing, rainy, snowy row in ice water is always up there. Nearly sinking a boat after our biggest guy pulled so hard he broke a hole through the bottom is up there too. 

Q: Is there a particular class or professor you have enjoyed here at Hamilton?
A: Intro to Film taught by Scott MacDonald, a class I took first semester freshman year, has stayed with me. It taught me to look, see, think and learn completely differently, and it prepared me for all other classes I've taken since. 

Q: What will Charlie Palanza be doing five years from now?
A: That's a tough one. I'd like to think architecture school at some point, although maybe long-haul trucking is in my future, depending on where the wind blows. In any event, somewhere with a nice river for rowing would be nice. 
Back to Top