Success on the water

All photos courtesy of Lis Ana Johansen

It’s 4:30 a.m., and junior Lis Ana Johansen slides out of bed to get ready for practice. The sky is still dark when she arrives at Lake Merced, and she starts a multiple-hour rowing session in the fog. When practice ends, she heads to school to spend eight hours in class before attending another practice in the afternoon.

As a competitive rower, Johansen is no stranger to the sport’s grueling physical and mental demands. A member of the Pacific Rowing Club, Johansen has contributed to her impressive track record of victories in numerous local and national competitions. Johansen has proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the water. But beyond the accolades and medals, Johansen is driven by a passion for the sport and a relentless work ethic.

Johansen only started rowing in her freshman year, unlike most of her fellow competitors. She played soccer most of her life and only learned about rowing in high school after it was suggested to her by a friend. Soccer no longer interested her due to personal conflicts with her coach, so she decided to try rowing. “I didn’t know what rowing was at all, and I had no idea how hard it was going to be,” Johansen said. “I thought it was going to be just a little row boat, and I wasn’t aware of its difficulty… but I became obsessed with it.”

I thought it was going to be just a little row boat, and I wasn’t aware of its difficulty… but I became obsessed with it.

Johansen has flourished in her new environment. She attended the 2022 Youth Nationals in Sarasota, Florida, in her junior year. Despite her fears of being inexperienced and facing the best in the nation, Johansen’s team, Pacific Rowing Club, placed second overall. “I hadn’t ever done something like that before, and not a lot of the girls in my boat had either. It was unexpected but it was great,” Johansen said. According to Johansen, Johansen’s boat floated between 4th and 5th place for most of the race but moved up to 2nd place in the last 500 meters. Johansen has also participated in the Head of the Charles, an annual rowing competition in Boston during the fall. She participated in her Sophomore and Junior years, having re-qualified her junior year with her impressive sophomore year performance. With these accomplishments under her belt, Johansen hopes to continue rowing and has already discussed opportunities with several UCs and Division 1 colleges.

Photo courtesy of Lis Ana Johansen

These accomplishments haven’t come without hours of practice. Johansen’s practice schedule consists of 5:15 a.m. practices every week from Tuesday to Friday, as well as 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings. According to Johansen, while this schedule makes it hard to balance athletics and academics, she feels like she has more structure in her life. “I only have a certain amount of time to do work,” Johansen said. “I don’t have the option to stay up late, and that’s definitely a benefit to early practices.”

Looking to the future, Johansen plans to continue rowing, not just for success but for the rowing community she’s fallen in love with. Hoping to be a captain next year, Johansen praised her team, stating, “The community is really great, and it’s nice to have people to push you and support you.” Johansen said. “We have frequent team meetings and they are a very big part of my life. I hope to row in college and after that, maybe I’ll join a club and be a little old lady, going out in a single or something.”