Patricia Busa McConnico 2016-05-02 23:40:51
RIGHT ON THE WATER An Austin attorney recharges with rowing. Spending three weeks in Nepal trekking the Himalayas, where two of the earth’s plates collided to form some of the highest mountain peaks in the world, might not sound like vacation to many people. But for Austin attorney Frank A. King, who spends his days defending state agencies and universities when they get sued, it was an amazing adventure, a way to embrace living and push himself to the next level while growing spiritually. Being raised in Austin, King didn’t have mountains at his disposal when he felt the itch to test boundaries, but he did have a passion for the law and an undeniable urge to find justice. That desire to develop, do more, and face a challenge has charted King’s course at work—he says there’s no substitute for winning a jury trial on behalf of a client—and at play. When knee problems finally forced him to give up jogging, King searched for another way to get in shape, one that wouldn’t beat his body down. Judge Joe Hart of the 126th District Court, where King was a staff attorney, suggested the Austin Rowing Club. After an initial introductory course in 1997, he was hooked. “It truly is a Zen moment combined with aerobic exercise,” said King, who rows from the ARC clubhouse on Lady Bird Lake. “There’s something about the solitude of you, the boat, and the lake that is so serene.” That calm feeling balances the stress of practicing law and allows King time for reflection and rebuilding, tools that enable him to be a better attorney. He also relishes the sheer physical challenge that rowing presents: “being better, faster, and more fit.” After spending three weeks overseas, King has some catching up to do and is looking forward to time on the water. The Texas Rowing Championships on April 16-17 might just be the perfect inspiration. What do you enjoy most about rowing and why have you stayed with the sport for so many years? Unlike jogging, there are no cars, dogs, strollers, bicyclists, chatting soccer moms, or anything else to contend with (excepting festival weekends, when there are hundreds of tourists on stand-up paddleboards and canoes careening around the lake like drunk June bugs). It’s just you, the lake, and the beautiful scenery. It’s an opportunity to have quiet, contemplative time and come up with some creative thoughts. Do you prefer sweep rowing, where the athlete holds just one oar, or single sculling, where the athlete holds an oar in each hand? I row a single rowing scull. I used to do eight sweep rowing, which is eight rowers and a coxswain. I loved doing eights, but because it required the participation of nine people showing up at the same time, it was frustrating when people didn’t keep their commitments. That being said, I don’t hesitate to jump into an eight when they need an extra oar, because the camaraderie among the eight rowers and cox is unparalleled. Is there a specific rowing incident that is burned on your brain? When I was a novice rower, I neglected to inspect the oarlock to make sure the oar was locked down tight. When I was in the middle of the lake, the oarlock came loose. I lost the oar and turned my scull over into the lake. I was pretty terrified, since I couldn’t get back into the boat without the oar stabilizing it. I ended up swimming the scull back to the shore through all the duckweed and muck before I could get back in. It taught me a harsh lesson about inspecting all of the equipment on the scull before going out on the lake. I never made that mistake again. Is there a natural transition from novice to something like the eight? The progression between a novice and being decent on an eight is immense. Some of the best amateur eights in the country come from the Austin Rowing Club. They have won many regattas around the world. But, they have been practicing together for many years, some for decades, to get the perfect precision required to be world class. How long did it take to feel like you were finally beyond the novice stage? It was when I started to teach introduction to rowing classes and realized that the students were just as clumsy and lacking in technique as I was when I started. Of course, my own technique could always use some improvement. Where are your favorite spots on the water? I like to row around Bird Island and to Longhorn Dam. I also like going to Red Bud Isle if I have the time. There is a great little spring called Cold Spring by Red Bud Isle that is beautiful when it is running. What are you thinking about while you are rowing? The best thing that goes through my mind while rowing is nothing. It takes a while to get rid of the constant yammering in your brain about all the tasks you are supposed to be doing and the deadlines you have coming up. However, at some point, the squabbling in your head ceases, and then you are in a Zen bliss zone, a beautiful, rhythmic rowing motion that is attuned to your breathing. And that’s when all is right with the world. Frank King rowing on Lady Bird Lake in Austin.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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