The 33rd edition of the World Indoor Rowing Championships, the CRASH-B Sprints held in Boston, United States had competitors as young as 12 and as old as 96. It had Para-rowing competitors, some using just their arms and shoulders. It had competitors who had never set foot in a rowing boat - and never intend to. It had competitors pushing themselves to win - a hammer.

Isabel Castro finishes her race at the 2014 Crash B World Rowing Indoor Championships in Boston, Massachusettes

At the young end of the spectrum a number of 12-year-olds competed in the newly established youth four minute challenge. Coming fifth in the boy’s race was Santiago Hernandez. Just 12 years old, Hernandez is an indoor rower from Mexico. Hernandez's twin sister Tania competed in the girl’s division and finished twelfth overall. The overall girl’s winner was 13-year-old Isabel Castro from the United States, who completed an impressive 1011m in the allotted time.
Competing in the standard 2000m distance race was 96-year-old Paul Randall from the United States. One of the stars of the event, Randall had his hands full after his 11:47 piece as he was in demand to autograph postcards saying 'Be Like Paul." This was Randall's ninth visit to the CRASH-Bs.

The Para-rowing events attracted 85 athletes, the biggest turnout ever, for the 1000m race. Two World Records were set including Ukraine's Dmytro Ivanov in the men's trunk and arms division (3:28.2) and Susan Murray of the United States in the legs, trunk and arms, amputee division (3:58.3).

Watching the Para-rowers intently was US Rowing's director of Para-rowing Tom Darling. Darling had a number of athletes competing before he competed himself in the 55-59 year old men's division. Darling had set a new World Record earlier this month in this division by going 6:12.6.

"Ok, I didn't beat my World Record," said Darling after finishing first in a time of 6:14.7. "I was hoping to, but I wasn't expecting to." Darling who medalled in rowing at the Olympics still rows regularly, while second-place getter Richard Cheeseman from Great Britain finished 17 seconds later. Cheeseman is exclusively an indoor rower.
Paul Randall, 96, won at the 2014 Crash B World Rowing Indoor Championships in Boston, Massachusettes

The non-water solely indoor rowing competitors continue to grow in numbers with CrossFit athletes making up an ever-increasing group.

The 50 - 54 year old open men's race ended in the tightest finish of the day with just half a second separating the first, second and third place. Chris Ives (USA), Ken Gates (USA) and Johannes Marx (GER) finished first, second and third respectively.

So why do these people do it? For the personal satisfaction. For the desire to beat fellow competitors, some who come back year after year. To add some variety to the repetitiveness of mid-winter training.
And for Randall, as said in an interview with Row2k, “I tell people 'I really have to win - either win or expose myself to the possibility.' It's got to be worth it, work hard so you win it, and pretty soon you're glad you came."