Catchin’ Up – Dr Cam Brewer

This week we catch up with one of the newer members of the SRC fraternity, Dr Cam Brewer. Since Cam’s move from Western Australia last year the men’s squad have found an extra gear, a testament to his skills in and out of the boat. We caught up with Cam at the club recently to find out more about the man who has become an integral member of the men’s sweep squad.

A chilly evening on the outer deck at Sydney Rowing Club but a hearty crowd has gathered to welcome back members of the clubs 2015 European touring party. Amongst the usual base conversation are a few flickering lights of intellect. Tenured academic Ken Ambler is discussing biology with an eager pupil, seek entrepreneur Suzanne Thiebe debates calculus with her family, and general manager Peter Grosvenor explains the intricacies of leveraged finance to senior club directors.
Rising above this field of intellectual heavyweights however is Dr Cam Brewer. While most elite rowers have little but passing time for interests outside of the boat, Cam is a rare case in which scholarly pursuits have kept pace with the rigours of heavyweight crew. While unassuming in his demeanour, it is clear from a moment’s conversation that the bowman of SRC’s Visitors four at Henley has more to offer than many of his peers.
Cam joined SRC in 2014 following a decorated rowing career in his native West Australia that included state and national representative honours. At the time some sandgropers questioned the move but with a strong contingent of athletes returning from college in America – the likes of Hicks, Dignan and Coombs – SRC has become a hub of men’s sweep rowing and Brewer was a natural fit in that set up. The success that has followed, at the State and National Championships and the Gold Cup, reflects this great migration of talent to Abbotsford in the last 18 months.
Still a young man, Cam has not yet reached the age of peak performance in rowers, and given his passion for performance, one would not dare predict his limits.
For many, the pursuit of excellence is condensed into a series of training blocks, with kilometres covered the sole measure of output – this is the Tonks method, and it has stood the test of time. Others approach the sport with a more philosophical outlook, believing that the distractions of prose and mind games can propel the boat onwards – this is the Spracklen dogma. In Australia the dominant theory has been that for past glories to be repeated, all inputs must similarly be replicated – the visissitudes of individual athletes makes this a fraught exercise.
Dr Brewer advocates another approach, one borne of both his experience in the boat and his academic background. Boat speed is considered a science, but the extent to which practitioners embrace the principles of scientific endeavour, that is the pursuit of knowledge, is varied. That each individual has a defined performance boundary may be anathema to the romanticists in the sport, but for deeper thinkers it represents a far more meaningful goal than medals or seats.
In parallel with pursuing his rowing ambitions, Cam has dedicated his professional life to the science of reaching the limits of the human performance. With academic qualifications in exercise physiology and biochemistry, Cam has a deep insight into the science of human performance. This has not only been to the benefit of his rowing career, but also progressed the body of knowledge in performance science.
In a field dominated by marketing myths and half-truths, a truly scientific approach is surprisingly rare. In this space, Cam is making a mark in developing new approaches backed with the rigour of scientific review that have underpinned his academic career. While Dr Brewer is a member of the SRC shed the club will not want for insight into physical performance and many members have already sought out his advice in reaching their athletic potential.
The club has been blessed with an influx of fine individuals in recent years and Cam must surely be counted amongst them.