McMaster rowing team practices on campus puddle

The team decided to use the flooded field as an opportunity to raise awareness about the team.
McMaster rower Kyle Conahan races on a large flood plain on campus. 0:54

"When life gives you a lake, you row it."

That was the motto several McMaster University rowing students were sharing Thursday when the team held an impromptu practice on a giant puddle in the middle of campus.

Rather than serious drills, the demonstration was intended more to attract new recruits to the team. Including all novice rowers, the team currently has 87 members, but is always on the lookout for fresh talent, according to coach Aubrey Oldham.

"It's been successful so far. A few people have asked us about the team. We're always looking for new recruits and it's just something fun for the guys and the girls," he said.

About a dozen of the team members showed up in uniform for the demonstration, where they raced around on the foot-deep water and even allowed some first-timers to try their hand at rowing.

Rower Kyle Conahan, a second-year kinesiology student (seen in the video above), said rowing on the flooded field was a unique experience.

"I've never done anything like this before. I've rowed on rivers and lakes, but nothing in the middle of a university campus," he said. "[With] all the slush and ice in there right now it felt like rowing the Titanic."

Oldham got the idea after watching a video of a group of McMaster engineering students who hit the water — now dubbed "Lake McMaster" — in a canoe Wednesday afternoon.

The area floods for a few days every year after a heavy rain or melt, according to Steven Toniolo, one of the canoeists.

"The flooding is because there's a really big drop in terrain and a lot of pooling goes on there," the third-year chemical and bioengineering student explained.

He and his friends, Yassin Strinic, Ross Willett and Corey Bastarache, have wanted to canoe "Lake McMaster" since they discovered a photo hanging in the engineering building that showed students in the late '70s hitting the flooded field in a canoe. When they saw conditions were right on Wednesday, they borrowed the canoe from Bastarache's aunt and portaged it from her house in Westdale to campus.

"She said, 'you can borrow it, just don't break it,'" Bastarache told CBC Hamilton, adding the group didn't totally explain to her what they intended to do.

The boys ferried several people across the flood plain to get to class and became somewhat of a spectacle on campus as students paused to snap photos and take videos, like the YouTube clip, which had about 60,000 views Thursday afternoon.

"We thought it would just be us and maybe some of our friends would notice; it was just something to cross off of the bucket list," Toniolo said.

"But it made a lot of people's day. A lot of people are talking about it. It's been kind of humbling."