Rowing Terms

Parts of the Rowing Motion

  • Catch: The oar blade entering the water at the beginning of the stroke.
  • Crab: A stroke that goes bad. The oar blade slices into the water at an angle and gets caught under the surface. A bad crab can catapult you out of the boat.
  • Drive: The part of the rowing cycle where the rower applies power to the foot stretchers, therefore moving the blade through the water.
  • Feathering: Turning the oar blade flat during the recovery to lessen wind resistance.
  • Finish: The oar blade leaving the water at the end of the stroke.
  • Hands away: At the close of the drive, a sharp downward and away (from the body) hand movement removes the oar form the water to a position horizontally parallel to the water.
  • Layback: The upper body is leaning into the bow.
  • Recovery: The time between strokes; the oar blade traveling through the air.
  • Squaring: Term describing the turning of the blade from a horizontal (feathered) to a vertical (squared) position.
  • Stroke: A part of the rowing action; the person who sets the pace for the rest of the crew; the stroke sits nearest the coxswain.
  • Swing: The hard-to-define feeling when near-perfect synchronization of motion occurs in the shell, enhancing the performance and speed.

Technical Terminology

  • Backsplash: The water thrown back toward the bow by the blade as it enters the water; this indicates that the blade has been properly planted before the rower initiates the drive.
  • Bow: the front of the boat; to the rower’s back.
  • Bury the blade: Submerge the blade totally in the water.
  • Hanging at the catch: The blade is hesitating at the catch point, not getting enough power for the drive.
  • Hot seating: When two crews share the same shell during a regatta and they switch at the finish line of dock without taking the boat out of the water.
  • Jumping the slide: A problem where the seat becomes derailed from the track while rowing.
  • Lightweight: Refers to the rowers, not the boats; there is a maximum weight for each rower in a lightweight event as well as a boat average.
  • Missing Water: A technical fault where the rower begins the drive before the catch is complete.
  • Port: Left side of the boat when viewed from the stern to the bow.
  • Puddle: Swirl of water following each stroke.
  • Run: How far the boat glides between strokes; figured by the distance between puddles after a complete stroke.
  • Rushing: When the upper body comes out of the bow and moves up the slide too fast.
  • Set: The balance of the boat; affected by handle heights, rowers leaning, rowers posture, and timing, after which the coxswain tells rowers to “set the boat”. (see keel).
  • Shooting your slide: A technical fault where the butt travels towards the bow without the movement of your shoulders.
  • Skying: The fault of carrying your hands too low during the recovery, causing the blade to be too high off the surface of the water.
  • Starboard: Right side of the boat when viewed from the stern to the bow.
  • Stern: The back end of the boat; the direction the rowers are facing.
  • Sweep: One of the two disciplines of rowing – the one where rowers use only one oar. Pairs (for two people), fours (for four people) and the eight are sweep boats. Pairs and fours may or may not have a coxswain. Eights always have a coxswain.

Rowing Equipment, Parts of the Boat, and Essentials

  • Blade: The end of the oar which is placed in the water.
  • Bow ball: An essential small, soft ball securely attached to a rowing boat’s bow; primarily intended for safety but also useful in deciding which boat crossed the finish line first in very close races.
  • Collar: A plastic fitting tightened to the oar to keep the oar from slipping through the oarlock.
  • Cox box: Portable voice amplifier; may also optionally incorporate digital readouts displaying stroke rate, boat speed and times.
  • Coxswain: Person who steers the shell and is the on-the-water coach for the crew.
  • Ergometer (Erg): The rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion; used for training and testing.
  • Foot stretcher: An adjustable bracket in a shell where the rowers feet are attached.
  • Gunnel: That part of a shell which runs along the sides of the crew compartment through which riggers are bolted.
  • Handle: The end of the oar you hold in your hand.
  • Oar: Used to drive the boat forward: rowers do not use paddles.
  • Oarlock: A U-shaped swivel piece which holds the oar in place; it is mounted at the end of the rigger and rotates around a metal pin; a gate closes across the top to keep the oar in place.
  • Rigger: The triangular shaped metal device that is bolted onto the side of the boat and holds the oars.
  • Rudder: The device used by the coxswain to steer the shell.
  • Scull: One of the two disciplines of rowing – the one where scullers use two oars or sculls, one in each hand.
  • Shell: Word can be used interchangeably with boat; racing boat. The light, thin boats used in competitive rowing. The smallest is 27 to 30 feet long, 12 inches wide and 30 pounds in weight. The largest is about 60 feet long and a little more than 200 pounds.
  • Slide: The tracks for the wheels of each seat in the boat.
  • Slings: Collapsible/portable frames on which boats are held and propped up on for work.
  • Sweep: The type of rowing in which athletes hold one oar with two hands

Rowing Commands

  • “# Tap it”: Tells the rowers to row until told to stop
  • “And drop”: Used to tell the rowers to place their blades back on the water after performing an easy-all.
  • “Back it”: To have the rowers place their blades at the release position, squared, and push the oar handle towards the stern of the boat. This motion causes the shell to move forwards.
  • “Check it down”: Stop the forward momentum of a moving boat momentarily by holding water.
  • “Count down when ready”: Before proceeding, the athletes should acknowledge that they are ready by calling out their seat number.
  • “Even it out”: This command tells the rowers to pull with even pressure on both sides; to finish turning the boat using rowers.
  • “Gunnel!”: A command by the coxswain, where the rowers all hit the gunnel of the boat with their oar handles. Used in set exercises occasionally.
  • “Hand’s on”: Tells the rowers to grab the boat next to their seats, so that the boat can be moved.
  • “Heads up”: A command used to give warning to spectators, rowers, coxswains, coaches, or other boats while a shell is being moved.
  • “Hold water”: Method of stopping the boat; blades are squared and buried in the water so that the boat doesn’t move it’s position; generally used at starts.
  • “In 2…”: Most water commands are appended prior to the command to take place after two strokes.
  • “Lean away”: Lean in the opposite direction, usually away from the dock or from the side on which someone has caught a crab, to allow more room for the necessary action to occur
  • “Let it run”: Stop rowing and let the boat glide with the blades off the water.
  • “On the square”: To row without feathering the blades on the recovery.
  • “One foot out and up”: The command for exiting a team boat.
  • “Power 10”: A call for rowers to do 10 of their best, most powerful strokes; it’s a strategy used to pull ahead of a competitor.
  • “Ready all, Row”: Begin rowing.
  • “Roll it”: Tells the crew to flip the boat over, in unison, from above their heads.
  • “Set it up”: Keep the boat level or set.
  • “Sit ready”: Commands the crew to move to the catch, blades buried, and be ready to start the race.
  • “Shoulders, ready, up”: Tells the crew to lift the boat from any position below their shoulders, up to shoulder height. Can be reversed to lower the boat from heads to shoulders.
  • “Waist, ready, up”: Tells the crew to lift the shell to their waist. Can be reversed to lower from shoulders to waist.
  • “Weigh-enough”: (way enough) Stop whatever the rower is doing, whether is be walking with the boat or rowing.