Want to get a head start?

Rowing has some different terminology and there are basic terms and commands you will need to learn fairly quickly.

If you wanted to get really serious there is a fair bit to learn but don’t stress about having to know everything straight away. The basics get drilled into you right from the start so by week two of a course you are well on your way to instantly recognising some of the terms used.

Rowing terms

“You not only have to learn to row, you have to learn a whole new language!” well it’s not quite that hard – here is a list of the key terms that may be used by a coach.

Blade
Flattened or spoon-shaped end of an oar or scull; often used as term for an oar

Bow
Front or forward end of boat

Bow ball
Safety ball fitted to the sharp front of rowing boat

Bowside
All rowers whose oars are in the water on the right hand side of the boat when viewed from the cox’s seat or back of the boat

Button
Plastic sheath on an oar to prevent it from slipping through the rowlock; adjustable on modern oars

Canvas
The canvas on the front and back decks of a rowing boat, the distance between the bow ball and the back of the rower sitting in the bow seat

Catch
The part of the stroke when the blade is put in the water

Coxswain (Cox)
Steers the boat from the seat in the stern or a lying position in the bow

Crab
Occurs when the rower fails to get the oar out of the water at the end of the stroke or slices the oar into the water when taking the catch; can result in the rower being ejected from boat to water

Crew
Rowers who man a boat

Drive
The part of the stroke between the catch and the finish where the legs push down

Feather
To turn the blade parallel with the water surface at the start of the recovery to improve balance and reduce wind resistance

Fin
Small flat plate perpendicular to the bottom of the boat to aid steering a straight course

Finish
The part of the stroke just before and as the blade is taken out of the water

FISA
Federation Internationale des Sovietes d’Aviron – The International Rowing Federation

Gate
Bar across a rowlock to retain the oar

Gunwale
Horizontal plank at the top of the hull running the length of the boat

Hands away
The act of dropping the oar handle at the finish of the stroke so that the blade leaves the water and is feathered at the start of the recovery

Length
The length of a boat (i.e. “They won by one length”)

Oar
A lever approximately 12 feet (360cm) long by which the rower pulls against the rowlock to move the boat through the water

Puddles
Whirls left in the water caused by the blade as the rower pulls

Rating
The rate of stroking, or the number of strokes per minute that a crew is rowing

Recovery
The part of the stroke cycle between the finish and the catch in which the oar is feathered and the seat is returned to the front of the slide

Regatta
A competitive event raced in boats

Repecharge
A second heat to afford another chance of qualifying to those running second best in preliminary heats

Rhythm
The proportion of time occupied on the recovery to the time taken on the pull through

Rigger
A metal framework or a carbon-fibre reinforced arm to support the rowlock which is attached to the side of the boat

Rowlock
A bracket which swivels on the end of the outrigger to support the oar

Rudder
Steering device attached vertically to the stern or under the hull of a shell

Run
The distance a boat travels in one stroke

Sculling
Using two oars or sculls

Slide
Parallel rails in which the seat moves on wheels

Stern
The rear or aft of the boat

Stretcher
A frame with straps or shoes to anchor the rower’s feet

Stroke
The complete cycle of moving the boat through the water using oars or sculls; also the rower seated nearest the stern

Stroke side
All the rowers whose oars are in the water on the left hand side of the boat when viewed from the cox’s seat or back of the boat

Washing out
Occurs when the blade comes off the water during the pull-through before the finish