Some homework

Want to get a head start?

Stretch, stretch, stretch … particularly your hamstrings and back … imagine touching your toes or swivelling to look over your shoulder or doing squats. If you can spend time doing hip flexor or hamstring stretches before starting lessons, it would be beneficial.

Rowing has unique terminology. The following are some of the words and commands that you will be exposed from the get go.

There is a fair bit to learn but don’t stress … the basics get drilled into you right from the start so by week 2 you are well on your way to recognising the relevant terms.

Rowing terms

You not only have to learn to row, you have to learn a whole new language … here is a list of the key terms that may be used by a coach.

  • Back down  –  term used to describe using a reverse rowing action to manoeuvre the boat backwards or for turning
  • Backstay  –  the back brace of a rigger that locks the pin in position to maintain pitch
  • Backstops (back chocks)  –  the end of the slide nearest the bow. Prevents the seat from running off the slide. Also used to describe the position at which the athlete sits with their legs straight and blade to their chest.
  • 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 (bow seat)  –  the rower or sculler in the seat nearest the bow
  • Bow ball  –  safety ball fitted to the sharp front of rowing boat
  • Bow side (starboard)  –  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
  • Cadence  –  a uniform stroke rate
  • 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. On some boats it is actually canvas, on the majority of boats it is harder, the same material as the hull.
  • Catch  –  the part of the stroke when the blade is put in the water
  • Collar  –  plastic sleeve fixed to the oar that the button circles, button can be moved along the collar to adjust blade gearing
  • Come forward  –  verbal instruction used by the cox or athlete to bring the crew to front stops position ready to row
  • Connection  –  used to describe the link between the power of an athletes legs to the force applied to the spoon of the blade, should be made as soon as the catch is taken and held through the trunk muscles for the length of the work section of the stroke
  • Coxswain (cox)  –  steers the boat from a seat in the stern or a lying position in the bow
  • Coxless  –  boat without a cox
  • 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
  • Deck  –  covered-over areas at bow and stern of boat
  • Double scull  –  a sculling shell in which two crew members propel themselves using two oars (sculls) each
  • Drive  –  the part of the stroke between the catch and the finish where the legs push down
  • Easy oar  –  verbal instruction given by cox or athlete for crew to stop rowing
  • Eight  –  a rowing shell in which eight crew members propel themselves using one oar (sweep) each. An Eight also contains a coxswain as a crew member for navigation and providing instructions to the rowers
  • 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 (release)  –  the part of the stroke just before and as the blade is taken out of the water
  • Four  –  a rowing shell in which four crew members propel themselves using one oar (sweep) each. A Coxed Four contains an additional crew member, the coxswain for navigation and providing instructions to the rowers
  • Front stop  –  the end of the slide nearest the stern. Prevents the seat from running off the slide. Also used to describe the position at which the athlete sits with their legs at 90 and the blade spoon at the furthest point to the bows.
  • 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
  • Layback  –  the amount of backward lean of the rower’s body towards the bow at the finish
  • 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
  • Pair (pair oar)  –  a rowing shell in which two crew members propel themselves using one oar (sweep) each. A Pair Oar with Coxswain contains an additional crew member, the coxswain for navigation and providing instructions to the rowers.
  • Pressure  –  the amount of effort applied by the athlete to the power phase of the stroke (usually light, ½, ¾, firm or full)
  • Puddles  –  whirls left in the water caused by the blade as the rower pulls
  • Pull-through  –  the part of the stroke between the catch and the finish
  • Quad scull  –  a sculling shell in which four crew members propel themselves using two oars (sculls) each 
  • 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
  • Release  –  the finish of the stroke removing the oar from the water
  • Rigger  – a metal framework or a carbon-fibre reinforced arm to support the gate, which is attached to the side of the boat
  • Rowing ergometer  –  a rowing machine to measure the metabolism rate or amount of energy expended during work measured in ergs (unit of work)
  • 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
  • Rhythm  –  the proportion of time occupied on the recovery to the time taken on the pull through
  • Saxboard  –  the top strake of a boat, usually of heavier planking, which carries the outriggers or rowlocks
  • Scull (a scull)  –  a single sculling boat in which one sculler (person) propels themselves across the surface of the water
  • Sculling  (to scull)  –  using two oars (sculls) per crew member
  • Sculls  –  a short oar used in each hand for single, double, and quad sculling boats
  • Shell  –  smooth-bottomed racing boat
  • Slide  –  parallel rails in which the seat moves on wheels
  • Starboard  –  bow side, the right-hand side of the boat when facing the bow
  • 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;
  • Stroke (stoke seat)  –  the rower seated nearest the stern
  • Stroke side (port)  –  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
  • Sweep (sweep rowing)  –  using one oar or sweep per crew member
  • Swivel  –  a square or round pivoting rowlock, ie: working around the pin/gate
  • Tap down  –  to the lower the hands at the end of the stroke to remove the spoon from the water
  • Tap turn  –  term used to describe a method of turning the boat where each rower uses a forwards or backwards rowing action with there arms only
  • Trestles  –  portable stands used to support a boat for rigging, washing, admiring etc.
  • Washing out  –  occurs when the blade comes off the water during the pull-through before the finish. Most likely caused by feathering under the water.