Rowing vs. Paddling: This may be one of the most important things to know first! The difference between padding and rowing is in the mechanism that is used to propel the boat.
Glossary of Rowing Terms
Backsplash: The water thrown back toward bow by the oar's blade as it enters the water during the catch. A proper catch should throw a small amount of water.
Backstop: Refers to the bow ending of the track a rower's seat slides on. The wheels of the seat should almost reach the backstop at the finish of each stroke.
Bisweptual: A sweep rower adept at rowing both the port and starboard sides.
Blades: The blades we use are called cleaver blades, due to their shape (a bit like a meat cleaver knife). There's not that much more to say about them really. The handles are sometimes wooden, sometimes have grips on, and the blades are side-specific, i.e. bow side blades are different to stroke side blades (The spoon of the blade curves the other way).
Body Angle: The amount of forward pivot of a rower's torso stemming from the hips during the recovery for a proper catch position.
Bow: The forward section of the boat. The first part of the boat to cross the finish line. The person in the seat closest to the bow, who crosses the finish line first.
Bow coxed boat: A shell in which the coxswain is near the bow instead of the stern. It’s hard to see the coxswain in this type of boat, because only his head is visible. Having the coxswain virtually lying down in the bow reduces wind resistance, and the weight distribution is better.
Bow Loader: Refers to a type of boat (usually a four) where the coxswain rides lying down beneath the bow decking. Most racing fours are bowloaders.
Bow Pair: The pair of sweep rowers in bow of the boat. This would be seats 1 and 2 in an eight or a four. The bow pair has the most effect on the set of the boat.
Bucket: A way of rigging a shell so that two consecutive rowers row on the same side. Both double and triple buckets are possible. Also known as a "Continental" or "Italian" rigging.
Button: A wide collar on the oar that keeps it from slipping through the oarlock.
Catch: The point in the stroke at which the blades are put into the water at the beginning of the drive, also the end of the recover
Check: The reverse momentum resulting from the crews body weight moving toward stern during the recovery. Check is unavoidable but can be minimized through proper technique for optimal speed.
CLAM: Short for Clip-on Load Adjusting Mechanism. A CLAM is a device that snaps on and off the sleeve of an oar to quickly adjust the inboard rig. Typically by 1 cm per CLAM.
Cover: The distance between the 2-seat's puddle on one stroke and the stroke seat's puddle on the following stroke. The greater the distance, the more speed the crew has. Also called spacing.
Coxbox: A coxswain's portable voice amplifier. Also has timing and stroke rating measurement capabilities.
Coxswain: Person who steers the shell and is the on-the-water coach for the crew.
Crab: Occurs from a blade work error where a rower is unable to properly remove their oar from the water. A crab can slow down or even stop the boat. In extreme cases a crab can eject the rower from the shell.
Deck: The part of the shell at the bow and stern that is covered with fiberglass cloth or a thin plastic.
Digging: Rower error when the blade of the oar goes deeper in the water than it should, slowing the boat down.
Drive: That portion of the stroke when the blades are in the water and the person is pulling on the oar handles
Engine Room: The rowers in the middle of a boat. For an eight, these would be seats 6, 5, 4, and 3. Generally the largest and most powerful rowers of the boat
Ergometer: Rowers call it an "erg." It’s a rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion. The rowers’ choice is the Concept II, which utilizes a flywheel and a digital readout so that the rower can measure his "strokes per minute" and the distance covered.
Feathering: The act of twisting the oar to position the blade vertically for the drive and horizontally for the recovery
Fin: The fin attached to the keel of the shell that helps stabilize and maintain a straight course. Also called a skeg.
Finish: The end of the drive when the rower removes the oar from the water and then feathers. Also called the release.
FISA: Short for Federation Internationale des Societes d’Aviron. The international governing body for the sport of rowing in the world, established in 1892.
Flutter: A race tactic during the body of the race which is essentially a second start sequence to build up the speed of the shell. This is extremely taxing on the crew and is usually only used in desperation.
Foot Stretcher: The adjustable footplate with built in shoes which allows the rower to adjust their position in the shell relative to the oarlock.
Frontstop: Refers to the stern ending of the track a rower's seat slides on. The wheels of the seat should almost reach the frontstop at the catch of each stroke.
Gate: The bar across the oarlock that keeps the oar in place.
German rigging: A different way of setting up which side of the boat the oars are on in a sweep boat. Instead of alternating from side to side all the way down, in a German rigged boat, two consecutive rowers have oars on the same side.
Grips: Rubber caps on the inboard (handle) end of the oars.
Head Race: Type of race where crews start in a single file line and race for time. Longer than sprint races, head races range from 4k to 10k and are usually run on rivers during the fall season.
Heavyweight: The weight class in men's rowing for rowers over the lightweight restriction.
Keel: The center line of the hull.
Layback: The amount of reverse pivot of a rower's torso stemming from the hips during the second half of the drive for a proper finish position.
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. A rower whose weight allows them to compete in lightweight events. For men, this is usually 155 lbs. Women, 130 lbs.
Loom: The part of the oar between the sleeve and the blade. Comprises the majority of the length of the oar. Also called the shaft.
Macon: The traditional u-shaped blade. Also called a tulip or spoon.
Missing Water: A rower error where the rower begins the leg drive before the catch has completed.
Novice: Any rower during their first season of competition.
Oar: Used to drive the boat forward: rowers do not use paddles.
Oarlock: Plastic piece that holds the oar and pivots, located on the end of the rigger.
Petite Final: Finals at a regatta for places 7 through 12.
Pin: Bolt that forms the pivot for the oarlock.
Piece: A practice term used to signify an specific interval during a workout. For example, "The third piece of the 5 by 5 minutes was our best."
Port: Left side of the boat, while facing forward, in the direction of the movement.
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.
Puddles: The disturbances in the water made by the blade during each stroke.
Rating: The number of strokes per minute taken by a crew. During the body of the race a crew will maintain a rating in the mid to high 30's.
Ratio: The relationship between the time taken between the drive and recovery portions of the stroke. A good ratio will have about twice as much time taken during the recovery as the drive.
Recovery: That part of the stroke when the blades are out of the water and the person is moving towards the next drive.
Release: That point at which the oars are taken out of the water at the end of the drive, also the beginning of the recovery.
Repechage: The second-chance race which ensures that everyone has two chances to advance from preliminary races since there is no seeding in the heats.
Rigger: The triangular shaped metal device that is bolted onto the side of the boat and holds the oars. Arm extending out from the side of the boat, it holds the pin and oarlock.
Rudder: Attaches to the skeg and controlled by the coxswain to steer the boat by attached cables.
Run: The run is the distance the shell moves during one stroke. You can figure it by looking for the distance between the puddles made by the same oar.
Sculls: One of the two disciplines of rowing – the one where scullers use two oars or sculls.
Seat Number: Refers to the rower's position in the boat counting up from bow to stern. In an eight these are counted as the bow seat being 1, then 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and finally 8 in the stern. 8 seat is also referred to as 'stroke' seat.
Seat Race: A coach's tool for comparing two rowers. Two boats race against each other once. One rower from each boat switches positions and the two boats race again. Relative performance in the two races is used to compare the abilities of the two rowers.
Set: Refers to the balance of the boat. An unset boat will lean to either port or starboard.
Shell: Can be used interchangeably with boat.
Skeg: The fin attached to the keel of the shell that helps stabilize and maintain a straight course. Also called a fin.
Skying: A rower error where the rower drops their hands just prior to the catch. This causes the blade to move higher off the water and will disrupt the set of the shell.
Sleeve: Plastic tube on the oar, under the button, that protects against wear in the oarlock.
Slide: The set of runners for the wheels of each seat in the boat.
Slide Jump: A rower error where a rower leaves their seat and knocks the seat off the tracks.
Spacing: The distance between the 2-seat's puddle on one stroke and the stroke seat's puddle on the following stroke. The greater the distance, the more speed the crew has. Also called cover.
Split: The amount of time it would take a rower or crew to complete 500 meters at their current pace. This can be applied to both a crew on the water or a person on an erg.
Spoon: The traditional u-shaped blade. Also called a macon or tulip.
Square: The act of rotating the oar prior to the catch so that the blade is perpendicular to the water. The opposite of the feathered position.
Stern Pair: The pair of sweep rowers in the stern of the boat. This would be seats 7 and 8 in an eight or seats 3 and 4 in a four. The stern pair is responsible for setting the rating and rhythm for the rest of the crew.
Straight: Refers to a shell without a coxswain i.e. a straight four or straight pair. A coxless sweep shell. Only for a pair or a four. Referred to as a 'straight four.'
Stretcher or Footstretcher: Where the rower’s feet go. The stretcher consists of two inclined footrests that hold the rower’s shoes. The rower’s shoes are bolted into the footrests.
Stroke: The rower who sits closest to the stern. The stroke sets the rhythm for the boat; others behind him must follow his cadence. One complete cycle of the catch, drive, release, and recovery. also....
The stern most rower in the boat. Responsible for setting the stroke rating and rhythm of the crew.
The stern most rower in the boat. Responsible for setting the stroke rating and rhythm of the crew.
StrokeCoach: A small electronic display that rowers attach in the boat to show the important race information like stroke rate and elapsed time.
Stroke Rating: The number of strokes per minute taken by a crew. During the body of the race a crew will maintain a rating in the mid to high 30's.
Sugaring: Rowing which looks good from a distance but in reality the rower is not putting any work down on the oar.
Swamped: Swamping occurs when a shell takes on too much water from rough conditions and is no longer rowable.
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.
Swing: The hard-to-define feeling when near-perfect synchronization of motion occurs in the shell, enhancing the performance and speed.
Tanks: An indoor training facility that consists of two rows of rowing seats between two tanks of water. Allows rowers to feel their strokes in the water in a stable and controlled environment. Used heavily when teaching novice rowers.
Toe: A steering device for a coxless boat. A rower can steer the rudder by changing the direction their foot points.
Understroke: Rowing at a lower and more efficient rating than your opponent.
Wash: Refers to the wake given off of a shell.
Washing Out: A rower error when an oar comes out of the water during the drive and creates surface wash. This results in a reduction in speed and can disrupt the set of the boat.
'Way Enough' or 'Weigh Enough': A very common call by a coxswain to tell the rowers to stop whatever they are doing. For more information about what the Cox is saying to the rowers please see our Race Watching Tips page.