Skip to main content

Rowing: Terms to Know

New to Sports/Terms to Know: Rowing hero image

Blade

The flat end of the oar that is in the water during the drive. Also see "hatchet." Crews are identified by the design on their blades.

Bow

The forward section of the boat; the first part to cross the finish line.

Bowman

The person in the seat closest to the bow who crosses the finish line first.

Bow ball

The round tip -- usually rubber and 4cm in diameter -- on the end of the bow. It is required by all boats at Olympic rowing events to minimize damage in the event of a collision.

Button

A wide collar on the oar that keeps it from slipping through the oarlock. The button may be moved to adjust the position of the fulcrum of the oar; coaches often will move the button in headwind or tailwind conditions to change the "load."

Catching a crab

When a rower errors in releasing his blade from the water and the oars get pulled under the water, with the consequent force sometimes hurling the rower from the shell.

Check

The extent to which a shell loses momentum as the crew changes directions just before they begin to pull. Also see "run."

Coxswain

Person who steers the shell and directs the race plan, acting as the eyes of the crew. Often times considered an on-the-water coach for the crew.

Deck

The part of the shell at the bow and stern that is covered with fiberglass cloth or a thin plastic.

Drive

The segment of the rowing stroke during which the blades are in the water.

Ergometer

Known to rowers as an "erg," a rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion and allows athletes to measure their strokes per minute and distance covered.

Feathering

Holding the blades in a flat position between strokes to reduce wind resistance during recovery; one of the most difficult aspects of rowing for beginners.

FISA

In French, the Federation Internationale des Societes d'Aviron, rowing's international governing body. Established in 1892, it is the oldest international sports federation in the Olympic movement.

Gate

The bar across the oar lock that keeps the oar in place.

German or Italian 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- or Italian-rigged boat, two consecutive rowers have oars on the same side. The two pairs are often described as rowing a bucket.

Hatchet

An innovation in the shape of the oar blade that entered the sport in 1991.

Length

May refer to a margin in racing equal to the length of a boat; also can refer to a crew's or individual's rowing style.

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.

Load

Refers to the rigging parameters on the riggers and oars, which can be adjusted to either lighten or increase the load. In a headwind, a coach might lighten the load to help the athletes maintain rhythm and endurance; in a tailwind, a coach might increase the load to give the rowers a better bite.

Oar

Not a paddle. Used to drive the boat forward. The size and shape of oars is unrestricted.

Paddle

Not an oar. Describes rowing with very little power on the oar. Port

Left side of the shell facing forward.

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 water swirls left by oars in stroke.

Rating (or beat)

The number of strokes taken in a minute.

Recovery

The phase of the rowing stroke during which the oars are not in the water, and the rowers are returning to the catch for the next drive.

Release

Also "finish." The moment in the stroke when the rowers take their oars out of the water; the end of the drive.

Repechage

The second-chance race (last-chance qualifier) that ensures that each boat has two chances to advance from preliminary races because there is no seeding in the heats.

Rigger

The triangular metal device that is bolted onto the side of the boat and holds the oars.

Run

The distance a shell moves during one stroke. Can be measured as the distance between the puddles made by the same oar.

Sculling

One of two disciplines of rowing. Scullers use two oars, or sculls.

Shell

Boat.

Slide

The set of runners for the wheels of each seat in the boat.

Starboard

The right side of the shell facing forward.

Stern

The rear of the boat; the direction the rowers are facing.

Straight

Refers to a shell without a coxswain.

Stretcher or footstretcher

Where the rowers' 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

Rower who sits closest to the stern. The stroke sets the rhythm for the boat -- others behind him must follow his cadence.

Strokemeter or stroke coach

Small electronic display which rowers attach in the boat to show the important race information like stroke rate and elapsed time.

Stroke rating

Cadence; the number of rowing strokes per minute that a crew is taking. Can vary from the low 30s to the high 40s.

Sweep

One of the two disciplines of rowing in which rowers use only one oar.

Swing

The hard-to-define feeling when near-synchronized motion occurs in the shell, enhancing the performance and speed.

Washing

A foul charged against a crew that drifts from its lane and washes another boat with churned-up water; a rare occurrence.

Sports in this article

Rowing

Tags in this article

New to Sports SportsEngine Inc.