Rowing Terms

Back it Down Rowing backwards. Usually used when landing, pulling into a stakeboat, or turning around.
Backsplash The splash produced by the blade entering the water at the catch while the blade is moving toward the bow.
Blades The wide flat section of the oar at the head of the shaft, also known as the spoon. This term is often used when referring to the entire oar.
Bow The forward end of the shell. Also used as the name of the person sitting nearest to the bow.
Bow Ball A protective covering for the bow, usually a rubber ball. REQUIRED equipment if you race.
Bucket rigging The rigging of an eight or a four so that riggers 2 and 3 are on the same side.
Button (or collar)
A plastic or metal fitting tightened on the oar to keep the oar from slipping through the oarlock.
Catch The point of the stroke at which the blade enters the water at the end of the recovery and is accomplished by an upward motion of the arms and hands only. The blade of the oar must be fully squared at the catch.
Check Any abrupt deceleration of the shell caused by some uncontrolled motion within the shell; an interruption in the forward motion of the shell.
Cockpit The area is a shell that holds the rowers and houses the seat, the tracks, and the footstretcher.
Coxswain The person who steers the shell and urges the rowers on during practices and in a race. A knowledgeable coxswain can also serve as a coach for the rowers and can be the difference between winning and losing a race.
Crab A problem encountered by a rower when his or her oar gets `stuck' in the water, usually right after the catch or just before the finish, and is caused by improper squaring or feathering. The momentum of the shell can overcome the rower's control of the oar. In more extreme cases the rower can actually be ejected from the shell by the oar.
Crossover The movement of one oar handle over the other during the drive and recovery in sculling.
Deck The areas outside the cockpit of a boat, usually referred to as the bow deck and the stern deck.
Dive A tendency to try to lean forward, usually in an effort to get extra reach, at the catch. This sinks the shell into the water by transferring weight abruptly into the stern.
Double (2x) A double scull, or two person sculling shell.
Drive That part of the rowing cycle when the rower applies power to the oar (blade is in the water). This is a more (or less) blended sequence of applying power primarily with a leg drive, then the back and finally the arms.
Engine Room The middle seats in a shell that are usually occupied by the biggest and strongest rowers.
Feather The act of turning the oar blade from a position perpendicular to the surface of the water to a position parallel to the water. This is done in conjunction with the finish.
Fin (or Skeg) The small piece of metal or plastic attached to the bottom of the boat to help it keep a straight course through the water.
Finish (or Release) The last part of the stroke where the blade is removed from the water. A sharp downward (and away) motion of the hand which serves to remove the oar blade from the water and start the rowing cycle.
Footstretcher (or stretcher)
An adjustable bracket in a shell to which the rower's feet are secured in some sort of shoe or clog.
Frontstops The stops at the stern end of the tracks.
Gate The small bar that closes the top of the oarlock to prevent the oar from coming out.
German rigging The rigging of an eight so that riggers 4 and 5 are on the same side while the others alternate.
Grip The rubber or wood part of the oar handle you hold while sculling.
Gunwale (or gunnel, saxboard) Top section on the sides of a shell which runs along the sides of the cockpit. The riggers are secured to the gunwale with bolts.
Half Pressure The application of power in a shell such that the rowers are pulling half as hard as possible.
Hang Pause at the catch before dropping the blades into the water. Also the suspension of one's body weight from the oar handles and the footstretchers.
Hatchets (a.k.a. big blades or choppers or cleavers) Oar blades that have a bigger surface area than the `standard' (Macon) blades and have a hatchet or meat cleaver shape. The hatchets are a bit shorter (by about 7 cm) than the standard blades.
Head Race A race against the clock where crews start at 10 second intervals and chase each other up the course.
Heats The initial races to determine who advances to the finals.
High A large number of strokes per minute.
Hull The exterior part of the shell that sits in the water.
Inboard The distance from the outside of the collar to the tip of the handle.
Italian rigging The rigging of an eight so that bow and stroke riggers are on the same side, with the others alternating in pairs.
Jumping the slide Another problem encountered by a rower when the seat becomes derailed from the track during the rowing cycle.
Keel Technically, the structural member running the length of the boat at the bottom of the hull. Today, some shells are built without this member so the term often refers to the center line of the shell.
Layback The amount of backward lean of the rower's body at the end of the finish. Should not be more than 10-15 degrees past vertical.
Loom The part of the oar between the blade and the handle.
Missing water The rower starts the drive before the catch has been completed (or even started in some cases). This is also referred to as rowing into the catch.
Oarlock (or rowlock)
A U-shaped swivel which holds the oar in place. It's mounted at the end of the rigger and rotates around a metal pin. A gate closes across the top to keep the oar in.
Outboard The distance from the face of the collar to the tip of the blade.
Paddle To row or scull at very light pressure.
Piece A period of work performed in a shell.
Pin The metal cylinder on which the oarlock swivels.
Pinch Occurs when the oar is at too acute an angle to the boat at either the catch or finish.
The angle between the blade (on the drive when the blade is `squared') and a line perpendicular to the water's surface.
Port The left side of the boat when facing the bow (stroke side in the UK and Ireland).
Power 10 A series of stroke at an increased power level, usually without increasing the rating.
Puddle The swirl of water left by each stroke.
Quad (4x) A four person sculling shell.
Rating The number of strokes per minute. Also known as stroke rating.
Ratio The ratio of the recovery time to the drive time. The recovery time should always be longer than the drive time.
Recovery Part of the stroke when the blades are held out of the water while preparing for the next stroke.
Repechage The race after the heat for crews that did not advance to the semifinals or finals from their heat.
Rigger (or outrigger)
The device that connects the oarlock to the shell and is bolted to the body of the shell. On sweep boats, riggers are typically alternating from side to the other on adjacent seats, but it is not uncommon to see two adjacent riggers on the same side.
Rigging The adjustment and alteration of accessories (riggers, footstretchers, oar, etc.) in and on the shell. Examples of rigging adjustments that can be made are the height of the rigger, location of the footstretchers, location and height of the oarlocks, location of the button (or collar) on the oar and the pitch of the blade of the oar.
Rudder Steering device at the stern. The rudder in turn is connected to some cables (tiller ropes) that the coxswain can use to steer the shell.
Run The amount of glide achieved by the boat between strokes.
Rush Sliding too quickly and abruptly toward the stern.
Scull This term is used interchangeably when referring to one of the oars used in a sculling shell, the shell itself or to the act of rowing a sculling shell.
Seat The sliding seat that the rower sits on. The term "seat" also refers to the rowers place in the boat; the convention is to number the seats from bow to stern, i.e. the rower closest to the front of the boat is "1-seat" the next, "2-seat", et c. The 1-seat is also commonly referred to as "bowseat" or just "bow" while the stern-most (rear) seat is referred to as "stroke seat" or just "stroke".
Set (set of a boat)

Shell sitting on an even keel. Items that can affect the set of the boat are the rower's posture, hand levels, rigging , timing at the catch and release, and outside conditions such as the wind.

Settle Part of the race or piece where you decrease the rating from the initial high rate to a lower rate that is maintained until the final sprint.
Shell Another name for a rowing or sculling boat.
Shooting the Slide Movement of the seat toward the bow without moving the oar handle at the same rate.
Single (1x) A single person sculling shell.
Skying The fault of carrying the hands too low during the recovery especially when a rower dips his or her hands just prior to the catch (i.e. a sort of winding up). This usually results in the blade being too high off the water's surface.
Slide (or track)
The track on which the seat moves.
Slings (or boat slings, or trestles) Collapsible/portable frames with straps upon which a shell can be placed temporarily.
Spacing The distance between successive sets of puddles.
Span Distance between the pins on a sculling shell.
Spread Distance between the pin and the centerline of the shell.
Square Blades Rowing with oars perpendicular to the surface of the water.
Squaring A gradual rolling of the oar blade from a position parallel to the water to a position (almost) perpendicular to the surface of the water. This is accomplished during the recovery portion of the rowing cycle and is done in preparation for the catch.
Stakeboat Fixture at the starting line of a sprint race that holds a person who holds the stern prior to the start of the race.
Starboard The right side of the shell when facing the bow (bow side in the UK and Ireland).
Steady State Long, aerobic piece.
Stern The rear end of the shell
Stroke A single cycle of the oar. Also, the rower sitting nearest the stern (and the coxswain, if there is one). The stroke is responsible for setting the stroke length and cadence (with the coxswain's gentle advice).
Sweep Rowing Rowing where each rower has one oar.
Swing The layback toward the bow during the drive. In team boats, also refers to the synchronicity of this movement among the crew.
Tandem rigging Variations of rigging of sweep boats with adjacent riggers being on the same side of the boat.
Toe To steer a boat by moving one's foot.
Washing out The fault of rowing the oar out of the water, i.e. the blade comes out of the water before the drive is finished.
Sculling and Sweep Rowing
The Equipment
The Stroke
The Race
Rowing Terms
Rowing Lingo
Race Watching Tips
Top 10 List

Jump to Letter: