Rowing Terminology

Boat Types

Sweep Boats: Shells where each rower uses only one oar

  • Pair: A 2-person shell, some pairs may have a coxswain.
  • Four: A 4-person shell. These boats may or my not have a coxswain.
  • Eight: An 8-person shell. The crew of an 8 consists of 9 people, 8 rowers and 1 coxswain.

Sculling Boats: Shells where each rower uses 2 oars (called sculls)

  • Single: A 1-person sculling shell.
  • Double: A 2-person sculling shell with no coxswain.
  • Quad: A 4-person sculling shell, usually without a coxswain.

Straight Boat: Shells without a coxswain

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.

Boat Equipment


The forward section of the boat that crosses the finish line first. The person in the
seat closest to the bow.

Coxswain (Cox’n)

Person who steers the shell and is the on-the-water coach for the


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

Gunwale (Gunnel)

The top edge of a boat’s edge.


The “U” shaped frame, which holds the oar on the rigger.


Left side of the boat, while facing forward, in the direction of the movement.


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


Can be used interchangeably with boat.


A small, wood or fiberglass blade projecting from the shell near the stern. It
helps keep the shell moving in a straight line.


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


Wood or metal frame with a fabric strap support, which holds the shells.


Right side of the boat, while facing forward, in the direction of movement.


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


The rower who sits closest to the stern. The stroke sets the rhythm for the boat;
others behind her must follow her cadence.

Oar Equipment


The flat end of the oar.


The plastic fitting around the oar, which prevents the oar from sliding through the oarlock.


The portion of the oar between the blade and the handle.

Technical Terms


The first part of the stroke when the blade enters the water.


Getting the oar stuck in the water at the end of the drive is called “catching a crab”. This may happen as a result of the oar being too deep during the pull-through or because the blade is not completely rolled up when it enters the water.


The part of the rowing stroke when the rower is pulling on the handle of the oar.


The act of turning the oar blade parallel to the water’s surface as it is released from the water. Feathering is used to help set the boat and to cut down on wind resistance of the shell.

Handle Heights

Where the rower holds the oar. Ideally, everyone should have his handle at a similar height in order to maintain the set of the boat.

Inside Hand

The hand closest to the oarlock. This hand is responsible for feathering the blade.

Lateral Pressure

The idea is to keep the collar of the oar solidly against the oarlock throughout the stroke by exerting a slight outward pressure on the oar handle.


The backward swing of your body from the hips at the finish of the stroke.

Outside Hand

The hand closest to the end of the oar. This hand controls the motion of the oar handle.


The number of strokes per minute.


The portion of the stroke where the oar is out of the water.


The act of removing the blade from the water at the end of the drive.


The second-chance race, which ensures that everyone has two chances to advance from preliminary races since there is no seeding in the heats.


The motion of the blade changing from feathered (flat) to perpendicular on the recovery in preparation for the catch.


The run is the distance the shell moves during one stroke. You can see it by looking for the distance between the puddles made by the same oar.


The side-to-side balance of a shell. A shell is said to be “down to port” when the port side is lower than the starboard side. The opposite is said when the shell is “down to starboard”.

Slide Control

The ability to control the speed of the seat rolling towards the stern on the recovery. This is a very important concept when trying to maximize the efficiency of the rowing stroke.


The act of hanging off the oar handle during the drive phase of the stroke. It is achieved as your legs push against the footboards and the arms and back pull on the oar handle.


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


Letting the blade skip along the waters surface during the recovery. This is NOT desired and may occur when the boat is offset.


When the blade comes out of the water prematurely on the pull-through.

Rowing Commands


To propel the shell backwards by turning the concave side of the blade towards the bow of the shell and pushing the handle away.

Check It Down

The crew squares their blades and slowly drags them into the water. Used to slow down/or stop the boat.

Count Down

The crew counts aloud from bow signifying readiness.


Meaning grab the boat on the gunwales next to your seat and be ready to move/lift.

Hold Water

Stop rowing, square the blades in the water to stop the boat.

Let It Run

Stop rowing and let the boat glide, oars off the water.


Light pressure, easy rowing.

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.


This means, “GO” in rowing lingo.

Sit Ready

This means to get ready to go. When we sit ready, our blades will be buried in the water completely at the catch end or the release end of the stroke depending on the command of the coach or coxswain.

Way Enough (Weigh’nuff)

Stop rowing immediately.