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Common Rowing Vocabulary


“Arms Only”

A  stroke where rowers use only their arms and back and maintain the lean back of the stroke.   Used mostly for warm-up or to turn a boat.


“Arms and Legs Only”

A stroke where rowers use only their arms and back to row.  This is used for warm-ups and to bring a boat into dock slowly.



A  backwards  stroke  used  to  turn a boat or back  a boat into starting blocks.    Coxswain will call for picking, touching, or any length of backwards strokes.


“Check it”

A command sometimes used to get all oars on starboard or port to hold water causing the boat to turn.


“Count down”

The command the coxswain uses to confirm with each rower that they are ready to row.  From bow to stern, each rower calls their number when they’re ready.


“Full Slide”

A stroke where the rower comes up fully as far as they can go on the slide.


“Half Slide”

A stroke where the rower comes up the slide only half-way.  Often used to check the set of the arms and body in relation to others in the boat.


“Hold  water”

The command used to stop the boat quickly.  Each rower squares their blade in the water, creating drag.  Like putting on the brakes.  Aslo known as “Kill the Run.”


“Let it run”

The command used to have a crew stop rowing.  Good crews will keep their blades in the air and let the boat coast to a stop.


“Oars Down”

This is often said after rowing and allows the boat to run and the set to be checked before the oars are put back onto the water.


“Pick drill”

A warm-up drill that starts with a squared blade with just arms only, moves to arms and back, then half slide, then full slide and then finally full slide with feather. This is a good way to check the form of the rowers.


“Power Ten”

A call for rowers to do 10 of their best, most powerful strokes.  A strategy to pull ahead of a competitor or to focus the rowers attention.


“Set the Boat”

A command for the rowers to made small adjustments in the height of their hands and their position in the boat to result in the boat not leaning either to starboard or to port.


“Square your Blade (Squared)

A command to turn your oar perpendicular to the water.  This allows the maximum efficiency when the oar is in the water.   Often this phrase is used as “squared and buried.”


“Swing it”

A command used when carrying a boat to start turning either bow or stern.


“Touch it/Touching/Arms Only”

A  stroke where rowers use only their arms and back and maintain the lean back of the stroke.   Used mostly for warm-up or to turn a boat.


“Watch the Ratio”

A command to have rowers focus on making the recovery longer than the drive.   Can be called at higher rates as 1 – 2 – 3.   At lower rates, it usually will be called as 1 -2 -3 – 4.


“Weigh Enough”

A command to ask rowers to stop action.




Another word for boat.



A shell with one rower using two sculling oars (sculls).



A boat with two rowers where each uses two sculling oars (sculls).



A shell with two rowers, each using one sweep oar. Steered with a rudder attached to a rower’s footstretcher.



A shell with four rowers each with two sculling oars.



A shell with four rowers, each using one sweep oar, and usually a cox.



A shell with eight rowers, each using one sweep oar, and a cox.




The end of the oar, often painted in a club’s or country’s colors. This part of the oar should be just beneath the surface when the rower is pulling the oar through the water.



The front of the boat, which is behind the rowers while sitting in the boat. The bow crosses the finish line first. Also a term used for the person rowing in “1 seat.”



A small white rubber ball attached to the bow designed to protect a rower boat??in the event of a collision.



A wide plastic ring placed around the sleeve of an oar. The button stops the oar from slipping through the oarlock.



A speaker system that runs through the boat with a microphone so the coxswain does not have to yell. The coxbox also displays the crew’s stroke rate, which is measured by a magnet under the stroke seat.



A rowing machine.



The shoe assembly in a shell into which each rower laces his or her feet.



Sides of the boat. The gunwales rest on the shoulder when carrying the boat.



A style of oar blade with a bigger surface area than the classic spoon-shaped blade. The blade extends downwards from the shaft at an angle level with the water. Its shape resembles a hacket. Also called big blade.



The length of the oar shaft measured from the button to the handle. Keel Centre line of the shell running along the hull from bow to stern, which helps the shell run a straight course and increases stability.



The classic style of oar blade, which is shaped like a spoon.



Just over 12 feet in length, oars may be made of wood or carbon fiber, generally painted with team colors.



The “U-shaped swivel holding the oar in the rigger. It is mounted on the rigger “sill”, rotates on an upright pin, and has a “gate” at the top to secure the oar.



The length of the oar shaft measured from the button to the tip of the blade.



The right-hand side of the shell while sitting in the boat. Port side riggers and oars are indicated by red paint or tape.



An attachment to the gunwale to hold the oar in place as it rotates through the stroke. Modern shells use out-riggers that hold the oar away from the gunwale (upper edge of the side of the boat) and provide greater leverage than one would have in a fishing boat. It is triangular shaped.



Steering device at the stern of the shell controlled through cables and ropes.



Smaller oars used in sculling boats.



The correct term for a rowing boat.



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



The left-hand side of the shell while sitting in the boat. Starboard riggers and oars are indicated by green paint or tape.


Stake boat

Stake boat is a structure at the starting line of the race. The shell is “backed” into the starting gate. Once in the gates a mechanism or person lying on the starting gate, hold the stern of the shell.


Stretcher (foot stretcher)

Where the rowers’ feet go. Shoes generally are permanently attached to the boat. Foot stretchers adjust to accommodate rower height/leg.



The rear of the shell. While in the boat, rowers face the stern.


Body Angle

Amount of forward lean of rower’s body from hips at the catch.


Bowman (Bow seat)

The rower seated closest to the bow of the boat.



The point in the stroke cycle at which the blade enters the water.



A bobbing motion of the rowing shell at the catch or finish that interrupts the boat’s momentum.


Coxswain (Cox) (Cox’n)

Member of the crew who sits stationary in the boat usually facing the bow. While the coxswain’s main job is to steer the shell with a tiny rudder, he or she also calls the race strategy and helps to motivate the crew. The coxswain is the only one other than the coach who can tell rowers what to do.



Being unable to take your blade out of the water at the release. This destroys the rhythm, set, run and momentum of the boat and is often called “catching a crab.”



The turning of the oar after the blade is extracted making it parallel to the water. This minimizes resistance to air and water.


Finish (Release)

The last part of the drive in the stroke cycle. The point when the rower pulls the oar to the body with the arms and then extracts the blade from the water.



Abbreviation for Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron, the international governing body for rowing establishedin 1892.


Inside Hand

The hand closest to oarlock. Used to feather the oar.



Amount of backward lean of a rower’s body at the finish of the drive. Optimally 15º.


Leg drive

Power applied to the stroke, at the catch, by the force of driving the legs down. Often heard being yelled from the coach boat.



“Footprints” in the water made by the oars. Little whirlpools. These can help gauge the run of a boat.



Number of strokes per minute being rowed by the crew. This usually varies from 36 to 42 on the start, 32 to 38 during the body and 34 to 40 at the finish of a race. Smaller shells do not rate as high as eights and the quad. Often rates as low as 18-20 are used to establish good form.


Ratio (Slide Ratio)

Ratio of time spent during drive versus the recovery. The goal is to spend more time on the recovery than the drive.



The phase of the stroke cycle from release to catch when the rower is moving towards the stern of the shell in preparation for the next stroke. Time between release of one stroke to catch of the next stroke. The time the oar is out of the water.


Release (Finish)

Part of the stroke cycle when the blade is extracted from the water.



The “second chance” race given to those crews which fail to quality for the finals from an opening heat. “Rep” qualifiers move onto semi-finals or finals depending on the number of entries. Used in international racing.


Roll up

A term that refers to the rolling up of the blade in order to put it in the water after feathering it.



Steering device at the stern of the shell controlled through cables and ropes.



The distance the shell moves during one stroke. Measure by looking for the distance between puddles made by the same oar. The glide that occurs during one stroke.


Rushing the Slide

When a crew or rower moves too quickly towards the catch after a rushed finish. Very bad yet very common technique that causes check in the boat.



Rowers who row with two oars each. The oars for these boats generally have a smaller handle, but otherwise are just like sweep oars.



The stability of the boat – ability to ride level without leaning to starboard or port.



Fin attached to bottom of boat near stern that helps keep the boat on course and balanced.



Term used to describe a blade that is too high off the surface of the water during the recovery. The rower’s hands are too low causing an upset to the balance of the boat (the “set”).


Stroke/Stroke seat

The rower sitting closest to the stern. In a quad it is number 4, in an eight it is number 8. The stroke sets the rhythm for the rest of the crew to follow. Stroke also refers to the cycle of the oar during rowing. One stroke consists of the catch, drive, finish and recovery.



Rear of boat. Directions the rowers are facing when in the boat.


Stroke Rate

The cadence of strokes per minute.



Boats in which the rowers each use a single sweep oar. A sweep oar is longer than a sculling oar and has a bigger blade.



That hard-to-define feeling when perfect synchronization of motion occurs thus enhancing performance. When a crew “gels.”


Washing out

When the blade comes out of the water early causing the blade to miss water. The blade should remain in the water from catch to release.