12 tips for rowing rookies

Ready “oar” not, rowing is gliding in at number 58 on the ParticipACTION 150 Play List. If you’re new to the sport, no problem – we’re all in the same boat. Here are some beginner tips from Rowing Canada:

  • In rowing, the boats are called “shells” and are made of fiberglass composite material.
  • Rowing with two oars per person is called “sculling” and can be done in teams of four (quad), two (double) or one (single).
  • When each rower has only one oar, it’s called “sweeping.” The sweep events include pairs, fours and eights.
  • An eight-oared shell is about 60 feet long, or the equivalent of 20 yards on a football field. Even though it can hold more than 1,750 pounds, it may weigh as little as 200 pounds.
  • A single-person shell may be as narrow as 10 inches across, weigh only 23 pounds and stretch nearly 27 feet in length.
  • The rowing stroke is made up of four parts: catch, drive, finish and recovery. As the stroke begins, the rower is pushed forward on the sliding seat, with knees bent. At the catch, the athlete drops the blade into the water.
  • Rowing is a total body workout. Although upper body strength is important, the strength of the rowing stroke comes from the legs.
  • Physiologists claim that rowing a 2,000 metre race – equivalent to 1.25 miles – is equal to playing back-to-back basketball games.
  • Athletes are identified by their seat in the boat. The athlete in the bow (front) – the one who will cross the finish line first – is seat number one. The rower at the stern (back) is called the stroke. This person must be a strong rower with excellent technique, since he or she will set the rhythm and number of strokes per minute for the rest of the crew.
  • Eight-person rowing teams have a ninth person in the boat – a coxswain (pronounced “coxen”). The coxswain is like a coach who steers the boat, carries out the race strategy, keeps the rowers synchronized and motivates them to pull harder.
  • At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Canada won a silver medal in the lightweight women’s double sculls. At the 2016 Paralympic Games, Canada won its first-ever Paralympic rowing medal in the LTAMix4+ event.
  • You may have seen rowers on the podium in form-fitting unisuits, but don’t worry, that’s not how beginners have to dress. You can wear any kind of gym clothes, although avoid anything too loose-fitting. Rowing is an outdoor sport, so dress in layers according to the weather.

There are over 140 rowing clubs across Canada that offer a variety of programs at all levels. Find a local club and ask them about what program would be best for you, how to prepare for your first classes and what you need to bring. Check if there is a “Come and Try” event or “Learn to Row” program for newcomers. You’ll be row, row, rowing your boat in no time!