All you need to know about… Rowing!

Elena Hochheiser, Editor-in-Chief

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Rowing. One of the oldest Olympic sports, yet one of the least watched and close to the most unpopular in the United States. For thousands of years, humanity has rowed in some way, shape, or form– from small canoes with paddles to modern day steamships, from rugged sailboats to fancy yachts. But how exactly does rowing work? Not many know. Whenever I tell people that I row, the first comment that I receive is something along the lines of “wow, you must have strong arms”. But in all honestly, rowing barely even uses your arms. In this article, I will explain how to row, and hopefully, you’ll leave knowing at least that rowers don’t sit in a boat and do nothing all day.

The most common crew boat is the eight. In eight, there are eight rowers (that’s where the name comes from, of course), and one coxswain. The job of the coxswain (also known as the cox) is to steer the boat and keep it in a straight line. The coxswain sits facing forward. They are also the smallest person in the boat. The eight rowers face backwards, and are all very strong. The seats in the boat are numbered 1-8. One (bow seat) is in the very back of the boat, and is usually the smallest rower. They often help the coxswain steer when needed. Eight seat is called the stroke seat. They set how fast the blades are entering and leaving the water, which is called the rating. Two seat helps bow seat, and seven seat helps stroke seat. The other four seats in the boat are often the strongest rowers, who provide the most power for the boat to move. Lastly, the front of the boat is called the bow, and the back is called the stern.

So next: how exactly do you row? The question in and of itself is fairly complicated. The first thing to do in a crew shell (the boats are called shells) is to put your oar and place  it into the oarlock. if you are sitting in an odd numbered seat, you are starboard, and if you are sitting in an even numbered seat, you are port. When you put your oar into the oarlock, you should make sure that the rounded edge of your oar is facing forward and that the collar of the oar (see above diagram) is on the side of the oarlock closest to you. From there, tighten the pin of the oarlock and sit down on your seat. NEVER place your foot in the very bottom of the boat, because it cannot support your weight.

Now that you’re in the boat, you have to learn how to row it. Look at the above diagram, part A. This is called the finish. This is where you will start rowing every time that you get into a boat. At the finish, your hands are shoulder-width apart on the oar handle, your feet are strapped into the bottom of the boat, and your body is sitting mostly upright, but a little bit back(think around 11 o’clock). Your knees are slightly bent.

Now look at part B above. This step of the rowing stroke is called Arms Away. As the name says, you just move your arms away from your body, making sure that the blade is an inch or two above the water. As you bring your arms away, make sure that you are not moving your body and that your hands are level.

The next part of the stroke is half-slide. From arms-away, swing your body over to around a 75 degree angle. Keep your arms straight. From here, bend your knees until they form around a 90 degree angle. As before, make sure that your hands are level and your blade is not hitting the water.

From there, you go to the catch. You bend your knees until your shins are parallel, and bring your hands up do that the blade of your oar is in the water. From there, you press your legs back, swing your body backwards, and pull your arms in, the reverse of the recovery (when you are moving up to the catch). This is called the drive of the stroke.

If you want to learn more about rowing, you can check out cool YouTube videos (watch the American Women’s Olympic Eight) or email me at [email protected] Pittsburgh has a couple of great crew teams, including Three Rivers Rowing Association Junior Rowing, as well as Steel City Rowing Association.

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All you need to know about… Rowing!