Rowing Glossary: 20 Rowing Terms You Should Know!

Like most sports, rowing has its own distinct language and vocabulary. If you’re feeling a little lost in the reeds, here’s a simple rowing glossary to help you out!

Air Stroke: A common rowing error wherein the oar’s blade is not completely in the water, typically resulting in a loss of power and a lot of splashing.

Bow: Essentially, the “front” of the boat, or the part that moves forwards through the water.

Catch: The moment when the blade enters the water, and initiating the drive of each stroke.

Coxswain: Since rowers sit with their backs to the direction of travel, it is necessary for one person to face forwards, towards the other rowers and the bow. This person, called the coxswain, is responsible for steering the boat and for coordinating the power and rhythm of the rowers.

Digging: A common rowing error wherein the oar sinks deeper into the water than it should, slowing the boat down as a result.

Ergometer (Erg): A indoor rowing machine, so-called because they measure units of energy called “ergs.” Erg is short for Ergon, the Greek word for “work” or “task.”

Hull: The body of the boat or shell.

Keel: The center line in the middle of the hull.

Launch: A motorboat commonly used by coaches and referees, to keep pace with the rowers.

Lightweight: In order to compete in “lightweight” events, a rower’s weight must fall beneath a certain threshold. This is typically 155 lbs. for men and 130 lbs. for women. A “heavyweight” or “openweight” rower has no weight restrictions.

Openweight: While male rowers can be classified as either “lightweight” or “heavyweight,” non-lightweight female rowers are referred to as “openweight!” However, some competitions have begun using the openweight category for both genders.

Port:The left side of the boat, when the boat is facing forward/in the direction it will move.

Power 10: A call by the coxswain for the crew to execute 10 of their best, most powerful strokes, usually in an attempt to pull ahead of a competitor.

Sculling:One of the two disciplines of rowing (the other is “sweeping.”) Each rower operates two oars, one in each hand. Sculling is generally considered more technically complex than sweeping.

Shell: Another name for “boat.” The two terms can be used interchangeably; neither is right or wrong.

Starboard: The right side of the boat, when the boat is facing forward, in the direction it will move.

Stern: The “back” of the boat, towards which the rowers are facing.

Sweeping: One of the two disciplines of rowing (the other is “sculling”.) Each uses one oar and is paired with a rower on the opposite side. Sweep boats are called pairs (2 rowers), fours (4 rowers), and eights (8 rowers). All three classes can include a coxswain, though pairs and fours do not require them.

Tracks: The rails which rowers’ seats roll on, often referred to as “slides.”

Weigh Enough: A common coxswain call that instructs rowers to stop whatever they are doing immediately. In the U.S., the spelling “way enough” has also emerged.