The following should provide provide all rowers with the basic knowledge and skills to insure a safe and pleasurable rowing experience. The Boatsteerer is in charge.  Each rower must learn the terminology and commands and follow them promptly and fully to insure a safe and pleasurable row. For a full list of the terminology and commands, click GLOSSARY



Ready-All Position:  This is the position that the rower assumes when preparing to start a stroke.  For pulling the boat forward, the ready-all position is leaning forward with arms fully extended.  For pushing the boat backwards, the ready-all position is leaning slightly back with hands tucked in at lower chest.      

Catch:  The oar enters the water. From the ready-all position for pulling, the rower raises the oar handle to drop the blade into the water.

Pull:  The rower leans back pulling the blade straight through the water. The rower pulls first with his/her back, then with arms when approaching the end of the stroke.  (With practice, these back and arm movements appear and feel as one.) 

Finish: The rower pushes down on the handle to raise the blade from the water. 

Return: The oar returns to the ready-all position. The rower moves forward, arms first followed by body, stretching fully toward the boatsteerer.  The boat will continue to glide when the oars are being returned, and extending the arms before leaning forward cuts down on the jerky movements that will disrupt the glide.

Push (stern stroke):  This is the reverse of the pull: start with hands at lower chest level; raise the hands to drop the blades into the water for the catch; push by leaning forward and then extending arms fully; push down on the handles to raise the blade out of the water to finish the stroke; and, return to the ready-all position for pushing. 

Movement of the blade:  When preparing to catch and when pulling/pushing, the blade must be perpendicular to the water’s surface.   This maximizes the pull or push.  For most efficiency, the pattern that the blade travels is rectangular, not circular. The blade travels just under the surface of the water on the pull and just above the surface when pulling.  Digging refers to the circular motion when the blade is in the water and skying refers the circular motion above the water.   

For an illustrated version of the above description, click ANATOMY OF A STROKE.



A few terms you should know your first time out:

"Ready All"  All rowers lean forward and position themselves for the catch.  If getting ready to push, the position is leaning slightly back.

"Pull Together"  All rowers start pulling rowing.  

"Avast"  This command is used to tell the rowers to stop rowing, as well as to bring rowers to attention. The oars remain in the oarlocks, and are perpendicular to the side of the boat, level with the water, and feathered.

"Hold Water"  Oar blades are placed in the water to slow or stop the boat. This is usually preceded by “Avast”, but maybe not in an emergency!  If the boat is moving fast, this command will be preceded with the “drop oars” command. 

"Stern All"  All rowers push to row backwards (same as “Back Stroke” and “Back Water”).

"Out Oars"  Oars are pushed out into the Hold Water position.   Each rower will push out the oar positioned between the rower and his/her side of the boat.  Once out to the button, the handle of the oar is passed to the rower in front (technically, the rower aft in the boat) and on the opposite side.  Rower #1 will push out oar #2 and hand it to rower #2, and then push out oar #1. Rower #2 will push out oar #3 to rower #3 and accept oar #2, etc.   Rower #5 only needs to accept oar #5 from Rower #4.  The tricky part is leaning back to pass the oar over your body (like doing the limbo) and not letting the blade dip into the water as you hand it to the rower in front of you.  Outing the oars must be done in unison to avoid tangling the oars. 

"Trail Oars"  The oars are pulled in and the blades are positioned aft along side the boat, above and outside the gunwales. Trailing oars is used when passing anything that might hit the oars.  In a whaleboat, this is the first step in shipping oars.  The oars remain in the oarlocks, and the handles are pulled forward into the boat.  This process is the reverse of outing the oars.  Rower #1 pulls in oar #1 and tucks the handle into the bow on the starboard side, and then immediately, accepts oar #2, pulls that over his/her head and tucks the handle into the bow on the port side.  Rower #5 only needs to pass the handle of oar #5 to rower #4 who will then pull in the oar and tuck the handle behind on the starboard side, all while passing the handle of oar #4 to rower #3.

"Catching Crabs"    Crabs happen when you catch your blade in the water and it pulls you backwards off the seat. Common causes are:  not reaching far enough forward the catch, and therefore ending the stroke too far back without enough power to finish;  blades under-squared and therefore pulled too deep during the pull;  boat not trim so that blades on the low side do not clear the water; and failure to keep time with the stroke.

When you “catch a crab”,  press down on the handle of your oar quickly and firmly to get the blade out of the water.  If you feel that you are falling backwards, call out to the boatsteerer so that you can be given time to recover your rowing position.  If you do fall and hurt your head, let your boatsteeer know.    



Clothing  Dress in layers so you can easily shed down as you warm up.

Footwear  Wear rubber-soled shoes.  The boats are very slippery when wet, even from dew. 



Rowers will enter and leave the boat only when directed by the Boatsteerer.  They will always enter or leave one at a time, and will call out “Coming aboard” or “Going ashore” before moving. 

When moving in/out of the boat and while in the boat, rowers need to keep their weight as low as possible to avoid slipping and falling.   While in the boat, rowers need to be evenly positioned from side to side to maintain the balance of the boat.  



In order to be a pleasurable rowing experience for all, safety is the prime consideration.

The Boatsteerer is responsible for the instruction and safety of the rowers. They have been trained and certified by WCR in water and boat safety, boat handling, emergency procedures, weather conditions, rules of the road, and instruction of rowers.  Rowers must remain alert and respond promptly to the commands of the Boatsteerer to insure the safety of all rowers.

Rowers must remember rowing is not a social engagement. They must pay attention. Casual conversation is reasonable only when resting.

Weather considerations: Consider both present and forecasted conditions when preparing for a row.  If you are uncomfortable with the boatsteerer's decision to go out, express your concerns.  If you are still not comfortable, do not go.


PFD (personal floatation device) 

All youth rowers under 18 must wear a PFD at all times.

All rowers must wear a PFD between November 1st and May 1st.

NOTE:  A PFD only provides protection when actually worn!

For more information from the Coast Guard:  Click HERE