Blade: The flattened portion at the oar’s end. It can also refer to the entire oar.

Bow: The front of the boat (seat #1).

Bow pair: Seat #1 and #2.

Button, or Collar: The flat edge on the oar sleeve.  It must stay against the oarlock while rowing.

Catch: The position of the body when the hands and seat are furthest forward.

Coxswain (“cox’n”; “cox”): The person who steers and gives commands to the rowers; usually seated in the back of the boat facing forward.

Drive: The work portion of the stroke.  It involves pushing with your legs, then pulling with your back and arms.

Ergometer (“erg”): An exercise machine equipped with an apparatus for measuring the work performed by exercising.  For rowers, this is a rowing machine.

Four: A boat with four sweep rowers and a coxswain.

Finish: The position of the body when the seat is at the back end of the slide and the handle is close to the body, having just completed the drive.

Foot Stretchers: In the boat, the part that supports your feet.

Gunwale (“gun’l): The side edge of the boat.  When lifting the boat, this is the only place you should hold to prevent damage to the boat.

Hypercompression: Excessive leg compression before the catch, defined as when the seat comes within six inches of the heels or when the shins go beyond vertical (leaning too far forward).  This is to be avoided.

Oarlock: A square ring with hinged gate on the end of the rigger.  It holds the oar in place.

Pace: A measure of the effort put into each stroke. Ergs display the pace in terms of how long it will take to row 500 meters.

Paddling: Rowing with a low stroke rate and low intensity.

Piece: The term used to describe a work segment, such as a “2-minute piece.” Pieces may be defined in either time or distance.

Port: The left side of the boat from the coxswain’s view (forward); the oar sticks out to a port-rower’s right.

Ratio: The ratio between the time spent on the drive part of the stroke and the time spent on the recovery. Crews spend more time on the recovery than the drive.

Rating: Number of strokes per minute (SPM).

Recovery: The non-drive part of the stroke, when you are moving the oar handle and then the body from the finish back to the catch position.

Rigger: The metal “arms” extending from the boat to support each oar/oarlock.

Rudder: A small plastic flap for steering the boat.

Sculls: A boat (singles, doubles, quads) using two oars per person.

Shell: A boat with sliding seats for up to eight rowers and riggings for their oars.

Ship your Blade: To draw the oar in across the boat (so the blade is against the oarlock).

Single: A one-person boat (scull).

Skeg: A fixed fin under the boat for stabilization. A rudder may be mounted on it.

Slide: The rail upon which the seat moves.

Split: The work output measured for a set distance or time segment.  Also called the “pace.”

SPM: Strokes per minute. Usually a 26-28 SPM rating is ideal for a 5 Km race, or 30-32 SPM for a 2000 meter race.

Starboard (“starburd”): The right side of the boat from the coxswain’s view (forward).

Stern: the back of the boat.  This is where the coxswain sits.

Stern pair: Seats #3 and #4.

Stroke: 1) The basic rowing motion comprised of the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. 2) The rower in the sternmost seat, who sets the rating and rhythm for the boat.

Sweep rowing: Rowing with one oar per person.

Swing: The action of the upper body as it pivots at the hips during the drive.

Weigh Enough (or Way Enough): The command to stop rowing.

Technique-related terms:

Air stroke: pulling with the blade not in the water or only partially in the water.

Catching a crab: When thee blade gets “caught” in the water.  When you catch a crab, you should lie down and let the oar continue over your head.  Crabs are usually caused by technique errors, such as over-squaring the blade so it digs too deeply into the water.  The best way to avoid crabs is to “float your blade” and trust in the oarlock to put the blade in the correct squared position.

Check (putting a check in the boat): The interruption or braking of the boat’s forward momentum. Rushing the slide can cause this.

Check it (down), or check it lightly: The command to brake lightly. Blades are held in the water and gently turned to square. Used in landings, turning, before starts, etc.

Digging, or “going deep”: The blade goes into the water too deeply during the drive. This affects the set, and it’s hard to get the blade out cleanly at the finish. The blade should not be buried under the water during the drive, but rather remain at the same depth as when the squared blade is just floating (no hands on the handle).

Feathering: Rolling the blade with your inside hand (hand closest to the blade) so the blade is parallel to the water. This is done at the start of the recovery, and the blade is slowly squared again before the end of the recovery.

Hanging at the catch: A pause in the rower’s rhythm while dropping the blade into the water. This can happen when you rush the slide and get to the catch before the others.  It throws off the “swing” or unified movement of the rowers.  To avoid hanging the catch, just lift your hands at the end of the recovery and gravity will drop the blade into the water quickly.

Hold water, or “check it hard”: A command to brake hard! Blades must be buried then turned square as forcefully as possible and oars held tightly to break the boat’s momentum. Done in emergency situations only.

Missing water: This happens when you do not raise your hands as you come up to the catch (to let the blade fall quickly into the water). When you miss water, the first part of your stroke is actually out of the water and you lose a lot of power.

Rushing the slide: Coming up the slide too quickly.  This creates momentum in the direction opposite to the where the boat is going. Increase the stroke rating by moving the blade quickly through the water, but keep the recovery controlled.

Set: The side-to-side balance of the boat.  Different oar heights either in and out of the water, poor rhythm, not having simultaneous catches and finishes, and not leaning properly around the rigger all affect the set.

Set (the boat): The command to balance the boat. Each rower keeps a constant oar handle height, thereby keeping the set/balance of the boat steady and centered. If someone is rowing behind you while you are setting the boat, move your seat up the rails and cradle the oar handle between your knees and your body to avoid getting hit in your back.

Skying:  When the blade is too high off the water. This strongly affects the set of the boat, and may also lead to digging. Usually seen at the end of the recovery, when the rower lowers the hands as s/he comes up to the catch.

Shooting the slide: Starting the drive with your rear end first (not the center of your back), leaving your shoulders in back behind initially. This wastes the power of your leg drive to move the boat and may strain your lower back.

Square: When the blade is perpendicular to the water. “Rowing square blades” is rowing without feathering.