The Top 13 Rowing Terms

Do you speak rowing? Consider this post your code cracker.

True, on your first day as a novice rower, you’ll likely be handed a wrinkled (perhaps wet) piece of paper listing some rowing terms. But read this post, and you’ll move to the head of your novice class before you even touch an oar. Booyah!

Without further ado: The 13 Most Important Terms in Rowing:

 1)   Bow (pronounced like “bow/curtsy,” not like “bow tie”): This is the front of the boat, but it will be behind you in a rowing shell.  (You row backwards…but you know that already! ) Luckily, there’s a “bow ball” attached to this end of the boat, so it’s easy to find.

2)   Stern: This is the rear of the boat, but it will be in front of you. The coxswain (pronounced “cox-un”) who steers your boat will sit in the stern.

3)   Port: Sitting in the rowing shell, this is the right side of the boat. You’ll likely be “sweep rowing” (using one oar) to start, and you will be “rowing port” if your oar is off to your right.

4)   Starboard (sometimes “star” for short): The left side of the boat from the rower’s perspective. If your oar is off to the left, you’ll be “rowing starboard.”

5)   Weigh Enough (also “way enough” or “way ‘nuff”): Stop rowing. Immediately. Now. The term is used routinely during practice, but when used mid-race, or with some degree of alarm, this is very bad.

6)   Ready to Row?: A question that never needs an answer (it's always, "YES!"), and arguably the best words in rowing. This is how your coxswain will alert you that you are about to dip your oar into the water and start your stroke. Usually followed by, “And ROW!” Then off you go.

7)   Back: Moving your oars in the opposite direction of your stroke to back the boat down. This is accomplished by flipping your oar over and moving the blade in the opposite direction.

8)   Tie-in: Right before you leave the dock, you will “tie-in”—put your feet into the shoes and fasten them securely.

9)   Untie: When you return to the dock, you will unfasten your shoes and pull your feet out before getting out of the boat.

10)   Hold water: Usually used in conjunction with weigh enough—you drop your oar into the water so your blade is perpendicular. This will stop the boat’s momentum and bring it to a stand-still.

11)   Stroke Seat (or “The Stroke”): This is the rower sitting in the stern-most seat of the boat who sets the rhythm.

12)   Bow Seat (or “The Bow”): This is the rower sitting in the bow-most seat of the boat. This person sometimes takes strokes alone to make adjustments to the boats direction. They also always cross the finish line before everyone else in the boat!

13)   The seat numbers between bow and stroke: You’ll need to know what “seat” you are sitting.  Your coxswain, even if he/she knows your name, will likely call you by your seat number (“4-seat! Take a stroke!”) It’s like a secret identity…kinda like 007, but no “double-oh.” Typically, even numbered seats row on port and odd-numbered seats will be rowing on starboard.

An exhaustive (maybe exhausting!) list of rowing terms can be found on good ol’ Wikipedia.  But beware…some of these I’ve never heard. Ever. So use at your own risk.

Coming next post…our dive into rowing language continues with “rowing words you should never say.”

Graphic By I, Freshness2go, CC BY-SA 3.0,