top of page
  • Writer's pictureAthlete +

Unlocking the World of College Rowing Terms

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

When it comes to the world of college rowing, there’s a unique language that’s spoken by those who are passionate about this sport. College rowing is not just about paddling; it’s a dynamic, team-driven sport with its own set of terms and phrases that add depth and excitement to the experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will dive into the fascinating lexicon of college rowing terms, shedding light on the lingo that keeps rowers in sync, coaches in command, and enthusiasts in awe.

The Oar-some Basics of College Rowing Terms


Before we dive into the intricate jargon of college rowing, let’s establish some fundamental terminology:


The Crew

  1. Coxswain: The coxswain is a pivotal member of the team, responsible for steering the boat, providing strategic instructions, and motivating the crew.

  2. Rowers: These athletes are the powerhouse of the boat, propelling it forward with synchronized strokes.


The Boat

  1. Shell: A rowing boat is often referred to as a shell, designed for minimal water resistance and maximum speed.

  2. Sweep Boat: In this type of boat, each rower uses one oar.

  3. Scull Boat: Scull boats have rowers using two oars each, allowing for more maneuverability.




College Rowing Lingo – Strokes of Wisdom

Now, let’s row our way through the rich vocabulary of college rowing, where precision and teamwork are paramount:


The Stroke

  1. Stroke: The rower in the seat closest to the stern sets the pace for the entire crew. Their rhythm is crucial for synchronization.

  2. Catch: This is the start of the stroke, where the blade enters the water.

  3. Finish: The end of the stroke, where the blade is removed from the water.

The Timing

  1. Rhythm: Achieving the perfect rhythm in rowing is essential for speed. Rowers often use the term “in time” to describe perfect synchronization.

  2. Ratio: This refers to the balance between the time spent on the drive (pushing the oar through the water) and the recovery (returning the oar to the starting position).

The Boat Movements

  1. Port and Starboard: Instead of left and right, rowers use “port” for the left side of the boat and “starboard” for the right.

  2. Bow and Stern: The front of the boat is the bow, and the rear is the stern.

  3. Set: Achieving a good “set” means the boat is stable and balanced.

The Call-outs

  1. Power 10: A call from the coxswain for a burst of power, typically lasting ten strokes.

  2. Hold Water: A command to stop rowing or backwater immediately to avoid collisions.



Strategy in Action – College Rowing Terms for Racing

College rowing isn’t just about rowing; it’s about racing, and racing demands strategy. Let’s explore the terms that come into play during the heat of competition:


The Race

  1. Sprint: A short and intense burst of speed in a race, often the final push to the finish line.

  2. Head Race: Longer races with a winding course, testing a crew’s endurance and navigation skills.

The Tactics

  1. Bump: In some races, crews aim to “bump” the boat in front of them, gaining a higher position.

  2. Steering Commands: Coxswains use terms like “hard to port” or “easy on starboard” to steer the boat effectively.

The Finish Line

  1. Photo Finish: A race so close that it requires a photo to determine the winner.

  2. Bow Ball: The part of the boat that needs to cross the finish line to win.


Beyond the Row – College Rowing Community

The college rowing world extends far beyond the water. Let’s explore the terms that bind the community together:


The Culture

  1. Ergometer: Often referred to as an “erg,” it’s a rowing machine used for indoor training and testing.

  2. Ergatta: A term for indoor rowing competitions.

  3. Blade Art: Each team’s oars often feature unique designs, known as blade art.

The Events

  1. Regatta: A rowing competition that brings together multiple colleges and universities.

  2. Crew Dinner: A tradition where rowers come together to celebrate their hard work and camaraderie.


In conclusion, college rowing is not just a sport; it’s a world rich in terminology, camaraderie, and strategy. From the coxswain’s commands to the rowers’ synchronized strokes, each term in the lexicon plays a vital role in the pursuit of excellence on the water.

As you delve deeper into the world of college rowing terms, you’ll discover that it’s not just about knowing the words; it’s about understanding the rhythm, strategy, and passion that define this incredible sport. So, whether you’re a seasoned rower or a curious enthusiast, embrace the language, dive into the water, and experience the thrill of college rowing for yourself.




18 views
bottom of page