Until you ‘pull that oar’… you never really know!


Not sure rowing is for you? Well, most of us weren’t sure at one point either. We think the best way for anyone to determine if rowing is something for you: try it! Each year Toledo Rowing Club provides an opportunity for individuals who have never rowed get in a boat and pull the oar. Wow, can you imagine the feeling?!


Frequently Asked Questions

  • I don’t have any experience. Can I do this? Yes, you can! Rowing is unlike sports like soccer or baseball, where people may have been doing it basically since they could walk. You will be welcomed into a fun, supportive environment by coaches who have several years working with new rowers to give them the information and encouragement they need whether they are 12 or 62 years old!
  • I think I’d rather enjoy the scenery than go compete. Is there a place for me? Yes, there is! The beginner courses are the best place to begin so that you have the safety and technique skills you need. Then, you can take out recreational boats on your own time, with friends, or as part of a recreational group. Races are always an option.
  • What do I wear? Rowing is an outdoor sport. We row in most weather and never in electrical storms, high winds, and some very low or very high temperatures. Because of the oar handle and the sliding seat, it is important that clothes are not baggy. Layers are always best and you should stick to more athletic fabrics and avoid cotton. There are shoes in the boat, but you should wear socks. It is recommended that you bring a rain jacket – just in case, because as long as the water is calm we will practice and race in rain. Examples of rowing-specific gear: www.jlathletics.com/rowing
  • I am very competitive. Will I be challenged? Yes! Rowing produces the fittest athletes in the world at the top level. Rowers have competed against those top athletes while rowing in Toledo and while representing the USA at the Olympics and Paralympics.

Top 10 Things to Know About Rowing

  1. It’s the legs. Rowing only looks like an upper body sport. Although upper body strength is important, the drive which moves the boat comes from the strong legs. Rowing is one of the few athletic activities that involves all of the body’s major muscle groups.
  2. Meters not miles. The standard length of a rowing race is 2000 meters – about a mile and a quarter. Rowers refer to the parts of the race in 500 meter sections.
  3. Sweep (like a broom) and sculling (with a “c”). There are two basic types of rowing:, sweep rowing, where the athlete holds one oar with both hands, and sculling, where the athlete has two oars- one in each hand.
  4. Think even numbers. Sweep rowers come in 2’s (pairs), 4’s (fours) and 8’s (eights) Scullers can row alone (in a single), with somebody else (in a double), or with three other people (in a quad). Scullers steer their own boat, using a rudder that they move with their foot. Sweep rowers may or may not have a coxswain – the ‘on- the-water’ coach and person who steers. For example, all eights have a coxswain, but pairs and fours may or may not.
  5. It only looks easy. Rowing is not complicated. There are actually only a small number of steps you need to learn complete on stroke cycle. An while great rowing looks graceful and fluid that doesn’t make it easy. Pulling oar blades smoothly and effectively through the water while balancing a boat that may be as narrow as 11 inches across with 10-12 foot oars can be quite a challenge. (In some ways, the more rowers in the boat, the easier it can be.)
  6. High tech versions of age-old equipment. Although wooden boats were the norm for many years, most of today’s rowing boats – called shells – are strong, lightweight carbon fiber. The smallest boat on the water is the single scull, only 27’ -30’ long, a foot wide and approximately 30 pounds. The largest is the eight at 60’. Today’s oars – not paddles – are also incredibly lightweight. Sweep oars somewhat longer than sculling oars and have longer handles that are made of wood, instead of rubber grips on sculling oars.
  7. SPM not MPH. Rowers speak in terms of strokes per minute (SPM); literally the number of strokes the boat completes in a minute’s time. The stroke rate at the start is high – 38-45 – and then “settles” to a race cadence typically in the 30s. [And maybe for the really mature rowers, even a bit slower…] The boats spring to the finish, taking the rate up once again. The coxswain or stroke of the boat may call a Power 10 – a demand for the crew’s best, strongest 10 strokes. Although the number of strokes a boat is capable of rowing per minute is indicative of speed and talent; but the boat getting the most distance out of every stroke may win the race.
  8. Timing is everything. Rowing competitions are typically conducted on six lanes on the water. They follow a double-elimination format in a system designed to identify the fastest six crews for the final race in each category. Heats are first, followed by repechage (French for second-chance) races. There are no style points for rowing – the boat whose bow crosses the finish line first is the winner.
  9. Teamwork is number one. Rowing isn’t a great choice for athletes looking for MVP status. it is, however, teamwork’s best teacher. The athlete trying to stand out in the eight will only make the boat slower. It is the crew made up of individuals willing to sacrifice their goals for the goals of the team; the athletes determined to match their desire, their talent and their oar blade with the rower in front of them, that most likely will be on the medals stand.
  10. A vast majority of competitive races are “sprints”, but they are plenty long enough to demand endurance and an ability to tolerate the pain that muscles experience when you just don’t think you have anything left to give. Watch how quickly that graceful motion of the boat before the finish line turns into pain and gasping for air afterwards.

Boats and Classifications

Rowing has two categories: sweeps and sculls. In sweep boats, each rower handles one long (12-1/2 foot) oar. Eights always have a coxswain [usually small], who is responsible for the steering and tactics of the race. The coxswain either sits in the stern of the boat or lies in the bow. Fours and pairs both have events with and without coxswains. There are five sweep events. The other types of racing shells are sculls. Each rower handles two oars (or sculls) approximately io feet in length. In international competition, no sculling boats have coxswains. In the United States, women’s quads(4) and 16-year junior men’s boats have coxswains.

Rowers are classified in five categories: Juniors, Intermediate, Senior, Elite and Master. Status achieved in sweeps is independent of status achieved in sculling, and vice versa.

Junior 18: A rower ceases to be in the Junior 18 category on December 31 of the year in which he/she reaches the age of 18.

Junior 16: A rower ceases to be in the Junior 16 category on December 31 of the year in which he/she reaches the age of 16.

Intermediate: A rower is an intermediate until he/she attains the status of Senior or Elite.

Senior: A rower who wins any National Championship or Royal Canadian Henley event is a Senior.

Elite: An Elite is one who has won two Senior or one Elite event in any National Championships or the Royal Canadian Henley, or who is selected to compete at the Olympics. Pan American Games, or any FISA Championships other than Junior.

Master: Must be at least 27 years old, with age defined as the age attained during the calendar year.