Information for Learn to Row participants

This is information for people who have signed up for group lessons at FCRC. If you have not yet signed up for lessons, you can find out how to on our Learn to Row page.

Please watch the Rowing Canada Aviron safety videos prior to your first lesson to help learn about being safe on the water:

There are a few things to know before your first lesson:

  1. As you have booked group lessons, these cannot be cancelled or rescheduled during the program. If you cannot make it to a row, please let the coach know in advance.
  2. Please wear BRIGHT colours, same as if you were going on a run or cycle and need to be easily spotted. False Creek is a busy waterway and we like to make ourselves as visible as possible.
  3. Please dress appropriately for the weather! We row in all forms of weather except for extreme winds, fog, and thunderstorms. Do not wear loose pants or they will get caught in the moving parts of the boat.
  4. If you have any injuries or medical issues, please speak with a coach prior to the evening’s lesson. Your safety is our number one priority. Rowing is a full body sport and we do not want you to injure or re-injure yourself. Also, if you have anxiety or fear of being on open water, please inform us so we can keep it in mind when I’m coaching. Any medical information you provide will be kept confidential.
  5. We have to wet launch most of our novice boats, which means getting your feet and lower-legs wet. Please bring shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. Please also bring a pair of socks to wear while rowing.  

Safety: Please read our safety information for learners before your first lesson. You must be able to swim to take part in lessons.

Finding us: Our address is 1628 Whyte Ave #1608 ( We are the second compound from the stop sign. Look out for our coaches in bright orange shirts, and our logo printed on a large sign on our gates.

Parking: There is a gravel parking lot across from the Vancouver Archives/Planetarium parking lot, which has an hourly rate that is slightly lower than the parking down in front of the water. If you are cycling, you can store your bike in our compound for the duration of the lesson. The compound will remain locked while we’re on the water. As a precaution, you can also bring your own bike lock and lock bicycles to a chain that is attached to the north side of the compound by the entrance. This is at your own risk.

Communication: We communicate via slack, and this will be the way to let the coaches know if you are not able to make it, or if you need to get in touch with a coach prior to your first lesson. If you didn’t receive the link to join, let us know and we will resend it. The best way to use slack is to download the app onto your phone.

If you are interested in learning about rowing technique prior to joining the first lesson, here are a couple of videos that you can watch:
– Video about proper erging technique:
– Video about proper rowing technique:

Rowing Terminology

During your first few lessons, you will find a lot of rowing-specific terminology is explained. Whilst the coaches will go over the important terms many times, you may find this list of common terms as useful resource to come back to.

Types of rowing:
SCULLING – each rower has two oars.
SWEEPING – each rower has one oar.

Types of rowing boats (or ‘shells’):
– a boat with one rower, sometimes called a scull.
DOUBLE – a boat with two rowers where each uses two sculling oars.
QUAD – a boat with four rowers where each rower has two oars.
COXED BOATS – Doubles or quads that have a coxswain – a person in the boat to give direction to the rowers and steer the boat.

Parts of the Boat & Equipment
BLADE – The end of the oar, often painted in a club’s or country’s colors. This part of the oar should be just beneath the surface when the rower is pulling the oar through the water.
BOW – The front of the boat, which is behind the rowers while sitting in the boat. The bow crosses the finish line first.
STERN – the back of the boat, that you face while rowing.
PORT – The right-hand side of the shell while sitting in the boat.
STARBOARD – The left-hand side of the shell while sitting in the boat.
BOWBALL – A small white rubber ball attached to the bow of a racing shell designed to protect a rower in the event of a collision.
OAR COLLAR – A wide plastic ring placed around the sleeve of an oar. It stops the oar from slipping through the oarlock.
ERGOMETER – Or an ‘erg’. Also known as a rowing machine. It allows you to practice your rowing stroke. The most common tool used for dry-land training is made by Concept 2, which uses a flywheel and digital readout showing your strokes per minute, power output, speed, and distance “travelled”.
FOOTSTRETCHER – The shoe assembly in a shell into which each rower puts his or her feet. This can be moved back and forth to allow a comfortable rowing position.
GATE – The bar across the oarlock that locks the oar in place.
OARLOCK – The “U”-shaped swivel holding the oar in the rigger. It rotates on an upright pin, and has a “gate” at the top to secure the oar.
RIGGER – The part of the boat that holds the oarlock, where the oar pivots during the stroke. Oarlocks are typically about 160 cm apart in sculling boats and slightly more in sweep boats.
RUDDER – Steering device at the stern of the shell controlled through cables and ropes.

The Rowing Stroke
CATCH – The point in the stroke cycle at which the blade enters the water.
BLADE DEPTH – The distance an oar is buried in the water. Too deep and it is hard to get out, too shallow and the blade has no purchase and does not move the boat effectively.
FEATHERING – The turning of the oar after the blade is extracted making it parallel to the water.
FINISH – The last part of the drive in the stroke cycle. The point when the rower pulls the oar to the body with the arms
and then extracts the blade from the water.
LAYBACK – Amount of backward lean of a rower’s body at the finish of the drive. Optimally 15o.
LEG DRIVE – How the majority of a rower’s power is applied to the stroke. Starting at the catch, by the force of driving the legs down and pushing against the foot boards. Often heard being yelled from the coach boat because people aren’t working as hard as they could.
RATE – Number of strokes per minute being rowed by the crew.
RECOVERY – The phase of the stroke cycle from release to catch when the rower is moving towards the stern of the shell in preparation for the next stroke.
RELEASE – Part of the stroke cycle when the blade is extracted from the water. • Rushing the Slide: When a crew or rower moves too quickly towards the catch after a rushed

Rowing instructions
BACKING – A backwards stroke used to turn a boat or back a boat. A coach or coxswain may call for “picking”, “touching”, or any length of backwards strokes.
CHECK-IT – A command sometimes used to get all oars on starboard or port to hold water causing the boat to turn.
COUNT-DOWN – The command the coxswain or coach uses to confirm with each rower that they are ready to row. From bow to stern, each rower calls their number when they’re ready. Bow seat is always 1.
HOLD WATER – The command used to stop the boat quickly. Each rower squares their blade in the water creating drag. Like putting on the brakes. Also known as “Kill the Run.”
LET IT RUN – The command used to have a crew stop rowing. Good crews will keep their blades in the air and let the boat coast to a stop.
SWING IT – A command used when carrying a boat to start turning either bow or stern.
TOUCH IT / TOUCHING – A stroke where rowers use only their arms and back. Used mostly for warm-up or to turn a boat.

Other terms
BODY ANGLE – Amount of forward lean of rower’s body from hips at the catch.
BOW ROWER – The rower seated closest to the bow of the boat.
CHECK – Describes an undesirable bobbing motion of the rowing shell at the catch or finish that interrupts the boat’s momentum
CRAB – A dastardly accident when a rower loses control of his or her oar. The blade gets trapped in the water by the momentum of the boat and the oar handle is not in the rowers control.
PUDDLES – “Footprints” in the water made by the oars. Little whirlpools.
RUN – The distance the shell moves during one stroke. Measured by looking for the distance between puddles made by the same oar. On a good day: about 10 metres.

The following PDF files are guides that Rowing Canada Aviron developed many years ago for those of you looking to do some advanced learning before you arrive. As coaching techniques continuously change we don’t follow them precisely: some of the details have changed, but that said: they still contain good material to start off with.