The 8 Things to Be Aware of as a Rower

From learning how to effectively "pull your own weight" to knowing the different levels of competitive rowing, there's a LOT to know about the rowing community. Read this to discover the top 8 things you must know to get by in the rowing world.

A Tidbit of History...

1) “Pull your own weight” 
Meaning that no one gets a free ride here. Except for the coxswain, duh. But “pulling your own weight” is a phrase that originated from rowing, meaning that each crew member must make him or herself worth putting into the lineup. It’s funny because it seems that more people know of this phrase than of the Head of the Charles or the British Henley--not that they know where it comes from. This is the most famous rowing has (secretly) ever been people!!  

For the Novice…

2) “Catching a Crab”

When I started coxing, I was quite seriously shook because I’m a vegetarian and I’m an animal person. BUT, we ain’t crabbing here. “Catching a crab” confuses so many non-rowers because, well, crabs are the most RANDOM animals and completely irrelevant to rowing. Why can’t we “go fishing” instead when the blade gets caught at the catch? That’s what it means, by the way. Getting the blade stuck and receiving a friendly whack in the face by your oar. How it involves crabs, and the history of that phrase….I do not know.


For the Coxswain…

3) The 9th Seat
So Mary Whipple is this super awesome / hilarious / approachable woman who happens to be a three time Olympic medalist as a coxswain. If you’re involved with rowing, you should know who she is. She started the 9th seat as a way to educate coxswains, because they don’t receive much coaching. Most coached don’t really know how to handle coxswains in my opinion. She has summer camps that develop coxswains, as well as providing resources. Below is the website. At the least, check out “Whips Tips” for some seriously sick Head of the Charles tips on steering the perfect course. 

4) Ready all, Row
Another wonderful resource that I don’t think has been updated in a while, but really should be. Kayleigh provides some thoughts on riding in the 9th seat, and touches on issues ranging from managing novice coxswains to understanding the tricky coxswain complex. Read some of Kayleigh's blogs on the Medium

5) Coxswain Recordings Online Mostly Suck
Dear Past Self: Do. Not. Listen. To. Them.

They’re a good way to hear how other coxswains command their crew when one first starts coxing, but every coxswain has their own style, and each crew needs something different. The best advice I could give to coxswains is to not say much/really anything the first few months and develop steering and boat feel. Be a mime!! Send smoke signals for power 10s!! Once a cox has those skills down, he or she can work on making calls based off of those things and off of important information. 

In General… 

6) Paralympic Team
If you’re a coxswain or an impaired athlete hoping to make the national team, this may be a good outlet for you! The paralympic team competes globally and at the Olympics. You even get cool medals that make sounds! The paralympics is critical to making rowing a more universal and inclusive sport.  

7) The IRA
I made it through years as a D1 athlete without understanding what the hell the IRA REALLY is beside a way of saying I’m-the-Michael-Phelps-of-Rowing-and-can-wear-my-pjs-while -racing-and-still win. For the most part, the IRA is a really competitive group of athletes, mostly at ivy league schools. Turns out that the IRA stands for “Intercollegiate Rowing Association”. The IRA is the oldest collegiate rowing championship in the US, and you have to be invited to it. It’s like sitting with Regina George in Mean Girls: the elite select you and ya do what you can.

8) People are Approachable!!
This is the most important part of this article. If you are thinking of taking the sport as far as you can, or are just looking to get involved, REACH OUT. I have no idea how I’ve gotten where I am today, but it has a lot to do with people’s patience and belief in me, along with a dash of luck. The rowing community is wicked small, so people understand where you are coming from, and will be excited to help out.


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