What is Rowing?

Rowing is an endurance sport in which boats of 1, 2, 4 or 8 rowers compete in timed races, generally 2 to 5 kilometers in length along a stretch of water. Rowing is what’s called a repetition sport, where athletes use oars to repeatedly take strokes and propel the boat down the course. In order to move a boat efficiently, each stroke must be performed by all rowers in a boat in unison, on both sides of the shell. As a crew becomes more skilled, they are able to take strokes at a faster rate, with more power, and with improved technique. Power, endurance, balance and synchrony are key factors that come into play during a race.

What if I don’t know how to row?

Absolutely no experience is required, the team has trained Olympians from college freshman with no previous rowing experience. Fall quarter week zero will include a few short informational sessions, as well as some on-water practices where new members are placed alongside varsity members to learn the basics. As time goes on, practices will progress towards the standard morning times, and novice boats will be formed to prepare for races later in the year.

Are there different positions in rowing? Are there different boats?

Yes and yes. Most races that we compete in use what is called sweep rowing. In sweep rowing, each rower has one oar. Therefore there are port and starboard sweep rowers, depending on which side of the boat the oar is on. There is also sculling, which consists of each rower using two oars, one on each side. Additionally most larger boats have a coxswain, or cox for short, which is not a rower. The coxswain steers the boat, gives calls to provide uniformity, technique and motivation, and will work with coaches to help run practices. Regardless of men’s or women’s boats, coxswains can be either male or female.

The primary focus of our team is Olympic, or flatwater rowing. This is rowing in relatively calm and protected waters, such as bays, harbors, or lakes. There is another variant referred to as coastal rowing, which is instead in the rougher waters of the ocean. Coastal rowing shells are built wider than typical rowing shells in order to be more stable for use in the ocean.

As far as boats, we row these:

Single: one rower, sculling. Can be coastal.

Double: two rowers, sculling. Can be coastal. Some coastal races may also include a mixed gender category for doubles.

Pair: two rowers, sweeping.

Quad: possibly a cox, four rowers, sculling. Can be coastal.

Four: cox, four rowers, sweeping. Can be coastal.

Eight: cox, eight rowers, sweeping.

Due to their size, eights are the heaviest, most stable, and fastest racing shells. They are often seen as the primary event.

What is an erg?

An ergometer, or erg for short, is a machine that rowers use to simulate rowing without an actual boat. This gives athletes the ability to train on land, and helps improve endurance and hone skills that can later be transferred to the boat. Ergs are often used as a fitness measurement to see how strong or fast an individual is, isolating their performance and displaying metrics in a way that isn’t possible in a shell on the water.

What are practices like?

Practices will often consist of a warm-up, possibly with box jumps, then rowing on the water (or erging), followed by a cool down or core work. Practices will generally be 2 hours, but can range from a quick 40 minute erg between classes, to a 3 hour endurance row over the weekend. During spring break, the team will often have double days that might include dodgeball, volleyball, or other activities in addition rowing. Depending on the day, boats and lineups will change around, at least until late in the season when final lineups will be determined.

Can parents, friends or family members watch regattas?

Yes, we encourage anyone interested to come check out a race! We love having UCI supporters travel with the team, and come to our home races. Depending on the event, locations and availability can change, so look out for spectator information on our race schedule page, or on the event website. Also be sure to follow us on social media for more information. 

What time are the practices?

Depending on the time of the year, our practices times may vary. All of our athletes practice and train a minimum of 15 hours a week. To account for class schedules, normal practice times are from 5:30am to 7:30am, with later practices on weekends and some additional workouts in the evenings.

Note: Due to online classes in response to COVID-19, practice times will likely be later in the morning and much more flexible, since most students have online lectures that can be watched at their convenience.

Can boats flip?

Yes, it isn’t unheard of for boats to flip. Eights and fours are large enough that it’s virtually impossible to flip them, but if you were really trying to, it can happen. Singles and pairs on the other hand, are much easier to turn over. As a precaution, only experienced rowers that know what they’re doing will take out singles and pairs. In order to be on our team, you must be a competent swimmer. As a first year rower, you will be taught the proper techniques to make flipping less likely, so by the time you do row in a small boat, you will be able to do so safely. In the event that a boat does flip, the coaching staff will be able to pick up any dunked rowers on their launch, and turn the boat right side up. See what happens if you don’t tighten your oarlock here.

Do you row in all weather conditions?

Yes, we row rain or shine. Races will go on regardless of the weather, so we don’t mind practicing in bad conditions either. The only scenario that we don’t row is if it endangers our athletes. Such conditions might be lightning, or thick fog that obscures visibility.

How long are races, and when is the racing season?

During the fall, there will be a few longer distance (5-6 kilometer) races that the team will attend. These are generally head races, where each boat will start along the same course, but spaced apart by a matter of seconds or minutes. These races are generally used to get a feel of racing on the water, and to test endurance in preparation for the main spring racing season. The spring season consists primarily of races over a 2,000 meter race course, starting around February. From there, the team will race every 1 or 2 weeks up until the national championships in May. A small number of select rowers may continue to race and compete until July. These 2 km races take place in an entirely straight race channel, each boat with its own lane, racing side by side.

Does the team travel?

Yes, the team does travel as part of competing. Although many regattas will take place at home in Newport Bay, other races will take place away. Most traveling is within driving distance in California, such as Mission Bay in San Diego and Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles. The regional championships take place at Lake Natoma in Sacramento every April, which the team will take travel vans to. The national championships are at Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia in May, which the team will travel to by plane. Select team members have also competed at the Henley Royal Regatta nearby London, England, and the team is looking to send more boats in in the future.

I want to prepare, what should I do?

While there will be plenty of opportunity to get fit once you’ve arrived, there are also ways to get ahead. The exercise staple of rowers is the “ergometer”, or erg for short. You can find one at many gyms, fitness studios, etc. These are used to train power off of the water so that technique can be the focus while in the boat. Lifting weights, running, or cycling also translate well into the aerobic fitness and strength used for the sport.

Where do I start?

To let us know about interest in the team, fill out our Recruitment Form! Once filled out, we will get in contact with you. If you have any additional questions about the team or rowing in general, you can contact the men’s President, Tyler Williams at [email protected], or the women’s President, Dahlia Ordaz at [email protected].