Information for Novice Rowers


Welcome to Capital Rowing Club!


We’re happy you decided to row with us, and we believe you will be too. Your decision to join our team and learn to row will have a positive impact on you for the rest of your life.

We are located in the Anacostia Community Boathouse at 1900 M Street, SE, Washington, DC, between the 11th St. Bridge and the Washington Navy Yard.

How To Get to the Boathouse

We are located in the Anacostia Community Boathouse. 100522-7271-edit-2


From VA: Take I-395 North across the 14th Street Bridge. Proceed past the Maine Avenue exit. Get into the LEFT lane and head towards I-295. Proceed past the South Capitol Street exit.  Take the next exit for 6th Street SE/Navy Yard. At the bottom of the ramp, go through the two lights. At the next light, make a RIGHT onto 8th Street SE. Proceed to M Street SE and take a LEFT. Go straight through the traffic lights, and continue on M St for about a mile. The boathouse is the compound with the black fence just after the construction site.  The gate is located before the boathouse itself.


From MD: Take I-295 South. Pass exits East Capital Street & Pennsylvania Avenue. Take the exit for Suitland Parkway. DO NOT GET OFF THE RAMP.  Follow the ramp around a full 360 degrees and re-enter I-295 North. Take the first exit for Washington Navy Yard & I-395.Go over the bridge and get into the right middle lane. Merge right following signs for the Washington Navy Yard, immediately after crossing the bridge.  Take the fork in the road to the right. When you get to the stop sign where the road ends, take a right onto M St.  Follow M St until you get to the boathouse on the right.  The road narrows and runs along the railroad tracks. Keep going past the Washington Yacht Club on the right. Please be careful.  The bike trail merges with the road, so you may need to make way for runners and bikers.   After you pass under the Pennsylvania Ave Bridge, you will pass a construction site.  The boathouse is the compound with the black fence just after the construction site.  The gate is located before the boathouse itself.

MetroThe nearest Metro is the Potomac Avenue Station (Blue/Orange line), a 15 minute walk. Exit the metro and turn left, walk down Potomac avenue 2 blocks, take a RIGHT on Kentucky for one block to it’s end, then take a left and walk down the hill and across the crosswalk on to the Anacostia River Trail. This is a bike path that goes over the train tracks and to the water, and you’ll see the boathouse on the water as your walking over the tracks. This is a good way to bike too!

What to wear…

Basic workout clothes are all you need – a pair of shorts (or fitted and comfortable pants), a teeshirt and sneakers work fine. Do not wear baggy and/or long shorts or long, loose shirts; they might get caught in the sliding seat while you row.


WEAR OR BRING SOCKS. You’ll want them when we get in the boats. The boats have their own shoes, so you don’t need any special footwear, but we’ll be warming up with running and calisthenics, so running shoes are a good idea.


We highly recommend a hat or visor, and sunglasses to keep the sun and glare from the water out of your eyes. The first class will be entirely on land, but after that you’ll be on the water for the better part of your class.


And, finally, it’s best to leave jewelry at home. You’ll find that anything dangly will just get in your way, and rings may give you blisters when you row.


What to bring…


Bring a water bottle, you can fill and/or refill it on site. There is room in the boat, under your legs to store water, so bring two if you get very thirsty. You will be on the water for over two hours and you will need to stay hydrated.


Sunscreen! You’ll need it, even in the spring. It’s very easy to get sunburned on the water.


That’s all you need! It’s a good idea to leave everything else at home, or in your car. The less you bring, the less you’ll need to worry about.


What to expect…


We’ll meet in front of the boathouse the first day at 9 am, so look for a crowd of people. You’ll meet your coach, the volunteer assistants, and all your novice teammates.


The first class will be on land. We’ll get you familiar with the boats, and how to handle them and carry them. We’ll also get you familiar with the rowing machine, (also known as ergometer, or, the “erg”). We’ll teach you the basics of body position on the ergs before we get on the water.


Please do not get on a rowing machine before you come down for your first coaching session. It is very easy to row incorrectly and cause an injury, especially in your back. Wait for an expert to give instructions on the proper technique.


The second class, we’ll get you out on the water in barges (large and stable) or in 8 person shells, coxed by an experienced rower. And after that, you’ll be on the water every class for most of the class. Don’t expect to get a strenuous workout during this period. You’ll be working on technique and body position and, most important of all, rowing together.


Although you won’t be working out hard, you will be working muscles in ways that are new to you, even if you work out all the time. So expect some sore muscles, especially in the beginning. Stretching is important, and we’ll devote some time to that at the beginning and the end of each class.


Also, rowing is rough on your hands in the beginning. You can expect to get blisters at first. Your hands will eventually toughen. After the first day of rowing, you may want to put tape on the spots that are particularly sore. Your coach will go over this at the time, and we have tape at the boathouse, so don’t worry about bringing that.


If you would like to do some reading about our sport, consult our website,, or other websites such as Also, there’s always youtube. Here are a few videos:


Tips from Team USA Olympic Rowers

Some basic videos on how to row/erg featured here, here, here, and here

And, if that doesn’t do it … watch team USA take gold in London, summer 2012


We are also available to answer any questions by email:

Rachel Humphreys, Novice Coordinator:

Abigail Potter, VP Membership: .


Most of all, be prepared to have fun! We’re happy to have you with us, and we hope you are excited to be a part of our club and the rowing community.


Welcome to Capital!

Glossary of Rowing Terms


Types of Rowing

SWEEP: Rowing with one oar on one side of the boat. The length of the oar is about 12 feet long.

SCULLING: Opposite of sweep. Sculling is rowing with two oars (an oar on each side of the boat). The length of each oar is about 9 feet long.

Sweep Boat or Shell



There are four different SHELL SIZES, distinguished by the number of rowers in the shell (8, 4, 2, or 1). The symbol following the shell size indicates whether with a coxswain (+) or without a coxswain (-), or whether it is a sculling boat (x). The image above is of stern coxswained eight-oared shell (8+).

SHELL: Another term for a boat, specifically, a boat used in racing.

BOW: End of the boat closest to the direction of travel. See diagram. Also can be used to refer to one-seat, or in conjunction with either four or pair. Bow-four refers to seats four through one. Bow-pair refer to seats two and one.

STERN: End of the boat farthest from the direction of travel. See diagram. Also can be used in conjunction with either four or pair. Stern-four refers to seats eight through five. Stern-pair refer to seats eight and seven.

PORT: Side of the boat to the coxswain’s left and to the rower’s right. See diagram. The oar sticks out to a port-rower’s right.

STARBOARD: Side of the boat to the coxswain’s right and to the rower’s left. See diagram.

BLADE (HATCHET OR SPOON): The face of the oar that pushes against the water.

OARLOCK: Square latch to hold the oar and provide a fulcrum for the stroke against the rigger.

RIGGER: An apparatus on the side of the boat to provide a fulcrum for the lever (oar).

FOOT STRETCHER: Part of the boat where the shoes are attached and where the rower pushes his legs on the drive.

SKEG: Fixed plastic piece beneath boat for stabilization (keel). The rudder is mounted on it. Also called a fin. The skeg (incl. rudder) can break off in shallow water. It can also break off by hitting the dock when putting the boat in the water or taking it out. Please be careful!

SLIDE: The tracks in which the seat rolls.

BACK STOP: A small block on the bow end of the slide, which holds the seat on track.

FRONT STOP: A small block on the stern end of the slide, which holds the seat in place.

KEEL: The steadiness of the boat. If the boat alternats from side to side, it is a sign of bad technique.

RUDDER: A little fin on the bottom of the boat that the coxswain can control to steer the boat.

COXSWAIN: A very important member of the crew. Their primary job is steering but they also provide feedback during races about location on the course, relative position to other crews , and stroke rate per minute. They serve as an in-the-boat coach during races. They call power 10s and encourage the crew. However, they do not say, “Stroke, stroke, stroke.”

COX BOX: A small electronic device which aids the coxswain by amplifying his voice and giving him a readout of various information, such as stroke ratings.

The Stroke

STROKE: One full motion to move a boat. Consists of the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. Can also be used to refer to 8-seat.

CATCH: The part of the stroke where the oar enters the water.

DRIVE: Part of the stroke where the rower pulls the blade through the water using legs, back and arms to propel the boat.

LEG DRIVE: Term used for driving the legs against the foot stretchers on the drive.

LAYBACK: Term for how much you lean back at the finish. Too much is bad, too little is, well, bad also.

FINISH: Part of the stroke after the drive where the blades come out of the water. The rower removes the oar from the water, by first pushing downward then away with the hands.

RELEASE: Another term for finish.

FEATHERING: Rotating the oar in the oarlock so that the blade is parallel to the surface of the water. Roll the blade with your inside hand (hand closest to the blade) so the blade is parallel to the water, concave upwards. This is done at the start of the recovery, and the blade is slowly squred again before the end of the recover. Feathering makes rowing easier especially in windy, choppy conditions because the blade doesn’t slap the waves as much and because air resistance on the blade is decreased.
RECOVERY: Part of the stroke where the rowers comes back up the slide slowly towards the catch. The oar is pushed away from the body by extending the arms, reaching the body forward and compressing the legs so the shin is vertical, preparing for the next Catch. The oar should not drag on the water.

STROKE RATE: How fast a stroke is being taken, in terms of strokes per minute.

Rowing Commands or Terms

READY ALL, ROW: Coxswain call to begin rowing.

WEIGH ENOUGH: Command for rowers to stop. Usually given a 2-stroke warning, as in, “In two, weigh enough.” Rowers know that in one (said at the catch), rowers complete one full stroke; and in two (said at the second catch), rowers complete this second full stroke and end at arms away, blades squared, boat balanced. Generally after performing the command, the coxswain say, “And down,” to which the rowers will feather the blades and set the boat. Saying “And down” depends on the cox–some coxswains prefer that rowers automatically set the boat after weighing enough. However, weigh enough means ending the stroke at arms away and not down. Whatever the cox’s policy, it should be clear and consistent Note: In an emergency, the command is “Weigh enough, hold water!” Stop whatever you are doing and hold water.

CHECK IT DOWN: Coxswain call that makes all the rowers drag their oar blades through the water perpendicularly. Blades are squared and partly buried, effectively stopping the boat. Used in landings, turns, before race starts, etc.

HOLD WATER: Coxswain call similar to “Check it down.”‘ Akin to braking hard. Blades must be square and buried, oars held tightly to break the boat’s momentum. Very important in emergency situations, also used before race starts, turns, etc.

LET IT RUN: Coxswain call for all rowers to stop rowing and pause at the finish, letting the boat glide through the water and coast to a stop. Used as a drill to build balance.

ONE FOOT UP, AND OUT: Command for exiting a sweep boat. Procedure is as follows: The outside hand hold the oar away from the body. The inside hand holds the gunwale to the dock. The inside foot is removed from the foot stretchers and placed on the step-in board, the body weight is shifted forward as the rower stands supporting himself on their inside leg. The outside is placed on the dock, as the rower gets out of the shell.

POWER 10 (or 20 or 30, etc.): Coxswain call to take a certain number of power strokes. A power stroke is a stroke that musters all the strength the rower can give.

RUN: The distance the boat moves after a stroke. Long run is very good. Run can be visually measured by the distance between the last puddle made by two-seat and where eight-seat’s blade enters the water.

SET (the boat): command to Balance the boat. Generally used when rowers are not rowing but sit relaxed with both hands on the oar as it floats feathered on the water. Each rower setting the boat is actively maintaining a constant oar handle height, thereby keeping the set/balance of the boat steady and centered. Rowers’ body leans (or lack thereof) also affect the side-to-side balace. Sometimes all rowers are setting, other times only some rowers set. If someone is rowing behind you while you’re setting, move your seat up to avoid getting hit in your back. Rowers also “set” the boat when they pause or weigh enough and let the boat run with oars in the air – the oars and bodies are again used to balance the boat so it doesn’t rock side-to-side or run with either port or starboard side down.

SQUARE: The blade is perpendicular to the water. Rowing square blades is rowing without feathering during the recovery.

Technique-Related Terms (Mostly things you want to avoid doing)

catching a crab: slang; getting an unexpected tug or jerk on your blade, sometimes boat-stoppingly violent. The blade gets “caught” in the water and may be quickly sucked in from rushing water, making the oar handle fly up or towards you or even behind you. Crabs happen because of poor technique, often getting the blade in the water at the wrong time, but sometimes one rower’s skying/ruining the set can cause another rower to crab, and crabs are more easily caught in choppy water (including motor boat wakes). Do the best you can to maintain proper control of your blade, especially in race situations, and improve your technique to avoid catching crabs.

check: the interruption or braking of the boat’s forward momentum. Things that cause check during a race include poor bladework, rushing the slide, and hitting the front stops.

digging: The blade is too deep in the water during the drive. This really affects the set, and it’s hard to get a crisp finish. Sometimes seen with skying. The blade should not be entirely buried in the water during the drive, but rather remain at the same depth as when the squared blade is just floating (no hands on the handle).

hanging at the catch: A pause in a rower’s rhythm as s/he is about to drop the blade into the water. This happens when you rush the slide and get to the top before the other rowers, and then your blade just hangs in the air while you wait for everyone else. Hanging at the catch means you’re rushing the slide more than you need to and thus slowing the boat, it’s inefficient because you’re wasting energy hurrying, it throws off the “swing” or unified movement of the other rowers, and also makes it very hard to catch with the other rowers.

missing water: This happens when you don’t raise your hands as you come up to the catch, but jam the oar in the water when you’re already at the top (front) of the slide. When you do it right, you see water splashing behind your blade. When you do it wrong, the first part of your stroke is actually out of the water, and you lose a lot of power -that’s your strong leg drive you miss out on, which is why this is important. Don’t worry about slowing the boat with your little backsplash – worry more about not missing water.

rushing the slide: Coming up the slide too quickly and/or accelerating up the slide. The recovery should be a slow deceleration, and rushing the slide creates momentum in the direction opposite to the where the boat is going. Whether or not you bounce on your legs or hit the front stops at the top (front) of the slide, rushing the slide slows the boat. Use your legs to brake the recovery. Rushing also wastes energy; it’s better to pull hard twice (and relax/breathe during the recovery) than to pull hard three times in the same time (and spend even more energy hurrying up the slide, and slowing the boat by rushing on top of that) – you wouldn’t last very long aerobically, and you’re not being efficient. If the stroke rating is fast, bring up the rating in the water by pulling harder, and concentrate on keeping the recovery smooth and decelerating. It’s ideal to have the recovery take twice as long as the drive (this is having a good ratio).

skying: The blade is too high off the water. This strongly affects the set of the boat, and may lead to digging besides. Usually seen at the end of the recovery, when the rower lowers the hands as s/he comes up to the catch, sometimes in too bent-over a position (when tired). The rowers should instead sit up more, and raise their hands into the catch.

shooting the slide: Starting the drive with your rear end first (not the center of your back), leaving your shoulders in back behind initially. This ends up being a quick jerk of the seat backwards, a result of a too-explosive leg drive and not moving the blade through the water as your legs push. This is very wasteful of your powerful leg drive, puts your back in a very inefficient position for transferring leg drive to driving the blade, may strain your lower back, and even causes the boat to “check” or jerkily slow down. [The checking the action/reaction of the boat to go in the wrong direction resulting from the jerky movement of your butt (and nothing else) in the right direction.] The drive should have a firm start, but be controlled and smoothly accelerating all the way through. Think of the oar handle and the seat being joined by a bar that maintains a constant distance between them during the first part of the drive.

tea-bagging: pejorative slang. Just dipping the blade in the water during the drive, applying little or no effort to move the boat forward. This is basically going through the motions of rowing without doing any work. The cox and others can tell if you’re tea-bagging because there won’t be a puddle left on the water after your blade leaves it. Rowers who pull hard will leave a large puddle behind their finish; tea-baggers are basically dead weight and better replaced with rowers who make an effort.

Miscellaneous Rowing-Related Terms

ERG (ERGO/ERGOMETER/ERG MACHINE) – A rowing machine designed to simulate the actual rowing motion; used for training and testing.

REGATTA – An organized crew race.

HEAD STYLE RACING is done in the fall and can be done on river, where there are twists and turns. The shells do not line-up, but race against the clock, after starting one behind the other. You need not pass another crew to beat it, but if you pass someone that started in front of you, you have surely beat their time. The race distance is usually 3 miles long.

SPRINT RACING is done with the crews starting with the bow of their shells even a racing parallel to each other. They start together, and the first crew to cross the finish line wins. We do this racing in the spring. On the collegiate level and internationally, the race distance is 2000 meters. Master rowers (age 27 and older) race 1000 meters.

NOVICE – a rower in their first 12 months of rowing. Since it takes most people a while to refine the basics of rowing and racing, they can row against others of similar experience level.

Capital Resource Library

Below are links to information related to rowing and practices

2011 Safety Information

Read about new safety guidelines and information for the 2011 season.


Capital Rowing Club’s manuals and operations guides


Practice Course
Map of the practice and race course on the Anacostia River.


Coxing Tips
Tips for rowers who have to cox.


Incident Reporting
Form to report any incidents that result in injury or damage while participating in club activities.


Big BBQ Grill Instructions
How to operate the club’s giant grill.


Weather Channel
Dress appropriately for practice by checking the weather before you head out.  See if wind conditions are conducive for sculling.


Rowing and sculling news


US Rowing
Information about recreational and competitive rowing, coaching, and refereeing.


Glossary of Rowing Terms



Registration – Novice Sweep

Classes for the 2013 Season

Classes cost $300.00 for 10 classes for a total of 30 hours of instruction.


Class time is typically 9am to 12pm on Saturdays and Sundays consecutively through the time period listed below. There are occasions which require the class time to be altered, or date to be moved, but those times are known in advance. Please ask novice coordinator if you have any questions by emailing


 On Water Novice Sweep Class (Weekends )

 2013 Dates

Session I: 9am – 12pm

 April 6, 7, 13, 14, 21, 27, 28; May 4, 5, 12 (classes in bold take place from 8am-11am)
Session II: 9am – 12pm  May 18, 19; June 1, 8, 9, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30
Session III: 9am – 12pm  July 6, 7, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28; August 3, 4, 10
Session IV: 9am – 12pm  August 17, 18, 24, 25; September 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22                       
Session V: 9am – 12pm  September 29; October 5, 6, 12, 13, 20, 26, 27; November 2, 3

Please follow the steps below to register for a class.

 Step 1 Create a login at Ronin Racing.
(Please note your login and password as we can not provide them to you later.)
 Step 2 Click a sign-up link for the class you want to take.
 Step 3 Pay online with a credit or debit card.