Anna Goodale's Guide to Watching Rowing

Anna Goodale's Guide to Watching Rowing

(US Rowing)
Introducing the Expert

Name: Anna Goodale
Location: Spokane, Washington
Games and Medals: Beijing 2008 (Gold, Women’s Eight)
Key Quote: “Being strong doesn’t mean you go fast, being technically savvy doesn’t mean you go fast. You need to learn how to use your strength most efficiently to get the most out of your body, the water and your teammates.”
Favorite Olympic Moment: Standing on the podium after we had accepted our medals. “Life doesn’t usually present many situations to be truly great at something.”


Hull/Shell/Scull: The shell or hull refers to the actual boat. A Scull actually has two meanings: An oar made to be used in a sculling boat where each rower has two oars, one per hand, and a boat that is propelled using sculling oars. A "single scull," for example, is a one-person boat where the rower has two oars.

Seat: The seat is 1) the actual piece of the boat where a rower sits 2) a rower’s position in the boat (the bow seat is seat one; the second position from the bow is seat two, and so on) and 3) a measure of advantage or disadvantage in a race (“We are ahead by three seats,” means that we are in front of the closest boat by three lengths of a single rower’s section in the shell).

Most people don’t know that the seat is on wheels and moves with each stroke. Rowers’ feet are attached to the boat by a foot stretcher, or pair of shoes that are permanently in the boat. This means that our legs do most of the work.

Rigger: The piece of equipment that attaches the oar to the boat. The small part that holds the oar to the rigger is called the oarlock.


1. Take a Seat: To gain on an opponent by the margin of a seat

2. Catch a Crab: A rower’s blade gets stuck in the water. When this happens, the oar acts as a break and can slow or stop the boat. A severe crab can even eject a rower out of the shell or capsize a small boat.

3. Feather: To rotate the blade to run parallel to the water surface. This minimizes wind resistance while the rower moves up the slide.

4. Square: To rotate the blade perpendicular to the surface to enter the water with as little splash as possible.

5. Cox: Short for coxswain, the “cox” is the oar-less crewmember who is responsible for steering and race strategy. (Yes, they get medals too!) He or she is connected to the rowers by an amplification system.

The Start: The start is a series of quick, strong strokes at the beginning of a race to get the boat up to speed. Most crews take a few short strokes right off the block before taking between 20 to 50 higher cadence strokes before transitioning into race pace.


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