How To Row A Boat

Learning how to row a boat is a pretty simple process. There are a ton of reasons to learn this skill, ranging from simply learning for a one time trip down the river to being able to pass a qualified rowing test that some memberships require. Whatever the reason for learning this skill, keep in mind that once you learn it, you won't want to ride in a boat with someone that doesn't know how to row one.

You will need the following items:

  • Row boat
  • 2 oars
  • Body of water
  • Life jacket


  1. Remember safety first. When you go out in any type of boat, keep safety in mind. Make sure that the boat has no leaks and that you have enough life jackets for everyone in the boat to have one. Not  only is this the safest route to a fun boating trip, but in some states it may be the only legal route.
  2. Balance the weight in the boat. Make sure the weight in your boat is evenly distributed, If your boat seems to lean to one side, make adjustments so that it is sitting evenly on the water. You may have to move items around in the boat to evenly distribute the weight.
  3. Decide on the responsibilities of the rowers. There are a couple of different ways to row a boat. If you have a partner to row with, then the first thing to do before taking off is to decide on who has what job. One person can row on both sides while the other steers. Both people can row and each one pick a turn to focus on. What each person does really depends on the skills and strength of the rowers.
  4. Learn to apply the brakes. You might think that a boat doesn't have brakes, but you would be wrong. Brakes are the only things that will stop the boat and are also what is used to turn the boat. The boat is turned by applying brakes to the side that you want to turn towards.
  5. Row the boat. To begin rowing the boat, place the oars in the water so that about half of the paddle portion of the oar is under water. The hull of the boat should be facing forward. To move the boat using the oars, use your arms to turn the oars in a counter clockwise circle, scooping the water away from the oar as it circles below. Repeat this process to continue in a straight line, assuming there is no wake or current.
  6. Use your brakes. When you place your oars in the water and hold them in a stationary position, you are applying the brakes. To turn the boat, apply the brakes to the side you wish to turn to. For instance, if you wish to turn right, lower the oar and hold it steady on the right side of the boat. Do the opposite to turn left.

If you are rowing a boat with someone else, expect to have to put the brakes on periodically, simply to make up for the difference in the pull of the rowers. Putting the brakes on momentarily on one side or the other will help to keep the craft going in a straight line.

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