How different is coastal rowing technique?

How Different, Exactly, is Coastal Rowing asks Ruth Marr from Rowing the World rowing vacations.


Coastal rowing , Hong Kong rowing, ruth marr, rowing the world, rowing vacation,
Coastal rowing in Hong Kong on the South China Sea- view from stroke seat. No worries with waves.

You are a flatwater rower intrigued by coastal rowing. What is this mountain biking of rowing? Swedish Olympic rower Lassi Karonen who rowed at the 2013 World Rowing Coastal Championships is quoted on the World Rowing website:

“The similarity (with flat-water rowing) is the movement of the stroke, everything else is different.”

So, exactly, what is different in coastal rowing?

If you are rowing coastal boats on a freshwater lake with no wind and waves, there is little difference, just that the boats are heavier. On the sea you have tides and currents to deal with, along with waves. Waves can also be significant on lakes and rivers, especially when wind is pushing against a strong current or stream. These are the conditions when coastal boats not only come into their own, but the rowing technique shifts.

coastal rowing, rowing south africa, rowing the world, rowing vacation, ruth marr
Places coastal can take you – False Bay, near Cape Town, South Africa.

Coastal Rowing Technique

There are relatively few authoritative sources on coastal rowing technique. Below are some pointers based on conversations with coastal rowers, internet research and my own experience. I am not an expert, so these tips are shared in the spirit of discovery and learning. I welcome comments and input.

  • Being relaxed is very important. You need to feel the water and adjust each stroke to the conditions.
  • Constantly adapt to wind, waves and current.
  • Keep the blades in the water, let the boat follow the wave and don’t fight the sea.
  • Different hand heights are possible and often needed to keep the blades in the water.
  • Have a soft catch and apply power mid-stroke, once you have the feel of the water and connection to it.
  • Shorten the slide as needed, and row more upright. Seek stability, not reach. Get speed from the leg drive, not stroke length.
  • Ensure a clean release and don’t wash out at the end of the drive – get the blades out square and quickly so they do not get caught in the waves.
  • When it gets rough, get about 20cm of horizontal hand separation. Practice leading with different hands.
  • A faster slide helps in rough conditions by minimizing the time that you are least stable and the risk of blades flopping about in wind and waves.
  • Rate 22 rather than 18, keep up the momentum.
  • Keep rowing. Steering the boat, especially a quad, needs propulsion. If rowers stop rowing because waves crash in, then the boat will really get into trouble.

In addition to these basics of the stroke, there is a lot to learn about rowing in waves, reading and adjusting for current, beach launches and landings and figuring out how to actually surf! We will save that for another blog post, and will consult with some experts for advice. In the meantime, here are a few sources of advice:

Finaland coastal rowing
Perfect coastal conditions – Gulf of Finland on our St. Petersburg tour.

One final thing, many flatwater rowers row with PDFs (personal floatation devices). FISA racing rules require life jackets to be in the boat – which is defined as having enough floatation that will allow a person to float unaided face upwards. Be safe when exploring coastal waters.

Give coastal rowing a try. Enjoy! It is the same, yet different and a lot of fun.

This is the fourth in our series on coastal rowing. Past posts:

Why All Rowers Should Care About Coastal Rowing;

The Case for Coastal Boats on Lakes;

Is the Tide Rising for Coastal Rowing?

4 thoughts on “How different is coastal rowing technique?

  1. David Thomson says:

    Fixed seat coastal rowing yet again has differences to drive a heavy boat. Celtic Longboat technique is also different to Cornish gigs which are also fixed seat.

    • Rebecca Caroe says:

      David – now you’ve piqued my curiosity. Would you be able to write a short explanation about these techniques and the differences?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.