The rowing stroke catch – a millisecond


The catch is one of the most important parts of the rowing stroke and it’s over in a fraction of time.

It probably takes between 0.3-04 second for the catch to be executed. And during that timeframe, the athlete has to steady themselves into the front, have the blade square, turn their core on, put the blade into the water, change direction as far as far as the leg drive is concerned and it all happens in that very short timeframe.

So it’s important for a few things to be understood

  1. Do as much as you can before you get to the catch
  2. Have the blade square and ready to go into the water; have your core turned on
  3. Don’t come into the front in a hurry so you don’t have to do a lot of changing of direction with your legs
  4. To execute the catch you have to put the blade into the water before your leg drive commences

The timing of this is really critical and takes only a fraction of a second so it needs to be practiced.

Ken Davey suggests that you film the athletes as they are taking the catch and film the blade going into the water and the body at the same time. And you will soon see (as will your athletes) if they are not actually getting the blade into the water before the leg drive occurs. There will be some body movement in the best of athletes.

Watch the video – the blade should be able to go into the water a little like the bow of a boat – it parts the water and you see a little bit of movement coming up the blade on both sides. If you like a little bit of front-splash and a little bit of backsplash. Not an excess of both. I suggest you get them to watch that, get the athletes to understand it and then watch the Decent Rowing Video on pausing at the catch because that’s a really good technique to get athletes to understand what we are trying to do.

The intent of pausing at the catch is not to have it as part of the rowing stroke, it’s purely there to demonstrate that you can sit at the catch without fear and you can put the blade into the water very precisely if you have everything else done and that’s all you are focusing on.

The catch: Over in a fraction of a second, but vital to having a good rowing stroke. feature=em-subs_digest

Resources for coaching the catch


Subscribe to our Newsletter for more information:

Our Rowing Network

Did you like this post? Support this blog and our network by donating

Feel like Rowing again? Visit the Shop at!

Accessories, equipment, boats, clothing

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. carlo zezza

    Most important and commonly understood is to engage the blade before engaging the feet – but ALSO it’s important to keep rolling aft before engagement – if the roll aft slows down and the rower hangs at the catch, the boat needs to pick up the rower’s weight and the boat will slow down. See Kleshnev’s analysis.

  2. Jeremy Fagan

    The handles of the blade have to have changed direction at the moment of the catch. Otherwise you’d be backing down. It’s physically impossible to do otherwise. And your body doesn’t change direction at the catch, you sit still, and draw the boat to you with your legs, and then push your legs out again. Rowperfect should understand that better than anyone!
    So the stroke cycle involves stretching your arms forward and leaning over, so your upper half is ready for the stroke, then pulling your heels up to your bum, and as they change direction, catching. You need flexible shoulders and movements to do it.
    I don’t find using mental images that describe physical unreality to be helpful. You pull the boat to you on the recovery, unless you happen to be rowing on a Concept 2.

  3. Craig Allely

    When I read this article I immediately got into my single and thought about the catch
    The rowing shell moves fastest at the catch and the finish ,if you google an article on the
    hydrodynamics it shows how this happens
    So to not apply force immediately the blade is immersed in the water will result in less
    boat speed which is something you do regardless of rating.
    Anyway in my single the more force I apply the faster I go
    On blade entry slippage starts as the blade does move though the water so some loss of
    efficiency occurs ,but the major initiative is to apply power as early as possible ,by setting
    the blade in the water ,thus delaying power you will loss speed ,thats ok if you just want
    cruise around and enjoy the scenery but any determained racer will want the former
    Fairbairn remember him he created the modern style which made the English orthodox
    redundent he stated “Drive at your blade with your legs”
    Perhaps some of the rowing coaches who support the theory of setting the blade
    in the water should get back in a shell and see what really happens

Leave a Reply

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

Related Posts

Whether it’s sports, nutrition or equipment, you’ll find what you’re looking for in one of these categories


Everything about rowing – browse through our large archive or search for articles of your choice


Search Blog


Rowing Network

Do you like our posts? Support this blog and our network by donating


Get all latest content and news!