An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Briana Schulte, girls crew program head

Crew, like any sport, has its own set of terms, jargon, and phrases that only those participating will fully understand. Here is a list of things you're likely to hear when hanging out with the Lakeside Crew teams.

COXSWAIN: pronounced cox-in, this athlete is responsible for:

  • steering the boat to keep the athletes and equipment safe,
  • finding the fastest path from the start to the finish line,
  • executing – and adapting – a coach’s predetermined race strategy,
  • keeping the rowers technically sharp and motivated to find more speed,
  • ALL while simultaneously taking in and processing hundreds of pieces of ever-changing information during a race.

In a boat with a coxswain (more on types of boats later), the coxswain is – technically – the only person in the boat who should ever be talking, but any rower who has EVER been in a coxed boat knows that that is never, ever the case. Even if you haven’t been in a rowing shell with multiple people, this rule would be like saying that the ONLY person who could EVER say anything in basketball was the point guard. Maybe a nice plan in theory, but not likely to actually happen on game day. Luckily, the coxswain is the only person who has a microphone connected to speakers in the boat, so while the coxswain may not be the only one talking, they are usually the loudest voice in the boat.

CREW: in it’s biggest concept, crew is the sport of rowing a racing shell, which is often just called rowing. Someone who rows can say “I row” or “I do crew” or “I’m on the crew team” (though hardcore linguistic-sticklers might frown on that last statement because a crew is a group of people working together AND a team is a group of people working together, so ‘crew team’ is sort of redundant), but it is a very normal thing to say among people who actually DO the sport. 

SWEEP ROWING VS. SCULLING: Sweep/sweep rowing/sweeping and sculling are styles of rowing defined by the number of oars used by each athlete. In sweep, each athlete uses a single oar with the oar projecting either on the port (left) or starboard (right) side of the racing shell. In sculling, each athlete uses two oars, a port and a starboard oar. Rowers may, or may not, specify which type of rowing they are doing. In the United States, MOST collegiate teams race sweep boats. Lakeside Crew does both sweep rowing and sculling; athletes may spend time primarily sweeping, primarily sculling, or switching back and forth. 

REGATTA: A race! This could be a 1-day race or a multi-day race and can take place on any rowable body of water. The most important things to know about a regatta are that regattas involves multiple teams racing many different types of events (more on events below) and regattas are the fun after a long season of training! Some regattas are small and remote and really not spectator friendly, while others are veritable festivals lining the shore with people cheering wildly for the crews.

EVENTS/BOATS/CATEGORIES: A regatta has MANY events all designated to indicate who and what type of boat is racing. This seems to be one of the most confusing things for new rowers, non-rowers and even veteran rowers because there seems to be a never-ending -- and ever-changing -- list of rowing events at a regatta. Simply, the event will specify the demographics of the athletes in a racing shell AND type of boat they are in, so an event might be listed as “JrW4x” (high school women’s quad: 4 person sculling boat) or “JrM8+” (high school men’s eight: 8 person sweep boat with a coxswain) or “W2-“ (women’s pair: 2 person sweep boat, no age restrictions). The most common demographics:

  • Sex: Women (W) or Men (M)
  • Age: U-15 (under 15 years old), U-17 (under 17 years old), Youth (usually designates high school), Junior (usually designates high school), Collegiate (self-explanatory), Open (any age), Masters (post-collegiate)
  • Weight Category: Openweight (no weight restrictions) or Lightweight (specific restrictions based on age, sex and competitive level)
  • Boat Type (the most commonly raced):
    • 1x – called a single, this is 1 person sculling
    • 2x – called a double, this is 2 people sculling
    • 2- -- called a pair, this is 2 people sweep rowing
    • 4x – called a quad, this is 4 people sculling
    • 4- -- called a straight 4, this is 4 people sweep rowing without a coxswain
    • 4+ -- called a four or coxed 4, this is 4 people sweep rowing with a coxswain
    • 8+ -- called an eight, this is 8 people sweep rowing with a coxswain

CRAB: commonly heard as “to catch a crab” or even an “I caught an ejector-crab!” A crab in rowing is when a rower’s oar (technically, the blade part of the oar) gets stuck under water as if a crab living in the water grabbed hold of the blade with its mighty pincer and HELD the blade under water causing the rower to be unable to move the blade, oar, or their own body. An ejector crab is relatively rare, but it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a rower catches a super strong crab and the rower is EJECTED from the boat, sailing into the air and falling into the water. If it sounds like catching a crab is totally uncomfortable, you’re right! The oar handle gets JAMMED really fast and unexpectedly against the rower’s body. Row long enough and eventually every rower will catch a crab; it’s just an inevitable part of the sport.

WAY ENOUGH: barked by coaches and coxswains as “way’nuff!” This is a command that tells a crew to stop. It can be issued on land when rowers are carrying boats or on the water to tell rowers to stop rowing. On the water, you may also hear the command “hold water” or “check it down”, both of which tell the rowers to bury their blades into the water in order to stop the boat’s movement.

HEADS UP: most commonly heard at regattas as crews are launching for a race or returning from a race, if you hear the phrase “heads up,” LOOK AROUND and/or DUCK!  It is VERY likely that a boat is moving in your direction and getting hit on the head by a boat is a solid way of earning a trip to a concussion evaluation.

ERG: ask nearly ANY rower to talk about the erg (aka ergometer), and they will give you an earful about the erg. You’ll probably hear tales of extreme discomfort (verging on descriptions of abject pain), extreme sweating, nausea (verging on actual puking) and sometimes EVEN an objective and neutral explanation that the erg is simply a land-based tool that rowers use to train to improve fitness, technique and mental stamina in order to race faster. Obviously, anyone who describes the erg as a training tool is a coach and/or probably someone who doesn’t erg regularly.

2k: 2000 meters is the most common race distance in spring/summer season racing. Athletes race it on the water and on the erg. If you observe a crew athlete looking nervous and/or hyper-focused or if that person is intently listening to a hype playlist, chances are, there is a 2k erg test that afternoon. Wish them luck!

ATTENTION, . . . ROW!: probably the most exciting, heart-stopping, panic-inducing, adrenaline-producing words ever heard, and ones all of us are super eager to hear again at our next race.

Follow Lakeside Lions Crew on Twitter at @LakesideLionsCR.