STAGING Recreational rowing - British Rowing

Recreational rowing

Also known as social rowing and leisure rowing, recreational rowing is focused on fun and fitness rather than racing.

Beyond that, the term embraces a wide variety of rowers and rowing activities.

How can recreational rowing benefit clubs?

recreational rowers in sweep four

Who is recreational rowing for?

Recreational rowers might:

  • Be very experienced or new to the sport
  • Be extremely technically proficient – because they’ve been rowing for a long time and/or used to train seriously and be coached as racers – or fresh out of ‘learn to row’ course
  • Train regularly on one or more days a week, or row on a more ad hoc basis – a crucial difference from racing squads is that attendance at each session is entirely up to you
  • Be any age though most are over 40
  • Only row from their club or have an interest in taking part in tours or exchange visits with other clubs
  • Use stable, ‘Explore’ boats or ‘fine’ (racing) boats
  • Participate in fun, informal and generally local racing designed for recreational rowers.
Find a rowing club near you

If there isn’t a club near you in the list above, you can find a complete directory of all rowing clubs in England here – just ask your local club what options they have for recreational rowing.

recreational rowers on a tour of the Norfolk broads

Recreational rowing equipment

Recreational rowers can use any type of boat. Many groups like stable boats, which are also known as ‘Explore’ boats or ‘C-gigs’ in continental Europe. These have a wider hull than racing boats. The advantages of stable boats are that they’re easier to balance and, for coxed quads/fours, the coxing area is larger than in a racing boat, so almost anyone can fit in easily to cox. You can find out more about stable boats and suppliers here.

British Rowing/Charles Stanley stable boats for hire

Thanks to sponsorship by the investment management company Charles Stanley Wealth Management, there are two ‘packages’ of stables boats and trailers, which can be hired by clubs organising recreational rowing events such as tours and fun regattas.

Each package consists of a trailer with four stable coxed quads/fours (with sculling and sweep riggers) plus sculling and sweep oars.  These are located at Goring Gap BC on the Thames near Oxford and at Isle of Ely RC on the Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire.

Cost: £100 per day per package. Contact either club directly for more details.

Charles Stanley boats

Events for recreational rowers: Tours, leagues and challenges

Touring rowing

Rowing tours – from day trips to week-long expeditions – are a lot of fun, and a great way to explore a new waterway.  A tour can be as simple as a long outing up your own or another river (going through locks if necessary) or as complex taking a trailer load of boats abroad.

Every year there’s a British Rowing tour and also a World Rowing Tour. Various commercial organisations also run tours in Ireland, continental Europe and elsewhere.

Find out more about upcoming tours

Tour routes (British Rowing member login required)


Also known as Sunday Leagues and ‘splash and dash’ racing, these regionally-based, informal events involve short races or even skills challenges where several local clubs get together to have fun on the water. There are generally no statuses, men and women compete against each other, often in mixed crews, and both entry fees and prizes are modest. The cakes, however, are usually of championship standard.

There are currently well-established regional leagues on the Thames and in the North East and North West.

Find out more about leagues


Spice up your club-based sessions by organising occasional mini-regattas, involving relay racing or skills tests.

5 fun ways to take rec rowing further

crews in lock

Resources for recreational rowers and coaches

British Rowing Technique

Technique is a key aspect of a rower’s development, alongside physical and psychological development


From the difference between a quad and a four, to 'rigger jiggers' and 'rating', get up to speed with common rowing terms

What to Wear

You don’t need special or expensive sports kit when you’re getting started

Rowing Warm Up

It's important to warm up your muscles before any form of exercise as this reduces the risk of injury


Staying safe is all about taking care to avoid accidents

Club Coaching Assistant Training

The Club Coaching Assistant provides an entry level for you to get involved in supporting rowing activities at your club

Rower Development Guide

All about British Rowing’s interactive online tool for both coaches and rowers


The cox is responsible for the crew on the water, keeping a good lookout, steering the boat and issuing commands to the crew.

Leading a Rowing Tour

Touring rowing is a great alternative for getting out on the water, particularly if you enjoy rowing longer distances and seeing some beautiful scenery


Information about insurance cover for rowers, coxes, coaches, affiliated competitions and clubs

Learn to Row Course Outline

Learn to Row courses tend to use a basic ‘curriculum’ that is adjusted according to how participants progress. As a starting point, here is an outline for a typical six-session course.

Get Learn to Row course outline

Technical exercises

These exercises will help any rower to develop their technique and  row together as a crew.

Pauses/single strokes

How to do it: Pause at the same point in the recovery of each stroke e.g. at the finish position (with the blades out of the water and feathered), at hands away and bodies over, or at quarter slide.

The cox or steers calls ‘Go’ after each pause and you then take one stroke.

What it helps with: Hands/body/slide sequencing, timing.

Square blade rowing

How to do it: Row continuously with the blades square – don’t feather.

Variation: Alternate squaring and feathering (one stroke square, one feathered – aim to row the same finish whether you then feather or not).

What it helps with: Crew catch timing, clean extraction at the finish.

Slide build from backstops

How to do it: Start rowing arms only (may be easier at square blades), then add in body swing, then quarter slide, half slide, three-quarter slide and full slide.

What it helps with: Hands/body/slide sequencing for individuals and as a crew, timing, warming up.

See video below for how to do this from frontstops.

These videos show some static technical drills you can use to develop and test your skills.

Tap down and feather

This is a test of precision and balance. Tap the handles down and away from “backstops” to arms away. Your left hand needs to lead and the boat should balance. Try and keep your wrists flat!

Challenge: Do this three times in a row without the blades touching the water – in a single or as a crew.

Roll up and place

With the boat stationary, perform a clean and controlled recovery from backstops with feathered blades.

Challenge: Do this three times with the blades off the water and, if in crew, with ‘one catch’.

Sequencing from frontstops

Build the slide from frontstops starting with tapping the blades at the catch before driving on the legs.

After adding the hips, make the shoulders break the elbows and add the arm draw at the end, releasing with light hands.

Aim to do 5-10 successful strokes for each stage of the sequence.

Tip: keep the rating low and your posture tall.

Flat Hands

Take at least three normal strokes before sculling for at least 250m with completely flat hands as soon as possible after the extraction and feathering. You can keep your thumbs on the ends of your blades. Then close your hand up to square.

Tip: Make sure you have the correct grip before starting!

recreational rower in a stable scull

Recreational rowing contacts

You can find contact details for national and regional members of the British Rowing Recreational Rowing Committee here.

British Rowing’s Recreational Rowing lead is the Director of Membership and Community, who can be contacted at

Recreational Rowing Committee Terms of Reference

British Rowing’s Recreational Rowing strategy can be found here [insert link].

Recreational rowers in a fine coxed quad