Feathering and Squaring Properly – Sweep Rowing

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feathering and squaring the oar while rowing

Feathering and Squaring The Rowing Oar

This post is all about how feathering and squaring should be taught to rowers that need their technique corrected or established correctly in the first place. I’ve made a video to help supplement this post. I have found that a visual demonstration works best when I am explaining how to perform the correct movement pattern to other people. There are two major points that I am going to emphasize in this post.

  1. The inside hand (closest to the oarlock in a sweep boat) should perform the feathering and squaring.
  2. The outside wrist should be slightly above the oar handle (or at least flat) and should not take part in the feathering or squaring action.

The largest technical faults that novices tend to perform is the outside wrist breaking and becomes lower than the top of the oar handle during the recovery. The outside elbow is often in the wrong place and the extraction of the blade becomes even more difficult.

For More Novice Rowing Coaching Videos Please Visit My YouTube Channel

Some Helpful Tips

1.   When the inside arm/wrist feathers the blade the wrist will drop and the oar will “click” into the feathered position. When squaring the oar the inside wrist raises. The oar should “click” into place with the help of the oarlock once it is correctly squared.

2.   The oar handle rotates in the outside hand (furthest from the oarlock). It’s best to use the word “enclose” the oar handle when teaching handling the oar. The hand wraps around the oar handle without holding it too tight. Your use of terminology is important when teaching an athlete to row correctly. Terminology can have different meanings to other people. Another example of this is the word “finish” at the end of the stroke. A much better choice would be “release”. When the word “finish” is used, it creates a subconscious cue in the mind of the athlete that there is a pause at that part in the stroke.

Some Helpful Drills

3.   Purchase plastic cups that you can give to each rower to put on the end of the oar handle. The cups stop any feathering and squaring with the outside hand. This drill can help them think about the inside wrist doing the feathering and squaring action. To keep the wrist from breaking, use popsicle sticks taped to the back of the hand.

Side note: The first coach who taught me how to scull placed two-penny pieces on my wrists with sticky tape. The goal was to row the entire practice without the pennies from dropping off my wrists. This post is about sweep rowing. Keeping the wrists flat in sculling when feathering and squaring is also important.

4.  Perform some “outside arm only rowing” to help the athlete understand how to extract the blade by tapping down without the need for breaking the wrist. During the drill, the athlete’s hand is placed behind their back. You could also have the athlete pat their head once during the recovery with their inside hand. This adds a little fun to the drill and helps keep the athlete engaged in the practice.

5.   Row inside arm only as this can help your athletes understand that the inside hand/arm has a job and the outside has another.

6.   As the oar comes into the body, teach a rotation of the outside hand so that the wrist moves around the end of the oar and the rower can push down on the top of the oar handle to extract the blade.


This process of teaching the different roles of each hand/wrist/arm can help novices learn the correct movement patterns. This, in turn, will help the rowing stroke development in other areas such as blade preparation and extraction.

If you have any comments or suggestions on how I can improve this post, please let me know at neil@coachbergenroth.com.

Happy Feathering and Squaring!

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