Chicago River Rowing and Paddling Glossary
© 2001-2014

Canoe - A human-powered watercraft for flatwater (calm water) or whitewater (rapids and rough water.) Can be open or decked. The paddler kneels or sits and uses a single bladed paddle to propel the boat.

Crew - The term used to describe the team or group of persons rowing in a multi-person sculling or sweep-rowing boat (shell). Sometimes misapplied (as “crewing”) to refer erroneously to the sport of rowing.

Coxswain - In sweep rowing, the person who sits in the stern of the rowing shell facing the rowers, or who lies down in the bow of the rowing shell facing away from the rowers, to assist in steering the boat and to direct and motivate the crew to follow a training regimen or race plan in competition.

Kayak - A small, maneuverable, human-powered, watercraft of Eskimo origin. The paddler sits with legs outstretched and uses a double-bladed paddle to propel the boat. The boat is narrow with an oval cockpit typically covered by a spray skirt; although there are open deck models with self-bailing outlets to release water from the boat's surface.

Paddling - Refers to the sports of both canoeing and kayaking, where each person sitting in the watercraft has a single paddle. Canoes and kayaks can be single or multi-person craft.

Rowing Shell - The generic name for boats that are utilized in the modern sport of “rowing,” which consists of “sculling” and “sweep-rowing.” The type of boat utilized in each type of rowing is named according to the number of rowers sitting in the rowing shell.

  • Rowing shells used in sculling are called: 1x or single (1 rower), 2x or double (2 rowers) and 4x or quad (4 rowers).
  • Rowing shells used in sweep-rowing are called: 2 or pair (2 rowers), 4 or four (4 rowers) and 8 or eight (8 rowers). There are no single person rowing shells in sweep rowing. Sweep boats may or may not have an additional person, a coxswain. Only eights always have a coxswain, without exception. Sculling boats generally do not have a coxswain.

Sculling - The type of rowing where each person rows with two oars (one in each hand) simultaneously, on both the port and starboard sides of the rowing shell.

Sweep Rowing - The type of rowing where each person rows with one oar (held in both hands), on either the port side or starboard side of the rowing shell.