The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Rowing Oar

Welcome to our ultimate guide on buying a rowing oar! As your trusted source of all things rowing, we’re here to help you navigate this crucial aspect of the sport.

We understand that choosing the right oar can make a world of difference in your rowing experience – it’s not just about moving through water, it’s about control, precision, and finding that perfect rhythm that makes you one with the boat.

Whether you’re a seasoned rower looking to upgrade your gear, or a beginner just getting started, this guide is designed to provide you with all the insights and information you need.

We’ve poured our expert knowledge into these pages, breaking down everything from the different types of oars, choosing the right size, to understanding the key features you should look out for.

So, let’s get started. With our support and your determination, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision and take your rowing journey to the next level. Remember, every great rowing story begins with the right oar. Let yours start here.


Understanding Rowing Oars

Rowing oars are an essential tool in the sport of rowing, whether you’re a competitive athlete or a leisurely rower. They serve as your connection to the water, enabling you to propel your boat forward with each stroke. In essence, they act as extensions of your arms, amplifying your strength and converting it into motion.

A rowing oar is comprised of three main parts: the blade, the shaft, and the grip. The blade is the broad, flat part of the oar that enters the water and pushes against it, creating the force that moves the boat.

The shaft is the long, slender part of the oar that connects the blade to the grip. It’s designed to be lightweight yet strong, capable of withstanding the forces exerted during rowing.

The grip is where the rower holds the oar. It’s typically made of a material that provides a secure hold, reducing the chance of the oar slipping from the rower’s hands.

The design of rowing oars has evolved significantly over the centuries. Ancient oars were simple, solid pieces of wood. As our understanding of physics and materials science has grown, so too has the sophistication of oar design.

Today’s oars are carefully engineered for optimum performance, using materials like carbon fibre for strength and lightness. Blade shapes have also been refined, with various designs offering different performance characteristics.

Types of Rowing Oars

As you delve deeper into the world of rowing, you’ll discover that not all oars are created equal. In fact, there are two primary types of oars used in rowing: sweep oars and sculling oars. Each type has its own unique design, purpose, and technique.

Sweep Oars

Used in sweep rowing, where each rower handles one oar, sweep oars are longer, typically ranging from 12 to 13 feet. The rowers sit side by side, alternating between port (left) and starboard (right), which requires a high level of coordination and teamwork.

Pros: Sweep rowing can be highly rewarding, as it fosters a strong sense of camaraderie and teamwork. There’s something truly exhilarating about moving in perfect sync with your crewmates, each stroke propelling the boat forward.

Cons: The downside is that it can be more challenging to learn, as it requires a high level of synchronization with the other rowers. It’s also less flexible than sculling, as you can’t row a sweep boat alone.

Sculling Oars

In contrast, sculling oars are used when each rower handles two oars, one in each hand. They’re shorter, typically about 9 to 10 feet long. This allows for a faster stroke rate due to the shorter length and lighter weight.

Pros: Sculling offers more flexibility, as you can do it alone or in a crew. It’s also generally easier to learn, as you only need to coordinate your own movements, not those of an entire team.

Cons: While sculling may be more accessible for beginners, mastering the simultaneous control of two oars can be quite challenging. It also requires greater physical strength and endurance, as you’re effectively doing the work of two oars.

Choosing The Right Size

Much like selecting the right pair of shoes, choosing the correct size of your rowing oar is a critical part of ensuring an enjoyable and effective rowing experience. The size of your oar can significantly influence your rowing technique, the amount of power you can transfer to the water, and ultimately, your performance on the water.

An oar that’s too long may make your strokes unwieldy and inefficient, while one that’s too short might not allow you to reach far enough into the water with each stroke. This could lead to less force being applied to the water, resulting in slower boat speed.

So, how do you find the ‘Goldilocks’ size – the one that’s just right?

Firstly, consider the size of your boat. Larger boats typically require longer oars, as they sit higher above the water. Conversely, smaller boats are closer to the water’s surface and therefore need shorter oars.

Secondly, factor in your own height. Taller rowers generally have a longer reach and can handle longer oars more comfortably. On the other hand, shorter rowers may find shorter oars easier to manage.

A basic rule of thumb to get you started is the “one-third, two-thirds” rule. This suggests that when your oar blade is fully buried in the water during a stroke, about one-third of the oar should be inside the boat (from the button to the handle), and two-thirds outside (from the button to the tip of the blade).

Key Features to Look Out For

Choosing the perfect rowing oar isn’t just about size. There are several key features that can significantly impact both your performance and comfort on the water. Let’s delve into these aspects, which include material, weight, flexibility, and blade shape.


The material of your oar plays a crucial role in its performance. Traditional wooden oars offer a classic feel and aesthetic but may be heavier than modern alternatives. Today, many competitive rowers opt for carbon fiber oars due to their strength and lightness. They’re durable, resistant to weather conditions, and allow for a faster, more efficient stroke.


An oar’s weight can affect your stamina and rowing technique. Lighter oars are generally easier to handle, especially over long distances or durations. However, they should still have enough weight to feel stable and balanced in your hands. Remember, an oar that feels too light might lack the ‘heft’ needed to drive through the water effectively.


Oar flexibility comes down to personal preference and rowing style. A stiffer oar provides direct feedback and can be beneficial for powerful, aggressive rowers. In contrast, a more flexible oar can absorb some of the strain and reduce the shock transmitted to the rower’s hands and arms, providing a smoother, gentler rowing experience.

Blade Shape

Lastly, the shape of the oar blade can influence how the oar interacts with the water. There are two main types: Macon blades (more rounded) and Cleaver or Hatchet blades (more rectangular). Cleaver blades are popular among competitive rowers due to their larger surface area and increased efficiency. On the other hand, Macon blades are often favored by beginners for their stability and ease of use.

Maintaining Your Rowing Oars

Just like any valuable piece of equipment, rowing oars require regular care and maintenance to keep them in top-notch condition. With the right care, you can extend the lifespan of your oars, ensuring they continue to perform at their best for many rowing sessions to come. Here are some expert tips on maintaining your rowing oars:

Clean Regularly

After each use, make it a habit to clean your oars. Salt, dirt, and other residues can wear down the materials over time, so a quick rinse with fresh water can go a long way in preserving your oars. For stubborn dirt, use a soft brush and mild soap.

Inspect for Damage

Regularly inspect your oars for any signs of damage or wear. Look out for cracks, chips, or any loose parts. Address these issues immediately to prevent them from worsening. Remember, it’s much easier (and often cheaper) to fix a small problem now than a big one later.

Store Properly

When not in use, store your oars in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Excessive heat and UV rays can degrade the materials over time. Ideally, hang them horizontally off the ground to prevent any warping or bending.

Regularly Lubricate

The collars and sleeves of your oars may benefit from occasional lubrication. This helps to reduce friction and wear when adjusting the oar length or during the rowing motion. Use a silicone-based lubricant, but avoid petroleum-based products as they can degrade certain types of plastic over time.

Rotate Your Oars

If you have more than one pair of oars, consider rotating their use. This can help to evenly distribute wear and tear and could extend the overall lifespan of your oars.

Remember, well-maintained rowing oars not only last longer, but they also provide a better rowing experience. So take the time to care for your oars – your future self (and your performance on the water) will thank you!


We’ve journeyed through the intricate world of rowing oars, exploring the importance of choosing the right size, understanding key features like material, weight, flexibility, and blade shape, and learning how to maintain your oars for prolonged use.

Remember, the right size of an oar is crucial for efficient rowing. Consider not only your height but also the size of your boat. Key features such as the oar’s material and weight can significantly affect your performance and comfort.

The flexibility of the oar should match your rowing style, and the blade shape can influence how the oar interacts with the water.

Moreover, don’t forget that regular maintenance and proper storage can significantly extend the lifespan of your oars. Regular cleaning, inspection for damage, lubrication, and rotation of use, if possible, are all parts of a good maintenance routine.

Armed with this knowledge, you can now decide when purchasing your rowing oars. Remember, the perfect oar is one that not only enhances your performance but also makes every rowing session an enjoyable experience.

So go ahead, take this wisdom to the waters and may your rowing adventures be fulfilling and rewarding!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I choose an oar?

Choosing an oar involves considering various factors, including the length of the oar, your height, the size of the boat, and your personal rowing style. You’ll also need to think about the material, weight, flexibility, and blade shape of the oar. All these factors can significantly affect your performance and comfort while rowing.

2. What length of oars do I need?

The length of the oars you need largely depends on the width of your boat. As a general rule, the oar length should be about twice the width of your boat at the oarlocks. However, this can vary depending on your height and rowing style.

3. What size oars for a 12-foot rowboat?

For a 12-foot rowboat, the recommended oar length is usually around 7 feet. This is based on the general rule of thumb mentioned above – that the oar length should be about twice the half-width (beam) of your boat. However, this can vary, so it’s always good to check with the manufacturer or an experienced rower.

4. What are the different types of rowing oars?

There are several types of rowing oars, each with its own unique features. The most common types include sweep oars (used in pairs, one per rower), sculling oars (used singularly, two per rower), and traditional wooden oars. The blade shapes can also vary, with the two main types being Macon (more rounded) and Cleaver or Hatchet (more rectangular). The choice between these depends on your rowing style, experience, and personal preference.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to rowing oars. It’s about finding the perfect balance that suits your specific needs and preferences.

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