“Mind your Backs” is a common call in rowing club buildings

It means watch out, someone is approaching from behind you and they’re probably carrying a long rowing boat which is about to hit you so get out of the way!


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Andover Crew carry a rowing boat

Top 3 tips for safe back care in rowing sheds

Lots of other places will tell you about how to be safe while rowing and how to protect your back from strain during exercise.

Space Saver Rowing Systems is focused on making the rowing boatshed a safe place for everyone to use and so our advice is about moving and lifting rowing boats and sculling oars.

Tip 1 – Have a strict protocol for carrying boats. 

This means every coxswain and athlete needs to always use the same words, the same instructions and the same way of lifting.  Every. Single. Time.

We had a strong fellow join our club from surf boat rowing and he liked to show off his strength by carrying a quad scull from the stern canvass – all on his own with the rest of us grouped at the other end of the boat.  This meant the load distribution was uneven as we went out of the boathouse and when we got to the lake shore we had to re-order our positions before putting the boat in the water.

A good lifting protocol

  • Distributes the load equally for all athletes
  • Means they don’t have to move position from picking the boat up on the rack to putting it into the water (and the reverse)
  • Allows clearances for getting past obstacles (other boats in the rack, the boathouse doors, trees, pontoon/dock access bridges)

Tip 2 – Bend your knees

Boathouses contain things which you’ll lift from floor level right up to high above your head.  Be aware of safe lifting technique for low, medium and high lifts.

If the thing you’re lifting is on the floor or low down, bend your knees so that you can maintain a strong posture before taking the load.   We lift with the legs not the back.

Tip 3 – No talking when carrying equipment

We all love a good natter and nobody more than rowers.  There’s always something to remark on.  But while you are talking, you are not paying attention to what you are lifting.  

To move boats and oars and coaching launches safely no talking means your full attention is on what you are doing.  Many times when my crew knocks another boat rigger or the bows hit the bay door, it’s because we are talking while moving the boat.  So don’t do it.  Silence is safe.  Getting hit in the back while you are moving a boat is easy to avoid.

carry rowing boat, how to carry a row boat, double and single,

Carry a small boat on the canvasses

rowing boat carry 8, girls carry a row boat

Carry an eight with four athletes at each end.

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Many hands make it easy to lift a heavy rowing boat for beginner novices.

Resources and further reading on safety while lifting rowing equipment