There are two types of boats or shells used in rowing, sweep boats and sculling boats. In sweep rowing, each rower uses only one oar. In sculling, the rower used two smaller oars, or sculls. Sweep boats can have two, four, or eight rowers. Sculling boats have one, two, or four rowers. That is the textbook definition. But how do you decide which type of rowing is better for you?
Sculling offers flexibility — the flexibility of being in a boat with other people or alone. The flexibility of being able to row whenever you want. The boats for single rowers are small enough to be able to get down to the water by yourself, thus making rowing accessible at any time of the day. Sculling also has a symmetry to it — two oars in two hands moving simultaneously. You can add one partner and go out in a double, still maintaining the flexibility but adding a social aspect. Or you can row in a four person sculling boat, known as a quad. If you need the flexibility in your rowing schedule, like the symmetry of sculling and being alone or with a few other people sounds good, then sculling is for you.
In sweep rowing each rower has a single oar, so you must have other people in the boat with you. The most commonly used boats are fours and eights, so you need to have enough rowers to fill the boat. Sweep rowing is a team undertaking; you are surrounded by other people, all working in perfect sync to make the boat move fast. Sweep boats are steered by a coxswain, who sits facing forward.
The dependency on other rowers and the coxswain, however, makes scheduling a little less flexible and requires an organized class or team. If you enjoy being a part of a team, if you like the camaraderie of being in a boat with eight people, if the class schedule meets your needs, then sweep rowing is for you.
Best Of Both Worlds
Of course, you can always learn to row both sculling and sweep over time. Some rowers will row sweep two or three days a week in a class and then scull during the off days. Sammamish Rowing provides an environment that allows you to easily try all the options!