The catch is the part of the stroke when the blade enters the water. A rower completes the catch by either lifting the handle slightly or by dropping/unweighing the handle – the handle will rise slightly and the blade will enter the water.

Be patient but decisive with the catch; bury the blade fully, just below the surface of the water, before you push with the legs. A smooth but sharp catch, quick but not rushed, will keep the boat’s speed and will allow for a powerful drive.

Many people would argue that the catch is the most important part of the stroke because a poor catch will upset the balance of the boat and will lead to a poor drive and finish.

Body position and execution

It is important to establish the forward body position early in the recovery and keep it as you slide forward on the seat. When you are just about finished the slide forward, you should be ready to drop the blade into the water.

Below is a picture of a rower in the catch position.

  • Arms and shoulders are relaxed but are extended forward (the blade will be just above the water)
  • Upper body is angled forward at the hips and is straight from the hips to the top of the head
  • Shins are at a 90 degree angle (maybe less with a shorter slide in a fixed seat boat)
  • In a fixed seat boat, you will be sitting on the front edge of the seat
Image courtesy of concept2

To execute a perfect catch:

During the recovery when you are just about finished your slide on the seat, unweigh the handle allowing it to rise up and allowing the blade to enter the water. Keep your shoulders and back steady, ensuring that you drop the blade when it is at the maximum angle to the boat.

Ensure that you drop the blade just under the surface of the water; there is no need to lift the handle to make it go deeper

Without changing your body angle, engage your core and push on the foot board immediately to lock the blade in the water.

Catch tips and key points

  • A good catch depends on a good recovery – you must establish the correct arm reach and body angle early so you are ready to drop the blade into the water.
  • During the recovery, square the blade early to ensure that it is square when you are ready to drop it into the water.
  • Let your hands do the work
    • light hands with little effort versus a tight grip and a forced effort
    • loose shoulders and arms
  • Feel as though you are catching the water when the boat is at its maximum speed.
  • Be quick but not rushed or too aggressive as this may cause the blade to go deep into the water.
  • Be sure to push with the legs after the blade is fully buried.
  • The hands never stop moving – they move smoothly toward the stern, rise gently for the catch, and move back toward the bow as soon as the legs drive against the footboard

Common mistakes

  • The cox may say that you are ‘skying’ the blade. ‘Skying’ happens when you lunge forward and or dip your hands down at the catch forcing the blade to go up in the air.
  • Slamming the the blade into the water aggressively.
  • Lifting the blade into the water with the shoulders and back instead of lifting with the arms only or unweighing the handle.
  • Failing to engage your core muscles when the blade is in the water, making it impossible to make a solid connection with the water.
  • ‘Rowing it in’ or ‘missing water’ meaning that you start your leg drive, and/or your back swing, before the blade is buried under the surface of the water.


Use the following drills to develop a good catch:

  • Blade placement drills in the catch position
  • Pause drills at arms away and body forward so that your body is in the forward position ready for the catch
  • Rowing in pairs and fours