Rowing Tip: Set Your Oars So You Can Touch Thumbs

By Kirk Deeter

Believe it or not, I’ve been asked this question several times, so I’ll throw out my answer and then invite others to chime in with their own.

“If you’re rowing a raft, how close—or how far apart—should your oars be? Where should you set them in the oarlocks?”

If I grip the oars at their very ends, and then stick out my thumbs, my thumbs should just barely be able to touch. That’s where I like my oars set.

Why? I’m a big believer in making many short corrections as I navigate rapids, and I like my hands close to my chest, where I can stay compact and balanced, without my arms wide open and waiving around. It’s a lot more work when you’re reaching way out there than it is making rabbit punches in close. I don’t like my blades to dig too deep (unless I am rowing through frog water) and I like having the leverage well inside the gunwales. And that’s just how I’ve always felt comfortable.

I know it also depends on the type of boat, and the type of water you run. I usually run the Upper Colorado or the Yampa, and I have a Boulder Boat Works Pro Guide High Side dory. I know plenty of people who don’t like their hands hitting their chest, and they like being able to make longer strokes, so they set their oars much further apart than I do.

Interested in other opinions…

Kirk Deeter is the Vice President of Trout Media and editor of TROUT magazine.

By Brett Prettyman.