Should an American rower find him/herself in Deutschland


Ready to back it, boys?

You may or may not be planning a trip to Germany, but if you are, and you row, you may find this helpful.

They do things differently here, little things every step of the way. The rowing itself is pretty much the same – I’d have to say their stroke is the easiest thing to match here. It’s just the negotiating around the boathouse, getting the boat to and off the dock, and the little things they do in between rowing, that’s slightly different from what we do back home.

Here are the terms and commands I can remember (spelling not to be trusted):

Steuerbord = starboard
Backbord = port
“Steuerbord uber” = Harder starboard (command)
“Backbord uber” = Harder port (command)
“Dri bek” = Even pressure (sounds like “dry veck”)
Schlagfrau/Schlagmann = Stroke seat (female/male)
Steuerfrau/Steuermann = Coxswain (female/male)
Steueren = to bow the boat

Ein Schlag = A stroke (as in, to take a stroke)
Schlag auf bau = Stroke progression drill (arms only, then add back, then 1/4 stroke, then 1/2, etc)
Ruhe = Smooth
Wanderrudern = Long-distance, sightseeing rows; may involve “rucksacks” loaded in the bow
Die (der? das?) Dolle = oarlock
Rolle sitze = Seat (literally rolling seat)
Die Auslager = rigger
“In die auslager” = Sit ready, ready all (literally, to the rigger) — sit at the catch
“In die rutlager” = Sit ready, ready all — sit at the finish
“Und Los” = And row (command)
“Schnelle handen” = Quick hands away
“Ruderren halt” = Way enough (literally, “Rowers, stop”)

Ways they row differently:

  • They push the boat off the dock while standing, then pull their foot in over the water as they’re drifting away from the dock.
  • They sometimes sit at the catch, not the finish, when they’re ready to row. Their oars are flat, and then they do a flip catch and pull through at “Und Los.” Depends on your coxswain how they start.
  • They use their full slide when they are spinning the boat. (Starboards back, ports row…) Every one of these first three things seem to make the boat more unstable.
  • They don’t seem to have any coaches. They never make comments about the row, how it’s going, or what we should think about before, during or after the row. There are no compliments, no complaints, no thank-you’s to the bow (although I still thank them for bowing, and thank them for the row, and they look at me like I’m odd), and there are no particular workouts. It’s just row far, rest, row back. It’s seventeen kilometers on the weekends and thirteen kilometers on weekday evenings. Even their short rows are longer than our typical longest back home, but it’s all steady state. They rarely do pieces unless training for a regatta. I have yet to see a stroke coach.
  • They have a lot of wooden “gig” boats that are for novices, casual rowers, and “wanderrudern” (sightseeing rows that may involve overnight camping). But sometimes they race them too.
  • They have boats for odd numbers of rowers, such as a 3x, 5x, 6x and 8x. Also the occasional single plus coxswain, also known as the wedding single.
  • They start their kids young. Yesterday I saw a quad full of 9-year-old boys, with coxswain, and a coach’s launch right alongside them. The stroke seemed to be frustrated and tired, talking back to the coach. My rowing partner commented, “The young ones never look happy.”

Not sure why they do these things:

  • They launch stern-first at the dock, and then they have to BACK their boats all the way through the docked sailboats that line the sides of their launching area. It’s a long way to back it, and my forearms get totally sore by the time we reach the open lake.
  • They carry a double like a quad, from the ends of the riggers, rather than toward the ends of the boat. It seems so much more awkward to me, but then again it takes advantage of their racks that roll out, so you don’t have to reach so far over the other boats to get them.
  • They hose off the outsides of their boats after every row. But then they don’t dry them thoroughly with towels, so the lake grime is still there.
  • They don’t flip their boats and wipe out the slides, so the insides of their white boats are a bit grubby.
  • I don’t think they have a commodore who announces Work Days when everyone shows up and cleans all the boats out. We’d have these boats gleaming.
  • Locker room windows without curtains.
  • No separate shower stalls or curtains.
  • Separate bathrooms for “Die Madchen” and “Die Damen” (as well as for boys and men) – but no showers in the girls’ bathroom, so they shower in the open area with the women anyway.

Things they do that are the same:

  • The standing around before figuring out boatings.
  • The grumbling about who got the better boat.
  • The computer that worked one day to sign out boats, and then hasn’t worked since, and it’s back to a paper log.
  • The interest in coffee after morning rows.
  • The interest in beer after evening rows.
  • The love of being outside and on the water. “Ah, die Sonne!” sighed my bow yesterday, when the sun finally came out around the last bend, the first time we’d seen it all day.
  • The appreciation of a good row. They may not say anything, but they get that contented glow on their faces after a good row, and you know you were part of making that happen, and you feel more relaxed than you were beforehand, a bit tired yet energized, and you go home happy.

7 thoughts on “Should an American rower find him/herself in Deutschland

  1. Eileen Bloodgood Maler

    We miss you, Jill! My quad members had that glow on their face this am and one member even said it was the best boat she’d been in — I felt so awesome that I was part of her “best boat;” also, her comment made up for the fact that the coach mentioned my name a bit too often….and not in a good way. Still, I can feel myself getting better, which is a good thing.

    1. Jill M. Post author

      Awesome, Eileen! It’s so great when one of your boatmates says something great about the row. Hopefully whatever you heard from the coach was helpful! All the best to you.

  2. Heidi

    I love your observations Jill! Reminds me of the time when I came back from MN and people at the boathouse were just doing things differently. The commans when carrying boats and the launching and starting are what got me. Really odd to start rowing like this. 😉 But I guess MRC just has its ways too! Not sure about all of these commands – I am a native speaker but some of them I can’t figure out either. I guess I started to row in English back then in Seattle! If you ever make it to Austria during your year in Deutschland, let me know and I can take you rowing on Wörthersee! 🙂

  3. Kristina

    Ahh the push off while standing. I remember Ann Schley tried teaching us to do that once. Good in theory. Not so good in execution:)

  4. Maarja

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I’m spending part of my sabbatical in Berlin, away from the UK (where I learnt to row), and found it incredibly helpful that I had read your blog before my first outing here last weekend. They definitely do things differently in Germany 🙂

    1. Jill M. Post author

      Maarja, so glad you found this helpful! I enjoyed writing it down, and I’m glad it came in handy for you. Happy rowing and have fun in Berlin!


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