Ergometer rowing machines (colloquially ergs or ergo) simulate the rowing action and provide a means of training on land when waterborne training is restricted, and of measuring rowing fitness. Ergometers do not simulate the lateral balance challenges, the exact resistance of water, or the exact motions of true rowing including the sweep of the oar handles. For that reason ergometer scores are generally not used as the sole selection criterion for crews (colloquially "ergs don't float"), and technique training is limited to the basic body position and movements. However, this action can still allow a comparable workout to those experienced on the water.
A feature of the end of twentieth century rowing was the development of non-olympic multicrew racing boats, typically fixed seat-gigs, pilot boats and in Finland church- or longboats. The most usual craft in races held around the coasts of Britain during summer months is the Cornish pilot gig, most typically in the south-west, with crews of 6 from local towns and races of varying distances. The Cornish pilot gig was designed and built to ferry harbour and river pilots to and from ships in fierce coastal waters. The boat needed to be stable and fast with the large crew hence making it ideal for its modern racing usage. In Finland 14-oared churchboats race throughout the summer months, usually on lakes, and often with mixed crews. The largest gathering sees over 7000 rowers mainly rowing the 60 kilometres (37 mi) course at Sulkava near the eastern border over a long weekend in mid July. The weekend features the World Masters churchboat event which also includes a 2 kilometres (1.24 mi) dash.
Blades, otherwise known as oars to amateurs or non rowers, are used to propel the boat. They are long (sculling: 250–300 cm; sweep oar: 340–360 cm) poles with one flat end about 50 cm long and 25 cm wide, called the blade. Classic blades were made out of wood, but modern blades are made from more expensive and durable synthetic material, the most common being carbon fiber.
In sweep or sweep-oar rowing, each rower has one oar, held with both hands. This is generally done in pairs, fours, and eights. In some regions of the world, each rower in a sweep boat is referred to either as port or starboard, depending on which side of the boat the rower's oar extends to. In other regions, the port side is referred to as stroke side, and the starboard side as bow side; this applies even if the stroke oarsman is rowing on bow side and/or the bow oarsman on stroke side.