The overall rowing experience encompasses pulley, seat, and — of course — resistance. Air and water have very distinct qualities, making them impossible to compare but interesting to contrast. Air stores inertia, which feeds into intense, constant effort during a goal-oriented workout. Water’s more sluggish drag makes for demanding exercise, but one that’s less consistent.
Most races that are held in the spring and summer feature side by side racing, or sprint racing, sometimes called a regatta; all the boats start at the same time from a stationary position and the winner is the boat that crosses the finish line first. The number of boats in a race typically varies between two (which is sometimes referred to as a dual race) to eight, but any number of boats can start together if the course is wide enough.
Single, and double sculls are usually steered by the scullers pulling harder on one side or the other. In other boats, there is a rudder, controlled by the coxswain, if present, or by one of the crew. In the latter case, the rudder cable is attached to the toe of one of his shoes which can pivot about the ball of the foot, moving the cable left or right. The bowman may steer since he has the best vision when looking over his shoulder. On straighter courses, the strokesman may steer, since he can point the stern of the boat at some landmark at the start of the course. On international courses, landmarks for the steersmen, consisting of two aligned poles, may be provided.
Rowing is a low impact sport with movement only in defined ranges, so twist and sprain injuries are rare. However, the repetitive rowing action can put strain on knee joints, the spine and the tendons of the forearm, and inflammation of these are the most common rowing injuries. If one rows with poor technique, especially rowing with a curved rather than straight back, other injuries may surface, including back pains. Blisters occur for almost all rowers, especially in the beginning of one's rowing career, as every stroke puts pressure on the hands, though rowing frequently tends to harden hands and generate protective calluses. Holding the oars too tightly or making adjustments to technique may cause recurring or new blisters, as it is common to feather the blade (previously described). Another common injury is getting "track bites", thin cuts on the back of one's calf or thigh caused by contact with the seat tracks at either end of the stroke.
Most people who are new to the sport of rowing have difficulty achieving low strokes rates while trying to obtain their desired intensity – there are many comments such as “it does not feel hard enough?” or “how can I make it harder?” Rowing is about ratio and rhythm and you need to focus on a long stroke length and a powerful drive phase (push with the legs and pull with the arms). Give yourself time to learn this, it can take a few weeks before you start to feel the intensity at low stroke rates.
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.