Essential Drills for Blade Depth

By Marlene Royle

London, Great Britain, Blade splashes. Photo by Peter Spurrier.

I recently did a group lesson for intermediate scullers on improving blade depth to move the boat better. First, to get a sense of where the blade will sit naturally, I positioned them at the release. By keeping pressure against the oarlock, they had control of the handle, but allowed the blade to sit where it wanted to rest in the water. Then they lightly placed their fingers on the handle without disturbing the height in the water. Next we did a drill called “rowing in circles.” With one blade feathered flat on the water and the boat level, I had them row with one oar. This has the advantage of the letting the sculler see what the blade is doing in the water. As a reference of blade depth, I asked them to keep the top edge of the blade level with the surface of the water. Allowing the blades to sit in the water requires light hands. The “two-finger rowing” drill demonstrates how little effort you need to control the oar. Using regular hand placement while on the recovery, place the blades in the water. Once they find their depth, lift the middle, ring, and small fingers off the handles so you are drawing the handles with the thumb and index finger only. During this drill, it is difficult to “pull” so you automatically feel where the blade wants to sit.