Get Inspired: How to get into Rowing

Thanks to the success of one of the greatest-ever Olympians, Sir Steve Redgrave, and the world famous University Boat Race, rowing has a proud history within British sport.

The days when Redgrave and fellow knight Sir Matthew Pinsent ruled the waves may have passed but the sport in Great Britain has never been in better shape.

Get involved

Rowing is a diverse and all-embracing sport. You don't need to be an Olympic-standard athlete to get out and enjoy the United Kingdom's waterways. 

More than 55,000 people from 520 clubs in Britain now row at least once a week and there are around 300 rowing events a year across Britain.

For an annual membership fee which may vary between £35-£450 per annum, clubs will provide training programmes and the use of facilities and boats.

Most clubs will offer subsidised rates for juniors, students and social members. Free taster sessions at some clubs are also available.

They are a variety of ways to get into the sport, including fixed and sliding seat rowing for beginners of all ages - on rivers, lakes, canals and the coast. You can even row indoors  in gyms, schools, and sports clubs, or across oceans.

Similarly, there is a wide range of ways for people of all abilities to compete,  including personal challenges, ocean crossings, fundraisers, regattas and international competitions.

Anyone interested in taking part can contact their local club by using the British Rowing,  Rowing Ireland,  Scottish Rowing  and Welsh Rowing  club finders.

More on the British Rowing website 

Why is it good for you?

Rowing is a sport that requires huge strength and lung-busting stamina. For those competing at an elite level, the immense mental fortitude needed to cope with the punishing training regimes - pre-dawn starts, even on cold and dark winter days, are just part of the routine.

Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter

Rowing at the Olympics explained (Part one)

A large number of muscles are used for an extended period of time while rowing. The high volume of strokes performed will increase muscular endurance in your legs, back and arms.

Rowing also boosts coordination as it involves a complex series of movements from every limb, repeated in a controlled manner.

All of these components mean rowing is one of the most physically demanding sports on the Olympic programme, with approximately 650 calories burned per hour. This makes Redgrave's achievement of winning gold at five consecutive Games all the more amazing.

As rowing is often carried out in groups, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people. Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.


A form of transport since ancient times in Egypt, Greece and Rome, the sport of rowing probably began in England in the 17th and early 18th centuries, before the Oxford-Cambridge university boat race began in 1828.

Olympic rowing events

Men: Single sculls (M1x), pair (M2-), double sculls (M2x), lightweight double sculls (LM2x), four (M4-), lightweight four (LM4-), quadruple sculls (M4x), eight (M8+)

Women: Single sculls (W1x), pair (W2-), double sculls (W2x), lightweight double sculls (LW2x), quadruple sculls (W4x), eight (W8+)

The International Rowing Federation first organised a European Rowing Championship in 1893. An annual World Rowing Championship was introduced in 1962.

Rowing has been staged at every Olympic Games except Athens in 1896, when stormy seas caused it to be cancelled.

Women made their debut at the Games in 1976 in Montreal, while Atlanta 1996 marked the introduction of the lightweight events.

More on the IOC website 

Are you inspired to try Rowing? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on


Where Next?

Find a Tennis event, taster session or club near you.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.