Checking it down vs. backing it

I got a question this afternoon asking me to “do a post on checking vs. backing, what each one is used for and when it comes in handy”. Just to clarify, checking and backing are two totally different things, each with their own specific purposes. Checking and holding are similar though, both of which I discussed in the post linked below.

Related: I was wondering what the difference is between checking it and holding water. I think checking it is just once side and everybody holds water? But I’m not sure. and then also what do you think is the easiest way to turn around? I usually have my stern or bow four row with ports backing. Is that pretty standard would you say? Thank you again so so so so so much.

Checking it down

Purpose: To slow down and/or stop the boat

When to use it: When you’re about to hit something, to stop the boat before turning, to stop the boat after a drill/piece, etc.

How to do it: While you’re still moving, all eight rowers will square the blades and bury them in the water. You can also lightly check it by burying the blades halfway.

Call: “All eight, check it down.” Tone of voice is key here. If you’re about to hit someone/something, your voice should impart an immediate sense of urgency in the rowers.

Backing it

Purpose: To physically move the boat backwards or help in turning the boat around

When to use it: When backing into stake boats at the starting line, when spinning the boat, etc.

How to do it: Instead of pulling the handle towards you, you’ll push it away from you with the blade fully buried in the water. This is just an arms or arms + body motion too – the legs are not involved.

Call: When backing into stake boats, say “Stern 4, back it … ready, row.” When spinning the boat, “starboards row, ports back, ready, row.” Stern pair/stern 4 is typically who backs the boat, never bow 4.



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