How to select row boat oars

Written by sarah hulslander
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How to select row boat oars
Row boating is a pleasurable activity that requires selecting a fine set of oars. (Andreas Brandt/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Row boats are long, slender, buoyant water vessels, ranging from 12- to 17-feet long, that are powered exclusively by rowing with oars (Reference 1). Boats longer than 14 feet have two oar positions, which permits two rowers to participate in tandem rowing or to take turns powering the boat (Reference 1). It is important to pick row boat oars that fit you, your row boat and your planned activity level.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Decide what length your oars need to be (Reference 1 and 2). The length of your oars greatly depends on the length of your boat and the condition of the water that you intend to row in (Reference 4). For shorter boats, closer to the 12-foot range, choose a pair of oars around 7-feet long (Reference 4). For longer boats, select oars that are 7 1/2- to 8-feet long (Reference 4). If you will be row boating in congested, close-quarter areas or in choppy waters, it is better to use shorter oars (Reference 4).

  2. 2

    Choose the wood that you want for your oars (Reference 2). Row boat oars are generally made out of spruce or ash (Reference 2). For all-purpose row boats in a normal range of water conditions, oars made of light spruce wood is best (Reference 2). However, if your boat is very heavy or you plan to participate in more strenuous activities, like drift boating and row boat racing, ash oars are a wise choice (Reference 2).

  3. 3

    Select the type of oar blade that best fit your boat and the conditions of your planned boating waters. Flat blade oars are excellent for average boat lengths and water conditions. Flat blade oars are available in standard or narrow blade size; narrow blades are good for longer oars so that the oars will not be as heavy. Spoon oars are very efficient and work well in rough waters. Wide spoon blade oars also prove more efficient that other oar blade types (Reference 2).

  4. 4

    Decide if you want inlaid tips for your oars. Inlaid tips provide more strength and durability for your oars, which you may need if you will be rowing in rocky areas or in waters that conceal hard or sharp obstacles (Reference 3). Inlaid tips also add the beauty of contrasting woods to rowing oars. Cherry, walnut or mahogany are commonly used for inlaid oar tips.

  5. 5

    Select a grip style for your oars. Oar grips generally come in two shapes: tapered, best for longer oars; and barrel, excellent for short oars (Reference 4).Very long oars that are 10 feet or longer are often available in a double grip, which allows you to use both hands to row a single oar (Reference 2).

Tips and warnings

  • Always wear a life vest and let another person know your boating location and schedule (Reference 2).

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