Paddling VS Rowing

Table of Contents

1.Paddle VS Oar
2.Different Watercraft
3.Mechanism for Propelling
5.The Ways to Practice Rowing VS Paddling

Row, Row, Row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Wait, do you know what’s the difference between rowing and paddling? Well, for many people at the first glance who are unfamiliar with water sports would generally confuse these two kinds of sports and even thought they can be substituted for each other. In fact, it is semantically incorrect to say, for example, row a SUP. Now, let’s take a look at this blog which I will give you a complete explanation about the difference between rowing and paddling.

Paddle VS Oar

First and foremost, paddles are used in paddling while oars are used in rowing. A paddle with one blade is required when you go for paddling. It is a handheld tool used to propel a human-powered watercraft, for example, a stand-up paddle board, canoe and kayak. While oars as the implements for row-boats, sculls, or sweep-oar boats are exclusively used in pairs for rowing.

Paddling vs Rowing

In rowing the oar is connected to the vessel by means of either an oarlock, or a thole. The rower pulls on the short end of the oar, while the long end is in the water. By contrast, paddles, are held in both hands by the paddler, and are not attached to the vessel.

paddling vs rowing

It is flexible for paddlers to manoeuvre their crafts moving straight through the water by using just one single blade. On the other hand, rowers need two blades to keep a boat straight, one on each side of the boat to move the boat in a straight line.

paddliing vs rowing

Paddling VS Rowing Watercraft

Actually, rowing boats are narrower than Canadians and kayaks.

Second, the stability of a boat in water is mainly determined by the center of gravity (the lower the more stable) and the width (the wider the more stable). With long oars and a low center of gravity, large rowboats are the best in terms of stability. These boats are almost impossible to capsize.

paddling vs rowing

In order for the legs to function while paddling, the seats and paddles inside the rowing boat actually slide forward and backward, allowing the legs to push and apply force to the paddle. However, the seats in kayaks, canoes and rafts are fixed.

Paddlers go forwards while rowers travel backward

The most notable difference between padding and rowing is the mechanism used to propel the craft.

The great thing about paddling is that you face the way you are going which means the paddlers are always turned in the direction of travel, in other word, paddles propel boats in the same direction as the paddler is facing.

Whether you are canoeing, kayaking or stand-up paddle-boarding, you go forward. This way you don’t miss that important picnic spot.

Rowers, on the other hand, move back first through the water, that is you sit with your back to the direction of travel. Oars propel boats in the opposite direction from the way the rower is seated.

Paddling VS Rowing Muscles

While moving through the water as a paddler you will mostly use your upper torso and core.

Paddling strokes are driven by the paddler’s torso. Paddling uses slightly different muscles than rowing, with more emphasis on the core or abdominal. When paddling, the movement of the paddle is mainly a strain on the muscles of the upper body.

Unlike rowing, your legs aren’t primary drivers during a paddle stoke – even though they do play a secondary role as stabilizers. 

For example, as the seats in kayaks and canoes are fixed, a more active paddling style is also possible here, but is much more demanding. With narrow kayaks, active leg use increases the chance of the boat capsizing.

On the orther hand, the stroke of a rower is different. Rowers will mostly use their legs and arms to propel themselves through the water. The rowing stroke is mainly a function of the legs and arms.

In order to facilitate the cooperation of the legs, the seats in rowing boats can slide back and forth. In this way, the strength of the strong leg muscles can be converted into even more powerful rowing strokes.

One advantage of this design is that the leg muscles are very durable and can hold out for a long time before they become weak. This is a consequence of the fact that we constantly train the leg muscles while walking and running.


In some practices and competitions, there is what is known as the coxswain.

This person sits with his back to the direction of travel and he is the only person in the boat who is facing the direction of travel.

Unlike the rowers, the helmsman does not row. Instead, this person is in charge of steering the boat and keeping the timing of the members of the crew.

Of course, in canoeing and kayaking, there is no such member as in crew. If there is no helmsman, the rear-seated rower takes over the steering by means of a foot control.

paddling water sports

The Ways to Practice Rowing VS Paddling

Nowadays, many people no longer row on water, but use a rowing machine to specifically train the muscle groups they use.

You can practice rowing in your home or in a gym on a rowing trainer. The motion is like that of a stationary rowing machine you’d find at the gym.

Rowing machines are an excellent way to improve your strength and rowing technique when you can’t make it to the water. With a rowing machine you are also independent of the weather and the season. 

For paddling sports such as stand-up paddling, kayaking, and canoeing, there are no paddling trainer, and there is no way to effectively practice paddling at home.

Paddling can't be done comfortably in a gym. Paddling sports such as canoeing, especially standing paddling, are more popular among the general public.

For the average athlete, paddling is much more accessible than rowing, where most of the activity takes place in clubs. There’s no equivalent to the rowing machine for paddling, so you’ll need to either hit the water or work on your paddling muscles in the gym.

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