Finish and Release

The finish is the last part of the drive when the rower finishes accelerating of the boat; the release happens after the finish when the rower taps the blade out of the water.

Many people would argue that the finish and release are the most important parts of the stroke because:

  • rushing the finish to get ready for the next catch will minimize a rower’s ability to send the boat away effectively and will upset the balance of the boat
  • a poor release can cause the blade to act as an anchor or as a rudder, slowing the boat down and upsetting boat balance
  • the finish is key to a good recovery and a good catch

Body position and execution

You are ready to finish the stroke when your legs are fully extended and you are sitting up tall in the 11 o’clock position.

Below is a picture of a rower after finishing the stroke.

Image courtesy of concept2

To execute a perfect finish and release:

Just before the back finishes, draw your elbows straight back past your torso and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your outside arm should draw straight into your lower ribs to finish the work of the blade.

Tap down with the outside hand, the one furthest away from the oarlock, to extract the blade from the water. Note that this is a gentle tap down, not forceful.

To feather the blade, turn your inside hand toward your body. The tap down with the outside hand and feathering with the inside hand must be separate movements.

Stay in the layback position as the hands move away on the first part of the recovery (this will happen in a continuous motion without hesitation).

Key points

  • The early and middle parts of the drive create acceleration and momentum for a strong finish (acceleration creates space behind the blade and the water, also know as a pocket).
  • Maintain good posture and sit up tall as you draw the handle toward the body.
  • Maintain power behind the handle to continue accelerating the blade and to keep the pocket of water behind the blade. This will ensure a clean release.
  • Be sure to keep the handle high, versus pulling down into your lap, as you draw it in to ensure the blade stays buried and can send the boat away effectively.
  • Do not stop the oar with your body. You must keep the oar handle moving continuously.

Common mistakes

  • Lifting the shoulders during the drive – forces the blade to go deep and makes it difficult to get the blade out of the water.
  • Too much layback or lack of body control at the finish – makes it difficult to draw the oar in and extract the blade from the water. Also makes it difficult to feather the blade.
  • Feathering the blade when it is still in the water. Be careful that you are not throwing water as you extract the blade.
  • Washing out at the finish by pulling the oar handle down into the lap rather than straight in to the body.
  • Failing to apply force to the handle causes the puddle behind the blade to close up making it difficult to get the blade out of the water.
  • Rowers finishing at different times and with different handle heights will upset boat balance.


Drills to develop a good finish:

  • Blade placement drills in the finish position – tap the blade in and out of the water
  • Square blade rowing
  • On water or on the erg, practice the following:
    • lifting slightly at the catch to establish the proper handle height for the drive and finish
    • being attentive during the drive and finish to ensure that the hands follow a straight path from the handle position at the catch to a point on the body (usually the second rib), and
    • tapping down after the finish and moving the hands straight away in a fluid motion