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Row Boat Types: Traditional vs. Modern Designs

Row Boat Types: Traditional vs. Modern Designs

Rowing is an excellent exercise that provides numerous health benefits and is a fun activity enjoyed by many. There are different types of row boats, and choosing the right one for your needs is crucial to maximizing your enjoyment on the water. In this article, we’ll discuss the different row boat types, their unique features, and what they’re best suited for.

What is a Row Boat

A rowboat is a boat that has oars and rows instead of using an engine or motor. These boats are used for fishing, hunting, racing, water skiing, and other activities. A rowboat is made of wood and has an aluminum or wooden frame. The outside is covered with fiberglass, plastic, or canvas. Fiberglass is a type of hard plastic that resists

Depending on what you’re looking for, there are a few different types of rowing boats. For example, there’s the racing shell, which is designed for speed and low impact. Then there’s the touring boat, which is perfect for leisurely activities and can handle a variety of water surfaces. Finally, if you want to do some fishing or take the dog out for a row, consider getting a flat-bottom row boat–they’re versatile and easy to operate.

row boat types

History of Row Boats

For centuries, rowboats have been used for transportation, fishing, and leisure activities. The history of row boats can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where they were used for transportation and trade along the Nile River.

In ancient Greece and Rome, row boats were used for transportation, military purposes, and recreation. They were often adorned with elaborate decorations and used in competitions and races.

During the Middle Ages, row boats were used for fishing, transportation, and trade throughout Europe. They were often made from wood and were powered by oars or sails.

In the 19th century, row boats became popular among wealthy individuals for leisure activities such as rowing and picnicking. They were often decorated with intricate designs and used in regattas and races.

The invention of the steam engine in the 19th century led to the development of steam-powered row boats used for transportation and trade along rivers and canals.

In the 20th century, row boats became more accessible to the general public by introducing fiberglass and other lightweight materials. Today, row boats are used for various purposes, including fishing, recreation, and competitive rowing.

Old Row Boat on Beach in Italy

Types of Row Boats

1. Recreational Row Boats

Classic Row Boats

Classic row boats are elegant, traditional boats with a timeless design that never goes out of style. These boats are usually made of wood, and their construction involves a lot of handiwork, which makes them quite expensive. Classic row boats are not designed for speed or racing; they are perfect for leisurely rowing in calm waters. They are suitable for couples or small groups and are ideal for romantic outings or sunset cruises.


Dinghies are small, lightweight boats that can be rowed or propelled with an outboard motor. They are ideal for short trips and are perfect for beginners. Dinghies are easy to maneuver and can be used for fishing, exploring, or just enjoying the scenery. They are also great for children to learn rowing and can be towed behind a larger boat.


Skiffs are flat-bottomed boats with a pointed bow and stern, making them ideal for fishing in shallow waters. They are designed for stability and carry much gear, making them perfect for fishing trips or exploring small bays and estuaries. Skiffs can be rowed or powered by an outboard motor, making them versatile.

Single Person Shells (Single Scull)

2. Racing Row Boats

Sculling Boats

Sculling boats are designed for racing and have two oars per rower. They are long, narrow, with a pointed bow and stern, and lightweight for maximum speed. Sculling boats can be used for both single-person and team racing and are prevalent in high school and collegiate rowing competitions.

Sweep Boats

Sweep boats are designed for team racing and have one oar per rower. They are longer than sculling boats and can carry more rowers, making them ideal for team competitions. Sweep boats have a coxswain who steers the boat and provides motivation for the rowers.

Double Person Shells (Double Scull)

3. Fishing Row Boats

Fishing row boats are designed for anglers and have features such as rod holders, built-in coolers, and live wells for bait. They are usually wider and more stable than other row boats, making them ideal for casting and reeling in fish. Oars or an outboard motor can propel fishing row boats and are suitable for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

Men on a rowboat during fishing trip

4. Touring Row Boats

Expedition Row Boats

Expedition row boats are designed for long-distance rowing and can carry a lot of gear. They are usually made of lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and are streamlined for maximum efficiency. Expedition row boats are ideal for adventurers who want to explore vast water bodies such as lakes and rivers or even cross oceans.

Folding Row Boats

Folding row boats are portable boats that can be easily transported in a car trunk or backpack. They are made of lightweight materials such as aluminum or PVC and can be assembled quickly. Folding row boats are ideal for travelers who want to explore new waterways but do not have the space or means to transport a traditional row boat.

Recreational Touring Boats

Recreational touring boats are versatile boats designed for exploring various water bodies. They are wider and more stable than expedition row boats, making them perfect for casual outings with friends and family. Recreational touring boats are often made of fiberglass or plastic and can be propelled by oars or an outboard motor.

Girl wearing active wear clothes and a warm sweater in a wooden rowboat on Lago di Braies /

Safety Tips on a Rowboat

When you’re on a row boat, follow these safety tips :

  • Always wear a life jacket. They’re accommodating if you fall overboard because they’ll keep your head above water.
  • Ensure the boat is in good condition before going out on it.
  • Ensure you know how to swim before going out on a row boat. If the boat capsizes, ensure you can get back into it or stay afloat until someone comes to help you.
  • Never go out on the boat if it’s too windy.
  • If you take a row boat out in the middle of the lake, ensure no rocks or other boats are in the way.
  • If you’re going out on a row boat for an extended time, make sure that there is enough food and water with you.
  • Make sure the life jackets are correctly fitted.
  • Make sure that someone can always swim in the boat with you if you don’t know how to swim.
  • Make sure you know how to row before going out in a rowboat.
  • If you’re going out on a row boat, ensure you have someone who knows how to row.
  • Ensure there are no dangerous animals in the water before going into the water.
Eight Person Shells (Octuple)


What’s the difference between a Skiff and A Rowing Boat?

Skiffs and rowing boats are both types of boats, but they have different purposes. Skiffs are built and used for racing, whereas rowing boats can be “taken out in the local park.” The main difference between the two is that boats are more expensive and require more maintenance than rowing boats.

Rowing is a type of rowing where athletes row across the water with one oar each. This sport has been around for centuries and is popular in many countries worldwide. U.S. schools and colleges will sometimes refer to the sport of rowing as crew, which is also used in nautical terms for people who operate a boat.

Rowing has traditionally been a sport focused on the arms and legs but can now include many other body parts. This makes the sport more challenging and fun! For example, you may use your back or abdominal muscles to help power your stroke while rowing.

What is the difference between sculling and sweep boats?

Sculling boats have two oars per rower, while sweep boats have one oar per rower.

Can I use a fishing row boat for racing?

Fishing row boats are not designed for racing and may not perform well in competitive settings.

How do I know what size row boat to buy?

Consider the size and weight of the boat and whether it can be easily transported on your vehicle, as well as your intended use.