Rowing Crazy


“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing
We Actually Row!”

“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing – We Actually Row!”

How Much Does a Rowing Boat Weigh: Our Complete Guide

how much does a rowing boat weigh - our complete guide

Hi everyone! It’s Petra, and in today’s article, I want to talk about the weight of a “shell”. No, not the shells you find on the beach, although I do like those very much, I mean rowing shells!

A rowing boat or shell can be as light as 23 pounds or as heavy as 250 pounds, depending on the type of rowing you will use it for, the number and weight category of rowers, and a few other factors.

Rowing is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, sports around, so as you might imagine, the boats themselves have changed tremendously over the years.

If you’ve ever watched any regatta or Olympic rowing, you may have wondered just how much that boat weighs. After all, some shells can hold the weight of eight men, the rigging, and a coxswain!

Let’s take a look at just how much a rowing boat weighs and how they can hold up so much weight yet look so sleek and graceful.

Sculling and Sweep Rowing

sculling and sweeping

For those of you who are unfamiliar with some of the terminology, let me do a brief rundown of what I am talking about before we begin.

First, there are actually two types of rowing that we often lump together under the word “row”.

Sculls or sculling, is when each rower has two oars, one in each hand. You can have a single scull because those two oars will already keep the boat going forward. It is quite common to see two or more people in a scull. A double sculling boat has two people rowing, while a boat with four rowers is called a quad.

Sweep rowing is the other type. This is where each person in the boat uses both hands to control a single oar. There must always be an even number of rowers, otherwise, the boat would simply turn in circles!

As with sculling, sweep rowing can have two, four, or even eight rowers in the boat.

Now that you’ve got the terminology down, let’s talk about the shells (the term we use when we refer to the boats).

How Much Does a Crew Boat Weigh?

a men's sweep team carrying their boat over their heads

In college races, you will hear the word “crew” used to mean row or rowing. Otherwise, crew refers to the people in the boat.

How much a boat weighs will depend on how big you need/want the shell to be. A single scull will weigh far less than a coxed eight, for example.

The weight of the shell will also be determined by the expected weight of the crew. Women’s lightweight category Vs Men’s open weight category, for example, will need different shells capable of handling the team’s combined weights without sinking!  (Read more on Crew Shells here)

Generally, the less weight that the crew has to pull across the water, the faster they can go. That’s the reason these boats tend to be extremely small and light.

Let’s look at the different weights for each type of rowing category.

How Much Does a Single Scull Shell Weigh?

Slnava Piestany Rowing Club - a woman carrying a sculling shell

Remember that a single scull means that there is one person in the boat holding two oars. Without the rower, the shell itself only weighs between 23 and 25 pounds!

Sculling shells are very narrow, with some being only 10 inches across! To help keep the boat more stable, they are quite long. The average single scull is 25- 27 feet long!

How Heavy Is a Double Scull Rowing Boat?

From the above, you may surmise that the weight of a double scull would be between 46 and 50 pounds, but that isn’t 100% accurate.

In the same way that there are rules for the weight of the crew, the shells themselves also have minimum weight standards.

The United States Rowing Association says that a double scull cannot weigh less than 59.52 pounds.

If the boat should weigh less than this, believe it or not, a sandbag will be added to increase the weight of the boat. This way, everyone is rowing on a level playing field, if you will.

Sculling Boat Weights and Lengths

The weight of sculling boats, whether you are doing head races or regattas, are as follows:

Weight Length
Single Scull  25-30 pounds 25-27 feet
Double Scull  60 pounds 34 feet
Coxless Quad 115 pounds 44-45 feet
Coxed Quad  about 115 pounds 45-46 feet

It’s hard to imagine something so light holding up so many bodies, but unlike the wooden boats of the past, modern rowing boats are nothing short of remarkable!

How Much Do Sweep Boats Weigh?

This will depend on the boat classes- in other words, the number of people you will have in the boat.

The shell needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the crew while being as lightweight as possible.

As with sculling boats, the national governing body of rowers imposes minimum weight limits for each rowing race category.

The most common sweep boat weights are:

Weight Length
Coxed Eight
(the largest, heaviest, and also the fastest boat in rowing)
250 pounds often 60 feet
Coxless Eight around 200 pounds 55-60 feet
Coxed Four 115 pounds about 44 feet
Coxless Four about 112 pounds 42-44 feet
Coxless Pair about 59 pounds 34 feet
Coxed Pair 70 pounds 34-35 feet

Personally, I find these numbers really interesting!

Keep in mind that these weights include the oars and the rigging! How do they manage to keep everything so lightweight?

How Are Modern Boats So Lightweight?

a row of shells docked and on display

One thing you may not know about modern rowing boats is that the oars are hollow. Yep, this is one way to minimize the total weight of the boat.

Modern rowing boats are mostly built from a fiberglass composite material, while other boat parts are made from PVC or other types of plastic to help keep these boats as light as possible.

Rowing boats must meet the physical demands of the rower and not crack, break, come apart, or otherwise succumb to stress fractures or swell when introduced to water.

Today’s rowing shells are superb examples of modern technology and how far we have come using different types of materials!

I can only imagine what rowing clubs from 200 years ago would think of today’s rowing boats!

How Much Do Olympic Rowing Boats Weigh?

Are modern Olympic boats different from other rowing boats?

No, not really.

Coxed 8 - Eight rowers sweep rowing with a coxswain

You will see lighter-weight boats in the modern Olympic games because there is only one class that uses a coxswain, and that is the Coxed Eight.

This means that boats are slightly shorter and lighter, but there are still minimum standards that must be met, such as:

  • The minimum weight for an Olympic single scull rowing boat is 30.8 pounds.
  • The minimum weight for an Olympic sweep rowing Coxed Eight is 221 pounds.

I’m always impressed by the dedication that Olympic rowers give their sport, so let’s give them all a big round of applause, shall we?

They really do work incredibly hard just for the chance to compete!

The Bottom Line

Depending on the rowing club you belong to, you may have some excellent shells to practice in or you may need to rent them, but you can rest assured that they will pass the weight test!

Whether you are planning on just watching regattas and the Olympics or trying to join a rowing race yourself, remember that weight matters! Both your weight (with your uniform on) and the weight of the boat are all taken into consideration.

Have fun rowing, friends!