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

Indoor Rowing Weight Classes: What You Need to Know to Compete

rowing weight classes

Hi friends! It’s Petra, and today I have a really unique and interesting topic to present to you- indoor rowing competitions and the weight classes/categories you need to know about if you’re interested in qualifying.

Are you surprised to see that there are regattas for erging? I think a great many people who read this will be surprised to discover that such a thing even exists!

Most people think of indoor rowing machines as either full-body workouts for serious athletes or as training machines professional athletes use when the weather doesn’t permit rowing on the water.

If you’re really into erging and you love to race, you might want to join in the regattas that happen online every year.

In today’s article, I will tell you about the categories, the rules, and everything that you need to know to become a serious competitor for next year’s indoor rowing regatta.

World Rowing Indoor Championships

Indoor rowing regattas used to be held in different countries around the globe, but due to the pandemic of 2020-2022, rowing regattas were held virtually.

It became a huge success, and for this reason, the World Rowing Indoor Championship games, which are sponsored by Concept 2, will become hybrid events starting in 2022 and for the foreseeable future.

indoor rowing class

World Rowing Indoor Championship regattas in 2022 were held in Hamburg, Germany. Alternatively, participants could compete virtually from anywhere in the world.

In 2023, the venue is Toronto-Mississauga (Canada) on February 25-26 at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre. In 2024, it will be hosted in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

There are other indoor regattas, including one in the UK in December and the European Rowing Indoor Championships which are held in Jonkoping, Sweden, usually in January. There are also many smaller venue races such as Long Beach, California, usually held in January and the Ohio Valley Indoor Rowing Championships, held in Marietta, Ohio, most often in February.

The World Rowing Indoor Championship is perhaps the most well-known and popular regatta for erging.

What Are the Rowing Categories?

For the 2022 regattas, there were two distances raced, 500 meters and 2,000 meters.

For brevity, I will discuss the categories for the Olympic standard of 2,000 meters.

These categories apply to both men and women in the following age groups.

Rowing Categories Olympic Standard -

  • Under 19 years of age
  • Under 23
  • Under 23 Lightweight rowing
  • Open
  • Lightweight
  • PR1
  • PR2
  • PR3
  • PR3-II
  • Masters 30-39
  • Masters 30-39 Lightweight
  • Masters 40-49
  • Masters 40-49 Lightweight
  • Masters 50-54
  • Masters 50-54 Lightweight
  • Masters 55-59
  • Masters 55-59 Lightweight
  • Masters 60-64
  • Masters 60-64 Lightweight
  • Masters 65-69
  • Masters 65-69 Lightweight
  • Masters 70-74
  • Masters 70-74 Lightweight
  • Masters 75-79
  • Masters 75-79 Lightweight
  • Masters 80-84
  • Masters 84-89 Lightweight
  • Masters 90-94
  • Masters 90-94 Lightweight
  • Masters 95-99
  • Masters 95-99 Lightweight
  • Masters 100+
  • Masters 100+ Lightweight

Keep in mind that for every category, there is a regular and lightweight category for both men and women. This means that the Masters 65-69 group, for example, will have both a men’s and women’s category.

Is Indoor Rowing an Olympic Event?

No, it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean that indoor competitions aren’t just as exciting!

While there may not be a beautiful course that winds through beautiful waterways, if you could see all the monitors on display, it’s just as exciting (in my opinion) to watch how those who are competing give it their all!

Indoor racing via the erg may not be what you expected, but I guarantee you that it isn’t boring either!

What Is a Hybrid Rowing Event?

Due to the challenges posed by the pandemic of 2020/2022, the World Rowing Indoor Championships experimented with a hybrid venue race.

Hybrid means that some rowers were live and in-person at the event and others were streamed live (or pre-recorded in some instances).

The World Rowing Indoor Championship has very strict rules regarding weigh-in times, and they monitor all participants to avoid any possible cheating.

Most people use a Concept 2 rowing machine which has downloaded software that can verify a person’s time and SPM.

Virtual participants must have a doctor’s form submitted in advance and do a virtual weigh-in just before the race or the day before, depending on the participant’s location.

Competitors will need to qualify for a chance to compete in the WRICH virtually, and the number of virtual competitors is limited.

You can contact the World Rowing Indoor Championships here for more information about how you can apply to race in the 2023 event.

Concept 2 also keeps track of those who set records, whether it’s time, distance, or your own personal records. Check out their webpage for more info regarding how you can get your name in the record book!

What Are Considered the Lightweight Categories?

There are lots of restrictions regarding weight when speaking of indoor regattas. While these might be subject to change, the following are the current weight categories:

indoor regattas lightweight categories -

  • Lightweight Women- Less than or equal to 135 pounds (less than/equal to 61.5 kilograms)
  • Heavyweight Women- More than 135 pounds (more than 61.5 kilograms)
  • Lightweight Men- Less than or equal to 165 pounds (less than/equal to 75 kilograms)
  • Heavyweight Men- More than 165 pounds (more than 75 kilograms)

What Do the PR Classifications Mean?

PR classifications are for the differently-abled, also known as adaptive rowers (or para rowing). These classifications are as follows:

PR1  This classification is for rowers who have little or no trunk function and mainly use their arms and shoulders for rowing.
PR2 This classification is for rowers who do have trunk function but cannot use the sliding seat due to leg disabilities.
PR3 This classification is for those who are blind, visually impaired, or have mental disabilities but have fully functioning arms, legs, and trunks.

In water-based regattas, there is a further breakdown of PR categories, but for indoor rowing, these three are the only categories for adaptive rowing.

Is It Better to be Heavier in Rowing Regattas?

It is thought to be advantageous to weigh more (but not be overweight) since this additional weight can add greater power to the rowing strokes.

If you imagine a car race, a car with a larger engine will get more power than a smaller one. However, weighing less also has its advantages.

female rower training at gym in pink shirt

Heavier people in the water will push the boat deeper into the water, which makes the shell harder to propel. However, when speaking of erging, rowers who are heavier do not have this disadvantage since there is no boat to push.

This is why most regattas, whether on-the-water or erging, offer separate competitions for lightweight competitors.

Which Is the Best Body for Rowing?

Whether you are speaking of erging or on-the-water rowing, rowers who are tall and/or have very long legs and arms seem to do better. The mechanical advantage of increased power output and the stroke length is relevant regardless of rowing experience and level.

Weight will also play a part when it comes to on-the-water rowing but not so much in erging. While there are still weight categories for erging competitions, they aren’t as strict nor as varied as those required by on-the-water rowers.

How Can I Qualify for the Next Regatta?

indoor rowers training together

You can start off by registering with the World Rowing Indoor Championships here.

Next, you’ll need to submit a verified qualification score by either-

  • Competing at a World Rowing sanctioned indoor event and use your score from that event as your qualifying score, or
  • You can submit an independently performed qualification score with accompanying verification material.

Keep in mind that you must follow these rules when it comes to qualifying:

  1. Submit a qualification score of the same race type as the race category for which you are trying to qualify, and
  2. Qualification scores must be submitted and verified via the WRICH entry portal.

This means that you cannot submit a qualifying score for one race (Lightweight Masters 55-59-year-olds, for example) and then submit an application for another (say, Regular Masters 30-39-year-olds).

To help break things down, competitors are ranked by their continental group. For 2022, there were only 15 racers allowed (the top 3 for five continental groups) per race category, so be sure that you submit your best time!

The Bottom Line

When it comes to indoor rowing competition, there are really only two weight categories- regular and lightweights- for all age groups.

Indoor erging is just as exciting to watch as on-the-water races, so if you have the chance to see one of these events, I highly recommend it.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, sign up at the World Rowing Indoor Championships for your chance to compete or check for possible locations near you!

Keep on erging, friends, it’s the secret to staying healthy and happy!