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Clothing For Rowing

author image Kathryn Walsh
Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
Clothing For Rowing
People are rowing down a river. Photo Credit Larry Roberg/iStock/Getty Images

As you row down a river, working with your teammates to move your boat forward, you’ll feel the wind in your hair and the water on your face. These sensations can be invigorating, but they can also be chilly. Regardless of the weather, choosing the appropriate clothing not only keeps you comfortable but can actually help you row better.


When choosing your rowing clothes, stay away from loose items. According to the Austin Rowing Club, baggy items can become caught in the boat’s equipment, and you may find that your range of motion is restricted by loose material. Avoid items made with cotton, since these will become heavy as they get wet. Wear a snug T-shirt made of synthetic fibers, such as a spandex top that’s designed for running. Opt for either long or short sleeves, depending on the weather. Add a close-fitting waterproof windbreaker on top to keep you dry and warm. On extra chilly days, wear a fleece sweatshirt or jacket under your windbreaker.


Form-fitting fabric is just as important on your lower half as your top half, since baggy pants can become tangled in your sliding seat as you row. Wear stretchy bike shorts on hot days, or pull on some spandex yoga pants or runner’s leggings for colder days. You might also layer a pair of shorts or fleece pants over your spandex to give your rear end some warmth and padding. Never wear jeans to row, as they won’t allow you to move freely and they’ll get soggy and heavy when wet.


Most rowing boats, or shells, have built-in shoes, but you’ll still need athletic shoes with gripped soles for walking safely on the dock. Wear thick, padded socks, which you can keep on to protect your feet once you’re in the boat. Again, avoid cotton; wool socks will keep you warmer. If you have to wade into the water to get into the shell, wear rubber water shoes. You may either keep your water shoes on in the boat, or carry socks to change into once you’re in place.

Other Items

Wear a hat, regardless of the weather. A brimmed baseball cap will help you see and protect you from sun damage on sunny days. In colder weather, wear a snug knit cap that will stay on your head without requiring adjustment, since you won’t be able to grab for it if it starts to fly off while you’re rowing. You may not be allowed to wear gloves while rowing, but you may opt to wear some while you’re getting the shell prepped. To help you warm up after your trip, pack a set of dry clothes in your bag, since your rowing clothes will likely be wet by the time you get back on land.

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