How to avoid “catching a crab” in rowing

“Catching a crab” is a common fear for many rowers. The term refers to when a rower loses control of their oar. The blade then gets trapped in the water by the momentum of the shell, and the oar handle swings backwards, often going over the rower’s head. In extreme cases, the rower may even be thrown overboard.

It’s a setback that can effectively take you out of the competition. However, there are ways to overcome the crab and deal with it safely. 

Don’t resist it

Most of the time, rowers fight against the handle when it becomes trapped in the water. Doing this is what risks you stopping the boat, or worse, getting thrown overboard. Instead, don’t resist it. If you leave the oar to itself, it will come to rest parallel to the boat and leave it trailing in the water. This method allows the boat to lose less speed. To recover the oar, the rower behind the crabber must allow them to reach out for the oar safely. 

Learn more about this method here. 

A light but firm hold

Union Bay’s Rowing Club suggests using a light, firm hold on the oar. Most of the time, a crab occurs when the oar is turned too far, too soon. This is because the rower panics and grips the handle too tightly, banging it down with their wrist. Instead, a rower should use less wrist to take the blade out of the water. If the hand is placed on top of the handle, with the wrist slightly flexed, the handle will pass easily under the hand and over the shoulder – and safely make its way out-board. This also helps the boat lose less speed.

The most common cause for catching a crab is when the blade is not square in the water, either because the catch was not square or because the rower was feathering the blade underwater. For a coach, it is important to analyse why it may have happened and provide feedback to the rower. 

For most rowers, catching a crab can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Without video footage to look back on, it can be difficult to understand why it may have happened and provide a remedy for it. Video analysis platforms like Sprongo can help in identifying such occurrences and finding solutions to help the rower improve and learn from it. 

Find out more about how Sprongo can help here. 

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