Backsplash – more or less?

Rowers and coaches dispute the benefits of making a backsplash when placing the oars into the water at the catch. Why? How can you find out which point of view is correct?


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02:00 Backsplash is the upthrowing of water as the oar goes in at the catch. Does it show great skill and bladework timing the placement. Or is it a brake on the forward movement of the boat.

02:45 Valery Kleshnev BioRow explains “When the blade changes direction at the catch, its velocity relative to the boat changes to zero.” A neutral entry into the water.

04:30 More or less backsplash?

Backsplash is throwing water towards the bow. Forward splash is throwing water towards the stern. A “V-splash” is a bit of both.

05:15 What happens at the catch?

Square before the oar goes in the water. When the seat stops to change direction is the perfect time for the oar to already be under the water. The oar handle moves upwards so the tip of the blade moves downwards towards the water.

Hatchet oars have a straight line on the bottom – can you get that line an inch above the water surface? Are you bringing the blade down to the water at the catch so you aren’t missing water? Do this first. The oar must be under the water before it starts to power the stroke. The change of direction of the seat is the catch. After it goes in the water, how soon can you grip the water.

08:30 When to use backsplash

It’s a useful teaching aide to teach the blade coming down to the water. First, try to hit the water before your seat changes direction. Lift the handles earlier to do this. Learn where the water is relative to your blade(s) and is it symmetrical. Squaring too late will prevent you getting the timing point at the catch. Roll forward last quarter of the slide with the oars square. Have fewer things to do at the placement.

Get more boat speed by working on the backsplash movement. You get the oar buried closer to full compression of the legs so miss less water. You may also find improved stability at the catch as both sides lift their hands simultaneously to create the backsplash.

14:30 How to teach backsplash

Start with only half the crew rowing so the boat is stable. Row with square blades to make the catch more simple. Row looking at the oar tip to see how close to the water they can get the spoon before placement. Then row without looking at the oar. Review the handle height and identify a visual reference so they know they have to lift their hands up to that point in order to make the oar spoon go down towards the water. Move onto lifting handles earlier in the recovery from half to three quarter slide. This requires a good high balance as you do it square blades. Then teach backsplash as a timing point against the seat changing direction. Drills to teach the handle movement of the placement.

18:00 Slap Catches – do the recovery feathered – leave the oar feathered and lift the handle up as if putting the oar into the water just slapping the water with a feathered oar at the catch. Alternate with a normal stroke. Listen for the timing of the slap – bow and stroke side. Make it loud.

[Since recording the podcast, I was corrected that the first time many people saw the slap catch drill was done by the Piemenov Brothers in their pair. They did a very light tap onto the water surface, then squared and placed the blade. This wasn’t a ‘slap’ catch – but was a similar skill drill.]

Try an exaggeration 10 strokes backsplash then 10 strokes without. It’s very hard to do if the boat isn’t level.