The practice of rowing boats has been around since ancient times as a means of transportation, but the sport was first introduced when Oxford and Cambridge University competed against each other in a race in 1828.
The goal of a race is to beat the other boats to a finish line in as little time as possible.
There are many different types of rowing, with eight variations in the Olympics. A scull boat is one in which each rower has an oar in each hand and can have one, two, or four people per boat. There are also boats in which each rower only has one paddle and only rows on one side of the boat at all times. These boats can have two, four, or eight people, and the rowers alternate port and starboard sides.
Another alternative is when the boat has a coxswain. A coxswain is a person who sits in the stern of the boat facing the rowers and is in charge of steering the boat and telling the rowers what to do strategically or to simply give them motivation.
While strength and speed are important, having the correct form in order to maximize the amount of water displaced by the oars is essential to a winning boat. If the technique is not perfect, a rower may "catch a crab," meaning the oar gets stuck in the flow of the water. While this can be fixed quickly, it also has the power to send the rower overboard.
Olympic races are 2000 meters long, and since athletes do not always have access to large bodies of water, it is common to use ergometers to practice.