The stroke is the set of actions to propel the boat, and comprises two main parts - the drive when pressure is applied through the oars to pull the boat through the water, and the recovery when the oars are lifted out of the water and returned to the start position.
When the boat has more than one rower, the rower closest to the stern of the boat is referred to as "stroke". This is the most important position in the boat, because the stroke rower sets the stroke rate and rhythm for the rest of the crew to follow. Stroke seat has to be a very calm and yet very competitive individual. A good stroke will lead a team by bringing the best out of every rower in the boat. The rower at the opposite end of the boat is referred to as bow. Dudley Storey, double Olympic medallist for New Zealand and later the country's national coach, describes the required qualities of a stroke as follows:
|“||You'd like them to be a person who is half mad, who love to go, love to fight and love to be amongst it all the time and can instil some of their qualities into the people behind.||”|
|— Dudley Storey, Interview by David Leggat published in The New Zealand Herald, 24 August 2006|
Stroke side refers to the port side of the boat, which is on the left-hand side of a cox facing forwards, but on the right-hand side of a rower facing backwards. The usage derives from the tradition of having the stroke rower's oar be on the port side of the boat. However, the stroke seat oar in a sweep boat does not always emerge from port side in instances such as when the boat is starboard rigged.
In Cornish pilot gigs, the stroke rower's oar is on the starboard (right) side and therefore stroke side refers to the starboard side of the boat.
- "Speed Rower, Competitive Rowing". Retrieved 2009-02-05.
- "British Rowing Technique". The Amateur Rowing Association. Archived from the original (html) on 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2006-12-23.
- Leggat, David (24 August 2006). "Rowing: Striving for that golden formula". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
- Argonaut The Arts of Rowing and Training, Edwin Brickwood 1866 p21]