There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding rowing as a sport. There is a traceable evolution of rowing technology, all aimed at some greater experience. The truth is there is a lot of different products to consider, the following is just some basic information to get you started on choosing just that.
The first thing to talk about is the popular shell boat type. Shells are designed for speed. This unique design can make them difficult to manage though, and even experienced rowers can struggle with a shell.
Shells are long and narrow, and have been made up of different materials over time. Current convention is that reinforced plastic shells are the way to go. Plastic is more malleable than other materials, and is also lighter, both of which are important ideals to hold when trying to avoid common rowing mistakes.
Even on a basic level shells are designed to be fast and efficient. Riggers (frame that holds the oarlocks) are one example of the very strategic way in which shells are made. Riggers enable more powerful leg work, and mark a milestone in the evolution of rowing.
Another evolutionary marker is the change in designs of seats. Sliding seats have become increasingly popular, as they provide more power to the rowers themselves. This is accomplished by enabling the whole body to move, putting more force into the strokes provided.
All of this would be for nothing without the oars. Oars are the materials used by rowers to actually stroke. Good, solid oars are now made of carbon fiber. Oars weren’t always made the same way though, and this can be very interesting to realize. Historically people have relied on “macons”, a flipper shaped oar that served well for its time. Macons however have been replaced. Modern rowers tend to prefer “cleavers”, rectangular shaped oars that allow for more water contact with each stroke. These oars are more conducive to getting increases in speed that rowers so enthusiastically pursue.
What about rowboats that have rudders? Rudders can be manually controlled or controlled by the flow of water. In manually set up boats, the crew steers the rudder. This is accomplished by attaching the rudder cable to the crew and having them lean in one direction or another.
The basics are laid out here, but if looking for more to research, consider looking into rowing simulators. Rowing simulators (ergs) are generally used to keep one in good rowing shape, or for training. Although this article does not provide space to talk about these fascinating machines, they can be quite fun to research.
With this information, you should be well on your way to learning all that you need to know about rowing.