by Ben O’Grady

For this article, we asked four of our contributors who also happen to be fantastic coxswains to write on the subject of coxswain gear, and specifically any gear they recommend or any unusual items that any coxswains in the audience can take advantage of. Here’s the stuff you need from some of the best in the business.

Marcus McElhenney, 2008 Olympic Men’s 8+ Coxswain

I often get asked what I bring into the boat with me.  First, I make sure that I am properly equipped with a hat, sunglasses, cox box, watch, and a GPS.  Those are absolute musts.

For a GPS,  I use either the Garmin 305 & Garmin 210.  The 210 is a newer model and is a little easier to wear comfortably. But the software is about the same.  And I always have a backup in the boathouse because the batteries on these only lasts a few practices.  These are the cheaper models from Garmin and that’s something to keep in mind because they take a beating and I am replacing them every other year or so.  The higher end ones do not hold up any better.

garmin 210

In addition, I bring various tools. I always have two 10mm wrenches and two 7/16th wrenches. Then I make sure to pack an adjustable wrench for top nuts. For the oars I pack a multi-head screw driver.  It can tighten Crokers and C2 oars.  Then I make sure to pack electrical and athletic tape.

I prefer the rowers bring their own athletic tape,  but I bring it out because it is easy to write on in the rain or in wet conditions.  I then make sure to bring out a pen and sharpie marker.  I write the workout either on my hand, or when it is wet out, on my roll of athletic tape with the marker.

Finally I make sure to have an extra set of nuts, bolts, washers, and plenty of spacers.  These things come off way more often then they should, and having spares for the quick fix so you can continue with practice is way better then having to end the row early.  And you look like the Savior of Rome to your coaches.

For good measure, I normally also have some zip ties and a knife. Though not really necessary, I’ve found they come in quite handy, especially when traveling.  And I’d rather have them then not. So find what works for you and your team and always be prepared.  This list is a good start.  Good luck and go fast!

Kristen Kit, Canadian Women’s National Team Coxswain

The first thing I do when I see frost on the launches is replenish my stock of hand and foot warmers. Hand warmers in particular can make an incredible difference to the coxswain’s quality of life. A good time to stock up on these packets of gold is in the spring, when most ski shops are clearing out of them.

Neoprene socks are also a must in the shell. I use these instead of shoes in the boat paired with a good merino wool sock. These two items make my outings in the coxswain seat considerably more enjoyable, and I find that I’m able to focus more on the crew. You can find cheap paddling neoprene accessories at Mountain Equipment Co-Op in Canada, and the only way to go for merino wool is Ice Breaker.


The National Team in Canada trains until ice has consumed our lake, therefore creative problem solving to keep warm is a part-time hobby. It’s important to try many solutions to fit your seat and practice environment. Ultimately bring whatever you need into the boat to do your job to the very best of your ability!

Laura Simon, US Junior Team Coxswain Coach
Having spent most of my coxing (and coaching) career in New England…there are a few warmer weather items that I refuse to get into a boat without on those cold days and then one equipment set that has saved a practice more than one time.

1.  Heat Patches, which can be purchased at either CVS or online  for cheaper (Amazon or SierraTradingPost)
2.  Smartwool glove liners for the cold but not frigid days. I end up purchasing a pair a year from Sierra Trading Post and they are my go-to cold day glove
3.  Extra top nut, removable spacers, riggers bolts & a 3/4″ wrench
4.  Lobben Boiled Wool Boots, affectionately called my Elf Slippers for the way to toe points up over time.  These wool shoes are super warm and even toastier with a toe heater in there.  My toes stay warm and they are not bulky or cumbersome.  I discovered these gems when running sled dogs in Alaska!  I also recommend the sheepskin inserts!  NOTE: these are semi-waterproof since the wool is so dense and not best for rainy days.LB-TRD-A-2T

Best of luck to all you cold-weather coxswains out there and if I see someone in Lobben’s, I will KNOW you read this article as those are backwoods Alaskan gems!

A D1 College Coxswain (who must remain anonymous per NCAA Rules)

Being a coxswain means you are expected to be prepared at all times, in all places, period. My best-kept coxing secret is my quarterback wristband, aka the Nike Playcoach. It functions as a waterproof sleeve for my practice notes. The wristband lets me glance at the line-up or drills without worrying about the paper getting wet. I just replace the index card in the sleeve for each practice. The wristbands even have Velcro flaps so you can hide your race plan. I bought a Nike one from Dick’s Sporting Goods for less than $15.

Besides that, I stock up on Band-Aids, medical tape, alcohol pads, tissues, and pain pills from our training room. Alcohol pads come in handy during seat racing.  Rowers burst blisters (especially on raceday). When that happens, sharing an oar is gross. I always carry disinfectant pads just in case. I pack spare spacers, bolts, nuts, washers, and other hardware parts in pill bottles.

I always carry an adjustable, 7/16 wrenches, a screwdriver, and nail clippers. I make sure to carry an extra snack just in case someone is feeling sugar-low. Better safe than sorry. It is not the coxswain’s responsibility to be a walking CVS Pharmacy, but your rowers (and coaches) will appreciate your preparedness.



Killer Coxswain Gear You Might Not Have
Train in Europe