New Book: On the Evolution of Rowing Boats

3 November 2018

By Göran R Buckhorn

Rowing journalist Koos Termorshuizen has been a busy man lately. Not only is he the chief editor of the Dutch rowing magazine Roei!, he also published a translation of Benoît Decock’s book Fausses Pelles last spring. Hélène Rémond wrote about this French book in November 2017 after she had talked to the author. Then in June, HTBS wrote about the Dutch translation by Koos, who had a little help from two of his friends in the Roei!-team.

And just the other day, Koss and Paul van Heugten, another Dutch rowing journalist, released a book on the evolution of rowing boats called Van Boom tot Boot, which translates to something like ‘From Tree Trunk to Boat’ with the subtitle ‘The Evolution of the Rowing Boat’, Koos writes in an e-mail to HTBS.

At a London trip in 2015, Koos and Paul watched the The Great River Race on the Thames – Tim Koch wrote an article about the race in 2016 – and got so inspired that they started to do research into the roots of rowing boats. Their book starts in the Mesolithic, about 10,000 years ago, at a time when, Koos writes, ‘England and the continent of Europe were not yet separated (probably an abhorrence to some British politicians, but very true).’

Koos continues to write: ‘Surprisingly, the oldest boat in the world was to be found in the basement of a museum in a small town in the Netherlands, named Assen. It is a logboat, which is more than 10,000 years old.’

The book then follows the Great Migration, the Vikings and the Cornish pilots to end with the fastest of racing shells, the Empacher eight rowed by a  German crew at the 2017 World Cup II (5:18.680). A lot of the pages in the book are taken up by English traditional boatbuilding, Koos mentions.

Koos and Paul visited museums, conservators, libraries and boatbuilders in the countries alongside the North Sea, and interviewed scientists in archeology, wood-conservation and history.

The book contains about 100 short paragraphs with hundreds of pictures.

Van boom tot boot, de evolutie van de roeiboot by Koos Termorshuizen and Paul van Heugten, 256 pages, ISBN 978-90-77285-49-7, €29.95.


  1. Bisto, two questions. Is Van boom tot boot written in English as well as Dutch and , shirley shum mishtake, a German ‘team’ ? In my book , teams play football and cricket, boats are still rowed by crews.

  2. This book is written in Dutch. The article has been updated, where the word “team” has been changed to “crew”, so everyone understands that the German Empacher eight is raced be oarsmen, not a bunch of guys playing football.

    • I would think that an English translation would sell well – very few people read Dutch!

  3. Ian, I wouldn’t say that few people read Dutch. There are around 28 million people speaking Dutch as a first or second language, including 35,000 rowers! Koos is a clever man, I’m sure he is already thinking of an English edition.

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