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The best water rowing machines allow you to experience the feeling of rowing on open water without leaving home. Many even feature sleek, wooden frames that look much more luxurious than rowing machines made with aluminum and steel.

One of the first water rowing machines to hit the market was the aptly-named WaterRower. This sophisticated rower not only delivers on performance but also looks sharp in any home gym environment. In this WaterRower review, I’ll cover everything you need to know about this rowing machine, including its tech capabilities, ergonomics, durability, portability, and more.

We’ve Rowed Thousands of Meters on Rowing Machines

Our product testers include certified personal trainers, competitive weightlifters, Olympic-level athletes, CrossFit enthusiasts, and fitness equipment experts. Collectively, we’ve tested dozens of rowing machines, including magnetic rowers, air resistance rowers, and water rowers. Many of us even own rowing machines in our home gyms.

For this WaterRower review, Lindsay Scheele, our lead product reviewer and the face of our Garage Gym Reviews Everything YouTube channel, tested the machine. She used it for various rowing interval workouts and scored it on a scale of 1 to 5 in multiple categories, including:

  • Ergonomics
  • Resistance
  • Footprint and portability
  • Durability
  • Programming
  • Tech capabilities
  • Warranty

WaterRower

WaterRower

GGR Score: 3.8 starstarstarstarstar
Community Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Water resistance simulates outdoor experience
  • Handcrafted wood for beautiful aesthetic
  • One of the quietest water rowing machines

Made in USA Made in USA

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Water resistance simulates outdoor experience
  • The body is made of handcrafted wood
  • One of the quietest water rowing machines
  • Very aesthetically pleasing
  • 700 lb weight capacity
  • Optional expert assembly

Cons

  • Prices start around $1,100
  • Wood can dent and chip
  • Weighs 117 lbs
  • Monitor location isn’t convenient

Bottom Line

The WaterRower Natural is an excellent rower that uses (drumroll) water instead of air as its main mode of resistance. This closely simulates the resistance you would receive in real-life rowing, and it sounds pretty amazing, too.

A Quick Look at the WaterRower

Created in 1988 by engineer and USA national-level rower John Duke, the WaterRower is a water-resistance rowing machine handcrafted with sustainable hardwoods from the Appalachian Mountain region. It’s made by the same Rhode Island-based company that makes the Ergatta rower.

The two machines share a similar wood-based frame, but the WaterRower’s tech capabilities are more basic. The Ergatta rower has a touchscreen that streams gamified workouts or scenic rows. The WaterRower has a simple monitor that only displays performance stats. However, you can buy a WaterRower ComModule to make it Bluetooth-enabled and sync it to many of the best rowing apps.

As of this writing, the WaterRower is available in oak, walnut, cherry, maple, and ash wood. If you’ll need to leave your rower in your living room or another common area in your home, being able to coordinate the wood frame with your existing furniture is a nice touch.

“It is a really beautiful rower,” Lindsay said. 

Before You Buy

  • Financing is available through Bread Pay for those who want to break their payments into small chunks.
  • This machine is 82.8 inches long and doesn’t fold. However, you can store it vertically if you need more floor space.
  • The company recommends adding a new water purification tablet to the tank every 6 months. You may need to do this sooner if you notice water discoloration or algae growing in the water tank.

WaterRower Video Review

Is the WaterRower Worth It?

The WaterRower isn’t a budget-friendly rowing machine, starting at around $1,100. But for people who want to reap the benefits of rowing with a machine that looks nice and simulates open-water rowing, we think it’s worth it and rated the overall value 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s a solidly built machine that should hold up well in a home gym environment.

Note, however, that the programming options are limited. If you want variety in your rowing workouts and have the extra budget, we recommend buying the ComModule for around $80. This tool will turn the rower into a more interactive machine, allowing you to sync it with third-party apps. Depending on which app you choose, you may also have to pay a monthly subscription, which is something to consider when deciding if this is the right rower for you.

Great for:

  • People who want to feel like they’re rowing on open water
  • Anyone looking for a full-body workout
  • Anyone who wants an aesthetically-pleasing rower that will last

Not recommended for:

  • Folks on a tight budget
  • People who want a rowing machine with a touchscreen
  • People who want a silent rowing machine

WaterRower Specs

PriceStarts at $1,099
Footprint82.8” L x 22” W x 20.4” H
Resistance typeWater
Max user weight700 lbs
Max inseam length37”
DisplayS4 performance monitor
ProgrammingNo built-in programs
Bluetooth-enabledYes, with the WaterRower ComModule (sold separately)
Warranty1-year limited warranty

Workout Experience With the WaterRower

Lindsay used the WaterRower for several workouts, including one with 500-meter intervals and another with 1,000-meter intervals. She was impressed by the smooth operation of the belt-drive system and how effortlessly the seat glided over the dual rails. “I think this is one of the top experiences I’ve ever had rowing on a rower,” she remarked.

Plus, the sound of water moving through the tank allows for a unique rowing experience. “I love how this water rower sounds. It’s almost meditative to me,” Lindsay commented.

Seat cushion for the WaterRower Original.

Lindsay called out two things she thought could be improved: the narrow spacing on the footrests and the handlebar. The gap between your feet is less than 2 inches, which can negatively affect your rowing mechanics, especially if you’re tall or have poor ankle mobility. The handlebar is also short at just 15 inches, which Lindsay didn’t enjoy because she prefers having a wider grip when rowing.

RELATED: Best Rowing Machines

Ergonomics

The WaterRower earned a near-perfect score of 4.5 out of 5 for ergonomics. The cushioned seat was one of Lindsay’s favorite features. Even when doing 1,000-meter repeats, she didn’t experience any discomfort and felt confident that the seat would remain comfortable for longer sessions.

We also like that the WaterRower has a 700-pound weight capacity to accommodate users of all sizes. However, while the 11.8-inch seat height is higher than other water rowers like the MERACH 950 Rower, it may still be too low for older individuals or those with mobility concerns.

Footrests on the WaterRower Original

“If you have trouble getting off the ground or are recovering from something that’s limiting your movement, the WaterRower is a much better pick than the MERACH rower or the Ergatta Lite,” Lindsay advised. “However, it’s still not as tall as air rowers like the Concept2 or AssaultRower.”

The two main reasons for the lower score in this category were the short, 15-inch handlebar and the narrow foot placement on the footrests. Lindsay prefers having a wider grip for long rowing sessions and noted that the foot spacing of less than 2 inches could alter your rowing mechanics.

WaterRower does sell a 17-inch handlebar and a footplate with wider spacing, but those items will add up to $95 to the cost of your rower.

RELATED: Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machine Review

Resistance

Unlike a magnetic rower, there’s no way to set specific levels of resistance on the WaterRower. Instead, you customize the resistance by adjusting your effort and the speed at which you row. Theoretically, you can also adjust the resistance by changing the amount of water in the tank. However, filling the water tank is cumbersome.

Water tank on the WaterRower Original.

“Filling the tank with water isn’t hard, but it is messy because of where the hole is placed. It’s small and sits directly underneath a wooden beam. You can use a pitcher or a funnel, but it takes a long time to do that,” Lindsay advised.

“We ended up getting an attachment for our garden hose and filling it up that way,” she added. “We did have to use towels to clean up the water that spilled, but it was the most efficient way to fill the tank.”

We gave the WaterRower 3 out of 5 stars for resistance.

Footprint and Portability

The WaterRower is just over 83 inches long, which is standard for an indoor rowing machine. Because it doesn’t have a large touchscreen monitor, it only stands about 20 inches off the floor. It’s not foldable, but you can lift it up to store it vertically.

A Person lifts a WaterRower for vertical storage.

When the water tank is full, this rowing machine weighs about 103 pounds. There are transport wheels on the front, which Lindsay noted make it easy for most people to move around, even on carpet. We gave it 4 out of 5 stars for footprint and portability.

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Durability

For durability, we rated the WaterRower a 5 out of 5. We haven’t had it for very long, but we’ve had the Ergatta—which has a similar design and wood frame—for years. We’ve moved the Ergatta around our testing facility multiple times and tested it for dozens of workouts. It’s held up well through all of the abuse.

Belt drive system on the WaterRower Original.

According to Lindsay, the WaterRower is sturdy and doesn’t wobble. “There was no point in any of my workouts when I felt like the rower was shaking or unstable,” she said.

Programming and Technology

The WaterRower comes with an S4 monitor, which tracks metrics like stroke rate, time elapsed, speed, watts, and split times. The screen is pretty basic, though, and according to Lindsay, it’s not very intuitive.

“The monitor is so basic and not really user-friendly. Maybe it’s because I’m used to using touchscreens, but I had a hard time getting to the programs I wanted to use,” Lindsay reported. “You can set up intervals or time- or distance-based targets, but the monitor doesn’t offer a lot of interaction.”

Console on the WaterRower Original

Despite the less-than-impressive monitor, we still gave the WaterRower 4 out of 5 stars for its programming and tech capabilities. You can purchase the WaterRower ComModule (around $80) to turn the monitor into a Bluetooth-enabled device. This gives you access to a lot of rowing workouts and ensures you’ll never get bored. You’ll still need to watch virtual classes on your phone or tablet, but the ComModule will sync your data from the rower to the app.

Additionally, you can sync a heart rate monitor to the machine via its ANT+ wireless technology. The company sells one for about $95 if you don’t already have one.

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WaterRower vs Concept2 RowErg

Concept2 RowErg

Concept2 RowErg

GGR Score: 4.4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Priced around $1,000
  • Uses air resistance generated by the fanned flywheel
  • Advanced PM5 Performance Monitor
  • Low impact full-body workout fitness machine
  • Lightweight and easily portable
  • Can be broken down into two pieces for storage
  • Can also be hung for storage

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Best-selling rowing machine in the world
  • Easy assembly
  • Accommodates users up to 6.6 feet tall and 500-pound weight
  • Ergonomic seat and handlebar
  • Seat is 14”
  • 10-degree angle on handle for natural grip
  • Air-resistance
  • Adjustable airflow
  • Performance Monitor 5 (PM5) monitor
  • Nickel-plated steel chain
  • Adjustable footrests
  • Easy to store
  • Limited 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Priced around $1,000
  • Few built-in workouts

Bottom Line

The Concept 2 Model D Rower is the best rowing machine we've tested and reviewed, including those that are much more expensive like the WaterRower. There's a reason you can find Concept 2 products in nearly every gym in the world, including CrossFit Boxes, and home gyms. After having the Model D for over two years, we are still as satisfied with it as we were on day one.

If you’ve been researching water rowers, you may have noticed that the WaterRower resembles the Ergatta rower. We already covered their similarities and differences in our Ergatta vs WaterRower comparison. To show you how the WaterRower stacks up against a rower with a different type of resistance, I’ll compare it to the Concept2 RowErg (formerly known as the Model D).

The Concept2 RowErg is an air-resistance rower with a steel and aluminum frame, while the WaterRower uses water resistance and has a wood frame. Neither machine offers virtual, instructor-led classes, but both are compatible with third-party apps. The Concept2 rower has a PM5 monitor that displays metrics like pace, watts, calories burned, time elapsed, stroke rate, and distance. The WaterRower’s S4 monitor tracks similar stats.

Price-wise, there’s about a $200 difference between the two machines, with the WaterRower being the more expensive product. The Concept2 RowErg is over a foot longer, but you can break it down into two pieces for easy storage. You can also store it upright, just like the WaterRower.

You don’t get the soothing noises of water with each stroke on the Concept2 rower, but you do get a smooth, consistent ride. If you’re looking for a less expensive rower that will still perform well, the Concept2 may be the better choice.

Check out our full Concept2 RowErg review to learn more.

WaterRowerConcept2 RowErg
PriceStarts at $1,099$990
Footprint82.8” L x 22” W x 20.4” H96” L x 24” W; can choose a seat height of 14” or 20”
Resistance typeWaterAir
Max user weight700 lbs500 lbs
Max inseam length37”38”
DisplayS4 performance monitorPM5 monitor
ProgrammingNo built-in programs5 preset workouts plus the ability to add 5 custom workouts
Bluetooth-enabledYes, with the WaterRower ComModule (sold separately)Yes
Warranty1-year limited warranty2-year warranty on moving parts and monitor; 5-year warranty on frame parts

Customer Experience 

WaterRower earned 3 out of 5 stars for customer experience because its 1-year warranty falls short of industry standards. Other companies like Peloton and Hydrow offer 5-year limited warranties on their machines’ frames and parts.

However, WaterRower’s 30-day return policy is in line with that of other brands. The product must be in its original packaging to be eligible for a return. You can email the company to arrange for them to pick up the rower.

Ordering and Assembling the WaterRower

You can buy the WaterRower on the company’s website, on Amazon, or through third-party fitness equipment resellers. If you buy directly from WaterRower’s website, financing is available through Bread Pay. You can choose 12-, 18-, 24-, 36-, or 48-month plans, and rates range from 0% to 29.99% based on your terms and credit history.

The straightforward assembly process led us to rate the WaterRower 4 out of 5 stars in this category. It took less than 45 minutes to assemble, including filling the water tank. However, we docked it a point because there doesn’t appear to be an option for white glove delivery, which we look for when buying large pieces of equipment.

Customer Reviews

The WaterRower website doesn’t display customer reviews. On Amazon, the rower has an average rating of 4.6 stars based on 460 reviews.

The design and the soothing noise of the water are two standout features highlighted in most Amazon reviews. Amazon buyers also praise its portability and sturdiness.

A few negative reviews called out the limited functionality of the S4 performance monitor. Some Amazon customers also noticed issues with the water tank leaking.

Final Verdict of Our WaterRower Review

The WaterRower is a beautiful, durable machine that you won’t feel the need to hide whenever friends or family come to visit. Our product tester had a positive experience using this rower, but there are still a few things to keep in mind before adding it to your home gym:

  • There is no touchscreen, and the monitor it comes with isn’t Bluetooth-enabled. To turn it into a more interactive machine, you must purchase the WaterRower ComModule, which costs about $80.
  • You’ll need to monitor the water tank to ensure the water stays clean. WaterRower recommends adding a new purification tablet to the tank every 6 months or so.
  • This rower doesn’t fold or break apart for storage, but you can store it upright when it’s not in use if you need more space.

Full Rating

WaterRower

The WaterRower Natural is an excellent rower that uses (drumroll) water instead of air as its main mode of resistance. This closely simulates the resistance you would receive in real-life rowing, and it sounds pretty amazing, too.

Product Brand: WaterRower

Product Currency: $

Product Price: 1189

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
3.8

WaterRower Rating

Value – 4.5
Ergonomics – 4.5
Resistance – 3
Footprint and portability – 4
Durability – 5
Programming and technology – 2
Assembly – 4
Customer experience – 3
Customer reviews – 4.6
Buy Now

WaterRower: FAQs

Is WaterRower a good workout?

The WaterRower provides an excellent, low-impact cardio workout. Rowing doesn’t place a lot of stress on your joints, making it suitable for older individuals, beginners, or anyone with a history of joint issues. It also provides more of a full-body workout than running or cycling.

Is a WaterRower better than real rowing?

Rowing on a machine will never fully replicate the feeling of rowing on open water. However, a water rowing machine provides a more realistic rowing experience than air or magnetic rowers.

What is better, a WaterRower or an air rower?

A water rower isn’t necessarily better than an air rower, and vice versa. Which one is better for you depends on your personal preferences. Water rowers are quieter and provide a more realistic rowing experience. However, they can be more expensive and require more maintenance. Air rowers are louder but often more budget-friendly. They also don’t need as much maintenance.

Can you build muscle with WaterRower?

You generally can’t build significant muscle mass with cardio workouts alone, including rowing. To gain muscle, you need to follow a resistance training program and eat enough calories (specifically protein).

We discuss this topic in more detail in our article Does Rowing Build Muscle?

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