Founded in 1988, WaterRower is a Rhode Island-based company known for its beautifully crafted indoor rowing machines.
Made from wood or brushed stainless steel, WaterRower machines also stand out for their water-based resistance system, which provides an on-the-water feeling.
I’ve owned the WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine for more than 5 years, and while I’m still happy with my purchase, there are a few aspects of the rower that I think could be better. Keep reading for my comprehensive review of the WaterRower lineup.
WaterRower, Inc., is a small, privately held company headquartered in Warren, Rhode Island. As its name suggests, the company’s stationary rowers use a water-filled tank to provide resistance as you exercise.
While there are slight differences among models, WaterRowers are designed with a circular tank at the front of the rower. Inside the tank is a paddle that the pull cable is attached to.
As you row, the cable pulls on the paddle, causing it to spin and drag against the water inside, which in turn creates resistance.
Water rowers vs. air and magnetic rowers
In addition to providing the feel and sound of rowing on the water, water rowers are known for their quiet and smooth operation.
However, water rowers tend to be quite pricey, and there are fewer brands and models to choose from than with other types of rowers.
Most stationary rowers found in commercial and home gyms use either air or magnetic resistance, both of which have pros and cons.
For example, air rowers can closely mimic the feel of water resistance without requiring you to add or remove water from a tank. However, they’re quite noisy and don’t provide the same atmospheric experience as a water rower.
Magnetic rowers use magnets to provide friction, resulting in smooth, quiet operation. These rowers tend to be lighter and easier to store. So, what’s the downside? Most magnetic rowers don’t provide an on-the-water feel — with the exception of the Hydrow.
There are 10 WaterRower models, differing slightly in design, features, and price.
Here’s the current list of WaterRowers:
- A1 Home
- A1 Studio
- M1 HiRise
- M1 LoRise
- Xeno Müller Signature Edition
The A1 Home Rower is the company’s entry-level model. In addition to being the cheapest, the A1 differs from WaterRower’s typical design in four key ways:
- It comes with an A1 monitor, which displays intensity and distance and offers programmable time and distance workouts.
- It features a monorail glider construction.
- It’s made from a combination of wooden parts and a metal rail.
- It has a longer, 17-inch (43.2-cm) handle.
The A1 Studio is the same as the A1 Home. The only difference is that it’s intended for businesses and comes with a commercial warranty.
The other eight WaterRower machines feature a two-rail design and are constructed using either all solid wood or all metal parts.
These rowers also have a slightly more advanced digital readout, the S4 Monitor. In addition to displaying more performance metrics, the monitor has add-on capabilities to pair with apps or other sensors.
Finally, among these eight machines are two special-edition models:
- Xeno Müller Signature Edition Rowing Machine. This rower was designed in collaboration with rowing coach and Olympic competitor Xeno Müller. Its design includes a wider handle and lower footrests to allow for a greater range of motion.
- WaterRower S1. This limited edition rower features all stainless steel construction, which makes it WaterRower’s toughest and most expensive model.
Have you tried other rowers before?
Yes. I’ve used basic cable rowers at different gyms over the years, but the WaterRower Classic is the only water-based machine I’ve used. I’ve always liked stationary rowers because they require full-body coordination and are low impact.
I own the WaterRower Classic and find it to be relatively compact. Here are the dimensions when it’s in use:
All WaterRowers can be kept horizontal or stowed vertically. A pair of wheels at one end lets you lever the rower into and out of an upright position.
According to the company’s website, the maximum user weight capacity is about 1,000 pounds (453.6 kg), and the maximum user height, based on your inseam measurement, is 37 inches (94 cm).
The WaterRower Classic (like all other WaterRowers, except for the A1 machines) is equipped with an S4 Monitor. This digital readout displays time, distance, speed/intensity, stroke rate, and heart rate (when paired with a heart rate monitor).
The S4 Monitor also features several programmed workouts, including interval training.
Another benefit of the S4 Monitor is that it can be used with the WaterRower Bluetooth ComModule, allowing you to connect your WaterRower to third-party training apps.
WaterRower machines range in price from $949–$2,799, depending on the model, material type, and included accessories, such as high rise legs.
The A1 Home is the least expensive, at $949, while the limited edition S1 is the priciest, with a $2,799 price tag.
I own the WaterRower Classic, which currently costs $1,599.
Shipping fees vary based on your location and on whether you purchased a wooden or metal model. Here are the current rates:
- States east of the Mississippi River: $69.95 per wooden machine; $124.95 per metal machine
- States west of the Mississippi River: $79.95 per wooden machine; $134.95 per metal machine
The company also offers accessories that can be purchased separately, including a heart rate monitor, tablet and smartphone holders, upgraded footboards, and the Bluetooth ComModule.
When purchased from the WaterRower website, rowers come with a 1-year warranty on the frame and components.
The company also offers a free warranty upgrade when you register your product. The upgrade includes a 5-year warranty on the frame and a 3-year warranty on components.
If you’re unsure whether a WaterRower is right for you, the company offers a rental program that allows you to try the Natural, Club, Oxbridge, Classic, or A1 Studio model.
The program requires a 3-month minimum rental term, which costs $38.58 per month for the A1 Studio and $43.24 per month for the other four models.
After the initial 3 months, you can choose to continue renting the machine for as long as you’d like, or you can purchase it outright.
WaterRower machines are designed to be easy to assemble and come with all the tools you’ll need, including:
- an owner’s manual
- a plastic siphon pump
- water purification tablets
- an Allen wrench or Allen key
There’s also a very helpful video on the company’s website that walks you through each step.
If you’re fine with putting together IKEA furniture or comfortable using an Allen wrench, a WaterRower will be easy to assemble.
Once the rower is put together, you’ll need to fill the water tank. To do this, you’ll need a clean bucket, the provided siphon pump, and about 3 gallons (13.6 liters) of either tap or distilled water. Note that there are line markings on the side of the tank to help you avoid overfilling it.
Finally, as the rower may need minor adjustments from time to time, the rower includes a spot to store the Allen wrench so that it’s out of sight but always handy.
Made from solid American black walnut, the WaterRower Classic looks more like furniture than exercise equipment.
The wooden rower features a comfortable sliding seat, adjustable footrests, and an easy-grip handle. At one end of the dual-rail track is the water tank and a set of dolly wheels for easy storage.
While some models offer slightly different seats, footrests, or handlebars, the major differences among WaterRower models are the materials used to construct them.
For example, the WaterRower Oxbridge is essentially the exact same rower as the Classic but is crafted from solid cherry wood, which gives it a lighter color.
Currently, WaterRower offers wooden rowers made from ash, American black walnut, or cherry wood with a light or dark stain, as well as metal rowers constructed from aluminum or stainless steel.
The A1 rowers feature a combination of ash hardwood and sleek aluminum.
One of the best parts of the WaterRower Classic is that I can hop on the machine and simply start rowing.
However, if you want to see your performance metrics, you’ll want to first turn on the S4 monitor.
The S4 monitor displays the following metrics:
- Stroke rate: strokes per minute
- Intensity: watts, calories burned, or speed measured in different units
- Duration: time
- Distance: meters, miles, kilometers, or strokes
- Zone bar: shown as a position based on a predefined workout zone (from high intensity work to low intensity)
- Heart rate (optional): heartbeats per minute if using WaterRower’s heart monitor accessory
You can also use the monitor to select a programmed workout based on distance, time, or stroke ratio (using the “advanced” button).
You can find several how-to videos for programming workouts on WaterRower’s YouTube channel.
The resistance level is determined by the amount of water you put in the drum. There is a sticker on the side of the drum to indicate fill lines, from 13 up to a max fill line of 19.
For proper maintenance, the company recommends adding water purification tablets to the water tank every 6 months. Some of these tablets come with the rower. The company even has a form for requesting free purification tablets.
I’ve owned the WaterRower Classic for more than 5 years now. Here’s a brief overview of what I like about the rower and what I think could be better.
It’s a full-body workout
As I’ve mentioned, one of my favorite parts of this rower is that it’s easy to use, meaning you can get a workout in without fussing with the machine.
Plus, each session can be as easy or as intense as you want, making it suitable for both beginner and advanced rowers. I also like using it as a quick full-body warmup before another workout.
That said, it’s important to maintain proper form throughout your rowing session to avoid injury from overextending or straining.
It works in an apartment
Being able to store the rower vertically is a huge plus.
For example, when I was in a 700-square-foot (65-square-meter) apartment at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rower was out of the way, tucked against the wall between a television, dining table, and coat stand.
When I was ready to exercise, I could easily lower and reposition the rower for a quick sweat session.
Even when it’s in use, the machine doesn’t require a large area. And despite its relatively small footprint, the WaterRower Classic accommodates both me — at 5 feet (152.4 cm) tall — and my 6-foot-tall (183-cm) partner without issue.
It doesn’t have many adjustment options
One issue I do have with the rower: It lacks adjustability for things like the angle of the footboard and level of resistance.
As mentioned earlier, to change the resistance level, you have to either add or remove water from the tank.
Aside from the times I’ve partially dismantled the rower for moving and emptied out the water, I’ve treated this mostly as a “set it and forget it” item.
Therefore, to increase the intensity, I instead row faster and/or compress a bit more at the catch position before pushing back (while maintaining good form, of course!).
As for the footboard, the adjustment options are limited, though pretty standard for indoor rowing machines. You can shorten or lengthen the foot stretcher by sliding it up or down a notch to better match your foot length.
WaterRower isn’t the only manufacturer out there for water-based rowing machines. The other big name is Ergatta.
The Ergatta row is another all-wooden water rower. Its main selling point is that it’s designed to be used with a subscription-based platform that provides both video game-inspired and scenic workouts.
Keep in mind that an Ergatta membership costs $29 per month.
Hydrow is another popular rower. While it’s designed to mimic the feel of on-the-water rowing, it uses magnetic, rather than water, resistance.
Like the Ergatta, the Hydrow Rower is equipped with an HD touch screen and designed to be used with a subscription-based streaming platform for live and on-demand classes.
The Hydrow currently costs $2,495, plus $38 per month for a Hydrow membership. Learn more about the Hydrow in our hands-on review.
I’d recommend a WaterRower machine if you want a water rower that’s sturdy and simple to use, doesn’t require electricity, and has visual appeal.
A WaterRower machine may also be a good fit if you’re savvy with gadgets and like being able to choose your accessory add-ons and apps rather than being locked into a particular service or subscription.
With that said, if you want a machine that comes with performance tracking, on-demand classes, or more high tech accessories right out of the box, then a WaterRower may not be the machine for you.
WaterRower offers elegant wooden and metal rowers and has options to suit a wide range of budgets.
The brand also offers several accessories, such as the Bluetooth ComModule, to add more technology and interactivity to your rower.
While it’s not for everyone, after 5 years of use, I still love my WaterRower Classic because it makes it easy to find movement in my day. Plus, the rower’s stunning design makes it a statement piece in the room — more than once, it’s been a conversation starter.