It's been nearly 30 years since John Duke, a former Yale University and USA National Team oarsman, set up a small shop in Rhode Island, USA to begin fine-tuning his innovative water-resistant rowing machine. With its beautiful design and unmatched feel, the WaterRower quickly gained a cult-like following of both on-water rowers and fitness enthusiasts that had found their perfect piece of workout equipment. As word spread of the new product that simulated the feel of on-water rowing, WaterRower transitioned from simply a one-off product found within the occasional boathouse to an established brand in both the rowing and fitness world.
The dense resistance of water creates substantial drag, but on the WaterRower models, this is perfectly tempered by a whippy cord. It coils and recoils with such steady speed that one tester noted how the Classic “eats the rope back up on recovery.” This smooth agility helps balance out the impact of encountering slow water at the start of every stroke.
We picked the brains of rowing coaches, fitness experts, and physical therapists to learn what features make for an exceptional rower. Based on their input, we searched the market for air and water resistance rowing machines, then tested the best for ride feel and design. We found one model of each type — air resistance and water resistance — that felt truly superior to the others.
This is a company known for quality as well as stewardship for over 20 years. WaterRower hand-crafts their rowing machines to be more than just a workout machine, but also a work of art as well. Also, WaterRower is and has been on the cutting edge of environmental sustainability with their use of the best hardwoods coming from renewable forests. We’re in excellent hands here.
No matter the resistance we set or the power we applied, the machine remains sturdy, centered, and even. We amped up the intensity for 2000m sprints and found that the C2 supports consistent effort in a way water resistance can’t. The machine assists in keeping your intensity uniform, because it stores up remaining energy in the spinning flywheel. Comments about the ride feel of both Concept 2s were noticeably brief. As one tester put it, “It’s unremarkable because it’s good,” and leaves you free to focus on the effort you’re putting into your workout.
Water rowers feature a tank that is actually filled with water as a means for resistance. As you increase the pace of rowing, the resistance naturally increases as well. This means that you can set your own pace and resistance in a single motion. The same is true for air rowers. Air rowers use a fan or flywheel to create resistance, and you have control over the intensity of the workout due to the fact that the air resistance depends on your pace. Most water and air rowers come equipped with -- or at least have as an option -- monitors that track various functions such as distance, strokes, strokes per minute and calories burned.

If you're looking at a WaterRower, you're probably also considering the Concept2. They're both great machines, but which you choose depends on your needs. I think the WaterRower is ideal for most people, but not everyone. The WaterRower has a number of advantages vs the Concept 2 - it is quieter, the mechanism up front is lower profile, it has a comfortable seat, it is much better looking, it's easier to stand up when you're not rowing and it's just ... zen-like. There is something about the smoothness of the WaterRower that makes it a joy to use, and because it's quiet you can easily stream your favorite binge-series without cranking the volume too high.
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