Is the Waterrower Really That Great?

The Waterrower has recently been made famous by Kevin Spacy as the rowing machine used in the ‘House of Cards’. It is a type of wooden rowing machine produced and manufactured by Waterrower Inc. in New England, USA. The rowers were designed by ex-US national team rower john Duke in the mid 1980’s and the company to manufacture them was established in 1988.

Whilst these water rowing machines are not the cheapest on the market, they perform extremely well, are quiet, easy to store and beautiful to look at. When I last looked, they ranged from the A1 at $999.99 to the top of the range at for home use at --.


Most of the Waterrower range is made of wood harvested from the sustainably managed Appalachian forests of the eastern United States. The machines are extremely well built and are beautiful to look at coming in Ash, Oak or Cherry wood. If you are concerned about having an exercise machine in a living area, then one of the wooden models will fit right in to your living room. They are also extremely quiet in operation due to the wooden construction and the use of a strap rather that a chain. The only thing you can really hear is the swishing sound of the water in the tank as you pull giving you the feeling that you are really on the river!

Rowing action

The rowing machine itself is unlike any other on the market with its patented water filled flywheel. It is hard to exactly copy the action of a scull on the water, but the mechanics of the flywheel spinning in water comes in a close second on dry land. The fact that the water is 800 times denser than air means that there is no need for any extra resistance or dampening that you will find in normal air rowers. The faster you pull, the more resistance is generated giving it infinite variability. However, if you want to be able to practice rowing with a faster stroke, you will have to reduce the amount of water in the tank unlike an air rower where you just have to adjust the baffle.

There is virtually no delay in the resistance at the catch (the beginning of the pull), but the resistance drops off in the middle of the stroke as the water is lifted up away from the blades. This then drops down again as the end, which once again increases the resistance.


Storage is also a plus point for the Waterrower series as they are all designed to stand upright with the tank acting as ballast for stability. In this position they only take up around two square feet. Again, great if you are planning on training in the living room. However, if you have small children, I would advise fixing the top to the wall with a hook and strap.

Ergometer ergonomics

The rail on which the seat rides on the Waterrower is flat, unlike the Concept2, which has a slight tilt towards the front. There is not much of a difference but it is better for people with chronic knee problems. The seat is fairly soft and comfortable and the handle is sturdy and gives a good grip.

One downside of the Waterrower for me are the footrests. Whilst they are perfectly adequate if you want to row in shoes, rowing barefoot, which is something I like to do, is impossible. The plastic is completely square at the bottom and has sharp edges that cut into your heels. I also found that my shoes get caught when trying to put them in and out of the holders, which is a bit irritating.

The seat is quite squidgy and more comfortable than the Concept2. Having said that, both are somewhat luxurious compared with the wooden seats in the boats!


A Wooden Rowing Machine

For me, the best feature of the Waterrowers is the fact that they are made of high quality hardwood from sustainable plantations in the Appalachian Forest. Not only does this make them look beautiful, wood also has a noise dampening effect which you do not get with aluminium or steel framed machines.

Appalachian Ash
Appalachian Cherry
Appalachian Walnut

The Appalachian forest is located in the Eastern region of the USA and covers 12 states and more than 65 million acres. The forest is sustainably managed with an average of 2.29 trees growing for every one that is harvested.

The Waterrower – Simply a Great Rowing Machine

The Waterrower company is no longer the only indoor rower manufacturer that makes wooden rowing machines using water as a dampening mechanism. Recently, a number of Chinese copies have appeared on the market. They use cheap veneered chipboard instead of the quality hardwoods chosen by Waterrower. What’s remarkable is that they are not even that cheap!

The Waterrower is the original and are extremely well built. The company also offers excellent support, so if anything does go wrong, they are very quick to respond and will do there very best to solve the problem as fast as possible.

All in all, the Waterrower is an excellent rowing machine that will last a long time. It has a beautiful design and a smooth quiet action. It is easy to move and store, has a comfortable seat and solid handle. If you are serious about buying a rowing machine, then you should really spend the extra cash and buy a good one. If you choose a Waterrower, you will not be sorry!

Waterrower Ash - View on Amazon: $1,289.00

The Waterrower Ash is, as you would expect, made of ash wood. These are very hard wearing and beautiful to look at.


Waterrower Club - View on Amazon: $1,160.00

The Club has been designed for commercial use being made from stained ash with black rails to prevent scuffing in high traffic areas.

Waterrower A1 - View on Amazon: $999.99

The A1 (Indo-Row) is a somewhat simplified version of the range. It has a monorail, a cut-down monitor and a maximum seat load of 275lbs.

Top 10 Best Rowing Machines

Orangetheory Water Rowers

A question that often pops up is what brand of water rower does the orangetheory fitness chain use. The answer is the Waterrower M1 Hirise. The only difference is that it’s painted orange instead of the usual silver. The M1 Hirise is a robust machine that is really designed for the level of use that you would expect in a gym and it will set you back somewhat more than a normal wooden waterrower. You also won’t be able to store it upright against the wall as is possible with the other machines. 

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