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WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

Last updated: August 9th 2016

The WaterRower brand has long been a mainstay among fitness enthusiasts shopping for new equipment, and there’s a good reason for that: Over its history in this industry, WaterRower has worked hard to create premium, high-end equipment that uses natural materials and promotes fitness without complicated machinery or energy-inefficient technologies. The company’s latest WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is a perfect example of this. While the company’s competition has created rowing machines that only simulate the effect of real water, and use electronic dashboards for control over the level of resistance used during the workout, its own product works differently. This rower made it to one of our top picks of the best rowing machine for this year.

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Real water is used in clear flywheel assembly, while all-natural wood gives the machine a vintage look that can fit in with home or gym decor. This wood doubles as a way to reduce the noise of vibrations while working out, which allows rowers to focus more on their workout and its soundtrack. The comfortable seat uses vibration-reducing materials that drive up comfort and reduce user fatigue that sometimes results from competing models.


  • Designed to reduce long-term maintenance, the WaterRower comes with belts and fixtures that do not need regular lubrication or scheduled replacement.
  • the use of a reservoir with real water allows the machine to be the quietest rower currently on the market, with two paddles that simulate realistic rowing resistance.
  • An all-natural wood finish comes in either Ash or Honey Oak, which allows the WaterRower to fit into any existing home or gym decor.
  • A comfortable seat reduces the transmission of vibrations from the reservoir to the user, virtually eliminating traditional user fatigue levels associated with competing rowing machines.
  • The machine can be stored away in the upright position, which dramatically reduces its footprint and allows it to fit into even a very small closet.
  • A small, built-in performance monitor tracks key metrics like heart rate, stroke rate, workout intensity, and other workout-related data points.
  • Resistance is self-regulated by filling the flywheel container, not artificially controlled by a built-in dashboard or proprietary resistance system.

The Good

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine was long been the preferred choice for high-end gym equipment buyers, largely due to its natural materials, all-natural and self-regulated water reservoir, and commitment to more durable materials that virtually eliminate the need for ongoing preventative maintenance. The machine has even made a pretty significant appearance in the Emmy-winning Netflix series, “House of Cards,” and has begun appearing in high-end gyms in recent years. Why the allure? This model is distinct from virtually every competing rowing machine on the market for several key reasons.

First and foremost, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine uses a unique water reservoir that regulates resistance based on how full it is. Less water in the reservoir will produce a workout that is “easier” by way of less resistance with each stroke. Filling the reservoir will gradually, progressively, increase the resistance required to pull the oars and complete a stroke. This reduces arbitrary resistance levels that are associated with competing rowing machines, and allows users to fine-tune their workout so that it matches their fitness level exactly.

WaterRower Natural Rower in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor

The reservoir also is the centerpiece of a rowing machine that requires virtually no maintenance. The reservoir itself features two paddles that require no lubrication or ongoing preventative work. The belt attached to the handle does not require any kind of lubrication or cleaning over time, making this machine a “set it and forget it” way to get a rowing cardio workout in. That compares favorably not only to competing rowing machines, but also to both treadmills and elliptical machines that need significant maintenance work every few weeks.

The machine comes with a small piece of built-in monitoring hardware that can track things like stroke rate and heart rate, workout intensity and resistance, and other key metrics that document fitness levels and long-term improvements. This built-in system is small and noninvasive, however, unlike the front-and-center electronic dashboards bundled with virtually all competing options. That means users can focus more singularly on their workout without added distractions. While they do so, the vibration-reducing wood, and the innovative seat, will make sure that reservoir vibrations are not transmitted to the operator in any way.

When the workout is over, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine’s reservoir can be emptied and the equipment can be storied upright. Its upright footprint measures just a few square feet, and is perfect for storage in a coat closet or a smaller space around the home until its services are required again.

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The Bad

While many users prefer to eliminate the distractions of a central, electronic dashboard on their rowing equipment so that it simulates real rowing, there are some who might find this to be more of a con than a pro. Indeed, the lack of a large central dashboard can make it particularly difficult to see how long the workout has lasted, how strong the resistance has been, or how many strokes have been taken. For those who are used to bigger displays, this will require adjustment.

By design, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine comes with a very stripped-down, basic feature set. The company’s stated goal is to allow fitness enthusiasts to simply focus on their workout. This might not work for users who are used to using apps like FitBit to track their workouts, since the WaterRower offers no automatic data syncing or digital workout tracking. Its basic feature set reduces maintenance and added expenses, but for some users this might increase the amount of work required to leverage digital workout trackers and weight loss tools.

The Verdict

Though the machine is basic, this is generally a good feature that reduces maintenance, lessens the learning curve, and allows new WaterRower owners to get started with a rewarding workout right away. The company’s commitment to eco-friendly harvested wood and natural finishes, and its ability to create a machine that requires virtually no long-term lubrication or belt maintenance, is perfect for high-end fitness enthusiasts, entry-level buyers, and those who are new to rowing altogether.

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WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine Video Review

About the author

Tory Reiss

Hi! I'm Tory Reiss. I built this blog to share my fitness quest and provide informative reviews of fitness equipment, gadgets, and supplements that you can use to help reach your health goals. Hope you enjoy it!