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Using water for resistance, water rowing machines allow you to experience the sound and feel of outdoor rowing without having to worry about the weather.
Compared with magnetic and air rowers, water rowers are known for offering a smoother stroke action and tend to be beautifully designed.
Plus, like other rowing machines, water rowers offer a low impact way to get your heart rate up.
We rounded up the best water rowers on the market to help make your purchasing decision as easy as possible.
Keep reading for our list of the 4 best water rowing machines.
- Best overall water rower: WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine
- Best water rower for beginners: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine
- Best customizable water rower: Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine
- Best basic water rower: Merax Water Rowing Machine
When shopping for a water rower, it’s helpful to keep these factors in mind:
- Ease of changing resistance level. While more advanced models allow you to change the resistance level using a dial or a switch, basic water rowers often require you to manually change the amount of water in the tank.
- Performance tracking. Most water rowers feature a basic console for displaying data such as time, distance, calories burned, and power output. However, some also offer Bluetooth capabilities for tracking your performance using fitness apps.
- Feel of the seat and handle. A comfortable seat and handle are important. You’ll also want to decide whether you want one or two handles and which type of hold you prefer. If you have a larger or smaller frame, choose a machine you can adjust for a better fit.
- Price. In addition to the price of the rower itself, you’ll want to factor in other costs, such as shipping, delivery, and assembly. Because rowing machines aren’t cheap, it’s also important to pay attention to the company’s refund policy and included warranty.
When deciding which water rowing machines would make our list, we considered:
- Ease of use. The best water rowing machines stand out for their ability to quickly change resistance levels mid-workout. They’re also suitable for beginner and advanced rowers alike.
- Handle design. Classic-style rowing machines typically have one handle. However, some models come with two handles, allowing for a greater range of upper body motion during your workout. We included options for both.
- Storage and portability. We looked for water rowers to suit a variety of workout spaces.
- Price. We know budgets can vary, so we included rowers at multiple price points.
- Customer reviews. The rowers on our list have mostly positive reviews online.
A note on price
General price ranges with dollar signs ($–$$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher cost.
Generally, prices range from $436.74–$1,095, though this may vary depending on where you shop.
- $ = under $500
- $$ = $500–$1,000
- $$$ = over $1,000
Best overall water rower
WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine
If you’re looking for a rower that also functions as a beautiful piece of furniture, then you’ll love the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine.
The machine is made from durable solid ash wood and stained in a warm honey oak tone.
In addition to looking great, the wood material helps absorb sound and keep vibrations to a minimum.
WaterRower machines feature a patented water flywheel resistance system that’s suitable for users with joint concerns. The rower also has a balanced teardrop handle that’s designed to help prevent wrist torquing.
While it doesn’t fold, the rower can be stored vertically.
Included in your purchase is the rower itself, water purification tablets, an Allen key for easy adjustments, a syphon pump, an owner’s manual, and an S4 performance monitor for displaying key stats such as your distance, duration, and intensity.
Two things to keep in mind: The rower sits flat on the floor, and it doesn’t come with Bluetooth connectivity. However, high-rise leg attachments (as shown in the picture above) and a Bluetooth CoModule are sold separately on the company’s website.
Key specs of the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine
- Dimensions: 83 × 24 × 21 inches (211 × 61 × 53.3 cm)
- Max user height: 37-inch (94-cm) inseam
- Max weight capacity: 700 pounds (317.5 kg)
- Frame material: ash wood and oak
- Display: LCD
- Warranty: 1-year frame and components; optional free upgrade when purchasing from WaterRower includes coverage for 5 years on the frame and 3 years on components
Best water rower for beginners
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine
The Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 is great for beginners because it’s a smaller investment but still offers a dynamic rowing experience.
The rower features a water resistance system with 16 hydro-blades on the flywheel, which create extra resistance the faster you row.
The machine also includes a molded, padded high profile seat and sweat-resistant handlebars for comfort. However, some users find that both the seat and the handle grip take some getting used to.
The machine is equipped with an R2 meter that records your total time, 500-meter time, total strokes, calories, ambient temperature, and more and displays them on a simple LCD monitor.
If you’re trying to conserve space, this machine can be stored upright when not in use. It also includes high density, non-marking rubber wheels to help you move it across the room.
Just keep in mind that while this rower offers a lot for less than $500, you can find machines for $100–$200 more that are Bluetooth-enabled and offer more advanced performance tracking.
Key specs of the Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine
- Dimensions: 80 × 22 × 34 inches (203 × 56 × 86.4 cm)
- Max user height: 37-inch (94-cm) inseam
- Max weight capacity: 300 pounds (136.1 kg)
- Frame material: steel
- Display: LCD
- Warranty: 3-year frame, 180-day parts and components
Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine
Offering height-adjustable footplates with straps, the Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine is a great option if you struggle to find a rower that fits you just right.
You can also customize your workouts by choosing manual, interval custom, or target mode on the Bluetooth monitor.
Designed to replicate the shape of a ship, the Mr. Captain Water Rowing machine is another stunning option and is available in red walnut, vintage oak, or zebrawood. It also features transport wheels and can be stored vertically to save space.
The rower gets great reviews for its comfortable seat, ergonomic handle, and smooth and quiet operation. Customers also appreciate that you don’t have to add or remove water to adjust the resistance level during a workout.
One thing to consider is that some users had to find replacement parts sooner than they expected. However, many still say this rower provides excellent value.
Key specs of the Mr. Captain Water Rower
- Dimensions: 82 × 22 × 20 inches (208.3 × 56 × 51 cm)
- Max user height: 43-inch (109.2-cm) inseam
- Max weight capacity: 320 pounds (145.2 kg)
- Frame material: wood
- Display: Bluetooth-enabled digital monitor
- Warranty: 1-year frame, 180-day parts and components
Best basic water rower
Merax Water Rowing Machine
If you’re looking for a basic, no-frills machine that’s priced under $500, consider the Merax Water Rowing Machine.
The rower includes an LCD screen for displaying key metrics, including the duration of your workout, calories burned, number of strokes, distance, and heart rate.
It also offers a competitive race mode for an added challenge, as well as quick start and stop buttons.
The Merax comes with a contoured padded seat for comfort and foot pedals with Velcro straps to keep your feet secure during more intense rowing sessions.
The pulling handle is a straight metallic bar with rubberized grips that provide some comfort, though the handle isn’t as ergonomically designed as others on this list.
The handle also lacks pulse sensors, so you’ll want to wear a fitness tracker or chest strap if you’re interested in monitoring your heart rate.
Finally, while the water tank is positioned at an angle for optimal resistance, you will need to add or remove water from the tank to adjust the resistance level during your workout.
Key specs of the Merax Water Rowing Machine
- Dimensions: 78 × 20 × 25.5 inches (198.1 × 50.8 × 64.8 cm)
- Max user height: not disclosed, but users with up to a 34-inch (86.4-cm) inseam report that it fits them just fine
- Max weight capacity: 330 pounds (149.7 kg)
- Frame material: alloy steel
- Display: LCD
- Warranty: not disclosed
Here’s a quick look at how our top picks compare:
|WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine||Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine||Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine||Merax Water Rowing Machine|
|Dimensions||83 × 24 × 21 inches (211 × 61 × 53.3 cm)||80 × 22 × 34 inches (203 × 56 × 86.4 cm)||82 × 22 × 20 inches (208.33 × 56 × 51 cm)||78 × 20 × 25.5 inches (198.1 × 50.8 × 64.8 cm)|
|Resistance adjustment||adjusts based on speed of your stroke||adjusts based on speed of your stroke||adjusts based on speed of your stroke||requires filling/emptying of water tank|
|Max weight capacity||700 pounds (317.5 kg)||300 pounds (136.1 kg)||320 pounds (145.2 kg)||330 pounds (149.7 kg)|
|Max user inseam||37 inches (94 cm)||37 inches (94 cm)||43 inches (109.2 cm)||not disclosed|
|Bluetooth||yes, requires additional purchase of Bluetooth CoModule||no||yes||no|
|Warranty||• 5-year frame|
• 3-year components
|• 3-year frame|
• 180-day parts and components
|• 1-year frame|
• 180-day parts and components
Note that the prices above reflect the current list price and may vary by retailer.
Whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a casual exerciser, a water rowing machine can offer a great low impact workout.
We’re confident that by considering the price, available features, size, and material, you’ll find a water rowing machine that best fits your exercise needs.