Top 7 Best Water Rowing Machines – Your Shortcut To a ‘Boat Like’ Experience

Water rowers are a fairly recent type of rowing machines, but they are becoming more and more popular. Because of that, we are going to show you our picks for the top 8 best water rowing machines. 

Some of these are among the best rowing machines you can get, no matter the type. After we go over our picks, we are going to spend some time discussing what makes water rowers so interesting in the first place. 

As you’re about to find out, there is much more to them than just the initial cool factor. Lets get right to it.

Top 7 Best Water Rowing Machines

Iron Company is one of the few brands who have decided to deviate from the original Water Rower design. While this has definitely increased the overall cost of the product, it has also elevated it to a whole new level of durability. It all comes down to the frame. Where most of the water rower models out there feature a wooden construction, Iron Company has decide to go with an all steel build.

Naturally, you get all of the trademark features which include proprietary water tank flywheel setup as well as the Series 4 performance monitor. The main reason why this particular rower is interesting is the fact that it is just so robust. This is what you would call a commercial grade rowing machine. In other words, it’s built to a spec where it can withstand commercial gym use with regular maintenance.

The submerged flywheel design means that you get progressive resistance depending on how hard you push the machine. Because of that, the monitoring module doesn’t need to be complex. It offers an easy and clear way of tracking your progress, your stats and simply knowing how your workout is progressing. Best of all, this machine is handcrafted.

Life Fitness Row HX Trainer is by far one of the most elegant water rowers on the market. We’re looking at a high end machine whose architecture leaves no room for compromises. The frame itself is made out of wood and is reinforced with a steel subframe. Some would say that the wood is only there for show but that isn’t really the case.

Rather, the wood gives you the whole thing most of its rigidity. One thing that really stands out with this one is just how well everything was put together. Life Fitness did a great job at ensuring that every moving part was working with almost no excessive friction. The water tank is a large unit made out of transparent materials.

Aside from looking quite awesome, it also houses one of the best flywheels on this end of the market. As you probably know by now, water rowers use input force to control resistance. However, this one comes with four levels of selectable resistance. The idea is to have that progressive resistance but also a quick way to engage your body without having to up momentum. Lastly, the display unit is quite sizable and easy to read.

The next model we want to show you comes from WaterRower. This brand is directly credited for coming up with the design which many other use at the moment. Their Xeno Muller signature edition water rower is definitely one of the better models on the market. In a sense, it offers that perfect bang for the buck value in the upper mid range of the market.

The frame itself features a very natural look to it. WaterRower has used Ash woof for the majority of this build, which makes this model pretty light from a purely aesthetic point of view. The overall build quality is truly spot on with everything being securely bolted on. We were curious about the woodworking part of the build, even though this is a pretty simple design.

As expected, WaterRower has done everything up to spec. When it comes to resistance, you have that classic submerged flywheel design. What makes this a Xeno Muller signature model aside from the light natural finish are wider handlebars and a set of exercises by Muller which you can access once you purchase this rower. Overall, it is a smooth, silent and quite reliable water rowing machine.

First Degree is one of the brands who have taken the original WaterRover layout and added a spin of their own. Just like it is the case with most other models and brands who did the same, First Degree has kept the core of the design the same. The main differences come in form of various details being altered. One of the biggest changes you will notice right away are the aesthetics.

The original WaterRower was meant to bring a touch of natural wood to your workout environment or home. Despite them claiming that aesthetics aren’t important, most of these brands know that a rower that looks good is going to be used far more often. Well, First Degree Fitness found a way to cash in on this idea. Their Apollo Pro II is by far one of the best looking water rowers on the market at the moment.

Simply by applying a darker stain finish on the wood, they have managed to completely change the aesthetic. In terms of drive system, the rail and handles, you are looking at a set of components which are on par with with the competition. This rower definitely offers reliable and durable performance.

By now you are probably seeing a pattern of different brands using a fairly similar design. That not by mistake. On the contrary, the main design that WaterRower has set back in the day has proven to be quite timeless and efficient. However, as with all things, other brands have found different ways to improve upon the original design. What Pure Design Fitness Valor offers is exactly that.

A subtly different take on the established design which improves things quite a bit. The main frame is your standard wooden one with a metal sub frame for added rigidity. However, the water tank housing isn’t made out of wood. Instead, it sits in a metallic cage which makes life that much easier if we are being perfectly honest. Assembling this rower is pretty easy and straight forward.

The instructions provided are pretty clear and easy to follow. Once put together, you will notice that everything runs fairly smoothly. One thing to note is that Valor comes with the VR2 monitoring system. This is basically a fancy name for an on board computer module which allows you to track your progress as you exercise. Best of all, this rower is quite affordable.

Compared to most models on our list, Stamina Elite Wave is a whole different type of rower, which can be a good thing. For starters it is worth mentioning that this model features a very different frame design. Where most other models on our list use that established WaterRower design, this machine is much closer to your average magnetic or air rower.

The main thing you gain by taking this route is the reduced price of production which in turn means a lower price tag on the rower itself. This might make you wonder whether it’s worth investing in, and it should. However, one closer look will reveal that the core of the machine, the water tank and its submerged flywheel are pretty rock solid all things considered.

Another thing worth mentioning is that you can actually disassemble this frame. It’s not one of those folding units, though. Making it more compact or easy to stow away comes down to unbolting the main rail from the water tank chassis. The built in computer module is pretty neat and is located in a very natural spot compared to most of the other models. That gives the Valor a proper edge.

The very last water rower on our list comes from Sunny Health & Fitness. This brand is known for their awesome affordable fitness equipment which is quite reliable and durable in 99% of the cases. Their reputation is so good that you’ll see their products being used very frequently even in some gyms. With that kind of street cred, it’s no wonder that Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713 is among the most popular water rowers on the market right now. 

The first obvious difference between the Obsidian and the rest of the models on our list is the frame. Sunny went with a very minimalist frame which is kind walking that fine line between a good and bad decision. Even so, it provides more than enough stability and comes with leveling feet. The rail is pretty smooth although a bit skinny for our taste. 

What matters the most is that the drive system delivers. The submerged flywheel has that progressive feel to it and generally inspires confidence. Same could be said about the handles and the rest of the components such as the seat. If you’re on a very tight budget and you want a solid water rower, this is it.

What Makes Water Rowers So Interesting?

Rowing is one of those activities which appears to be very simple and straight forward. However, it is anything but. All of the necessary technique aside, rowing is super hard to emulate in dry conditions. Most of modern machines of this type are going to be magnetic rowers

These are awesome in their own right, but they don’t reproduce the essence of rowing completely. There are also air rowers and even hydraulic piston rowing machines. All of these methods were invented in an effort to bring dry rowing a bit closer to the real thing and push the whole experience higher. 

Water rowers are currently at the very edge of that effort. It all comes down to the way these machines produce resistance. We will get to that in a second, but first we would like to mention that water rowers are a niche that not many brands are exploring right now. 

That has to do a lot with the brand who has initially developed this system, their patents and so on. Even so, there is a healthy amount of options available at the moment, some of which have found their way to our list.

The Principle Behind Water Rowing Machines

Where magnetic rowers use magnets to produce resistance, water rowers use water. One of the established rules in this niche is that you have to have a transparent water tank. Cool looks aside, this allows you to see exactly what is going on inside the machine. 

Water rowers rely on submerged flywheels which spin and thus produce resistance. The awesome thing about this approach is that you are dealing with the same compression properties of water as you would were you on an actual boat. 

Is it going to be a 100% exact same sensation? Probably not, but it is as close as we can get right now. That is why many pros and hard core enthusiasts go for these machines over the other alternatives.

Things To Keep In Mind When Shopping For Water Rowers

Now that we know how they work and why they are becoming so popular, lets briefly mention a few things you should keep in mind when shopping for these. First and foremost, an average water rower is going to cost a lot. 

 Higher prices are due to the complexity of the system but also due to the fact that this is a fairly new segment of the market. Next, you should know that water rowers are anything but compact. 

On the contrary, these machines tend to be larger than your average rower. If these two facts are something you can live with, chances are that you will enjoy water rowers quite a bit.

The Ver(ve)dict

Rowing is all about getting that workout done for most people. However, for some it is much more. If you appreciate the activity but want more out of it, looking into water rowers is probably going to yield best results. 

The models we have listed above are definitely some of the best you can fin on the market at the moment. We have included the brand that started it all as well as some of their competition. 

All you have to do is find the model that best fits your need, style and preferences. Once you do that, you’re set.