WaterRower Natural Review: The Best Rower Money Can Buy, Period.

“Swoosh, swoosh!” That’s the unmistakable sound the WaterRower makes as the menacing Frank Underwood gives it a beating. WaterRower, the company, has been around for quite some time now, specifically since the late 1980s. But it was only recently that most people have heard of them thanks to Netflix. You’ve probably seen the company’s eponymous rowing machine from watching Kevin Spacey’s character on “House of Cards.”


And as indoor rowing in general rightfully gains a good reputation of its own as a powerful total-body workout, you’ve probably seen those exquisite wooden pieces of exercise equipment taking  center stage at various gyms and fitness centers. (This is probably the first and last time you’re going to see the words “exquisite” and “exercise equipment” in a single sentence.)

There are several wooden WaterRower models available on the market, but in this review, we’re going to set our sights on the WaterRower Natural simply because it is the most popular and bestselling of the bunch. It’s not exactly the model that Mr. Underwood uses, (If you’re very particular, he uses the WaterRower Oxbridge.) but truth be told, there are very few differences in the WaterRower models.

If you’re thinking of getting a WaterRower for your home, it’s a good idea to go around and do your research. After all, you’ll be spending just a little bit more than a thousand bucks on this equipment, and you don’t want to have all that money go up in waste over an exercise machine that doesn’t suit your preferences.

In this review, we're going to discuss how the WaterRower’s combination of wooden materials and water-based resistance can give you an awesome exercise experience. We’re also going to talk about ergonomics—those seemingly tiny, unimportant design factors that affect the way you use the WaterRower in large ways. If you’re nitpicky, you really don’t want to miss this part.

There’s also a lot to say about the S4 Monitor and how it compares to the PM5 on the Concept2. We’re also dedicating a considerable amount of space to the WaterRower’s assembly and maintenance. Being made out of wood certainly makes keeping it in tiptop shape a little bit different than most gym equipment. And lastly, we’ll look at your buying options and the best places to buy your WaterRower Natural.

If you’re impatient and just want to look at certain parts of this review, you can do so by clicking the appropriate link in the Table of Contents below.

In a Nutshell... 

What We Like: 

  • Beautiful, handmade wooden design
  • Made from durable, sustainable hardwood 
  • Extremely durable; can last for decades
  • Very stable on all types of flooring 
  • Self-paced resistance 
  • Very quiet; almost Zen-like with the sound of water splashing in the background 
  • Decent monitor with heart rate tracking and ZoneBar
  • Flat rail makes it good for people with knee problems
  • Very little maintenance 
  • Excellent customer service

What We Don't Like:

  • Flimsy foot straps 
  • S4 monitor not as robust as Concept2 PM5 
  • No backlight on S4 monitor 

Possible Deal-breakers:

  • Backward tilt on seat forces your back to work harder 
  • Very low profile could hurt your knees if you have knee problems

Why Exercise on a WaterRower Natural

Most people limit their cardio to running and their resistance training to weight lifting. While both those exercises are certainly very effective, doing them over separate workouts can be time-consuming.

Rowing is a great way to put your cardio and resistance training into one, total-body workout. For sure, you’re not going to get massive muscle gains from rowing. You can only do that through lifting heavy weights and eating a lot of protein. But it allows you to build great functional strength for everyday use.

People who have joint problems also prefer rowing as an exercise. That’s because rowing is a low-impact workout that does not stress out your joints. If you have problems with your knees, or if you have had injuries, rowing is one good way to continue exercising without exerting more stress on your joints.

If you’re looking to lose weight or maintain your ideal weight, rowing is a good way to do that because it burns a whole load of calories. When combined with a healthy diet, exercising on a rowing machine will help you reach your fitness goals more easily.

WaterRower Natural in Ash Wood

Make no mistake about it, the WaterRower is simply the most beautiful piece of exercise equipment made by mankind. This particular model is hand-built using ash and stained honey oak, polished to a warm, lustrous finish using Danish oil. All this is done in the company’s home-grown facility in Warren, a small coastal town in Rhode Island.

But it’s not just about aesthetics. Ash is one of America’s most popular hardwood species because of its excellent strength and shock-absorbing properties. A WaterRower Natural, when assembled correctly, won’t teeter or totter on whatever surface it is placed on, whether it’s hardwood, carpet or concrete. The dimensional stability of ash is just as astounding as its longevity.

If you’ve been doing your research on this rowing machine, it’s not uncommon for you to find units that go way back to the 1990s. And don’t expect any brand new machine you purchase now to die an early death. You’re purchasing a thousand-dollar machine, after all. It would be an injustice if your new WaterRower gave up on you that quickly.

Wood is also a far better shock absorber than the metals used in other exercise equipment. This makes it more effective at absorbing sound and vibration, resulting in a smooth, quiet operation that contributes to an overall pleasant experience.

And if you’re worried about the impact this has on the environment, don’t. All the wood used for WaterRower rowing machines comes from sustainable forests in the Appalachian Mountain ranges. In fact, there are more trees being planted in these regions than there are harvested for making rowing machines, furniture, and other uses. Nice of WaterRower to have thought of that.

WaterRower Natural Water Resistance

Image Credit: WaterRower

Unless you haven’t figured out by its name yet, the WaterRower uses water to provide resistance. Some people say this is the only indoor rower that can mimic the feeling of real rowing. There’s certainly some grain of truth to it. You only need to listen to the sounds of water sloshing around inside that tank to make it seem like you’re rowing on a lake.

But we don’t think the WaterRower can simulate the feel of real rowing entirely. For one thing, rowing in the great outdoors forces you to balance if you don’t want to tip over into the water, adding one more aspect of the workout that isn’t present in indoor rowing. However, we still think rowing indoors is an awesome workout, one that targets every large muscle group in your body, from the arms, shoulders, chest, abs, back, glutes, and legs.

What’s great about the WaterRower is that you set the resistance with your own power. The harder you row, the harder your workouts feel. The resistance comes from the inertia of the water as the blades of the flywheel slice through. You will feel this a little bit more evenly all throughout the stroke, and as other rowers have happily pointed out, there is no delay at the catch.

But as the blades scatter the water around the tank, you’ll feel a tiny bit lessening of intensity in the middle of the stroke. Once you reach the end of the drive, the water settles back down, and the resistance slightly increases once again. This gives you a sensation similar to paddling in a body of water, as though you’re rowing a real boat.

A note on the water level: Many people think the only way to increase resistance is to increase water level. That's not exactly how it is. 

Water level actually simulates the weight of your boat had you gone rowing outdoors. A high water level feels like rowing a huge, bulky boat that’s hard to tip over, while a low water level is like a sleek, narrow racing shell that can easily capsize with a little move gone wrong.

Rowing the bigger boat will require more strength. It will also tire out your muscles so quickly that you won’t get the most out of your cardio workout. Most rowing experts actually recommend that you start with less water and increase resistance by increasing your power. You might be surprised to find out that you won’t even need to increase the water level at all.

WaterRower recommends a maximum water level of 19 for men and 17 for women, although the numbers can vary around slightly depending on your overall fitness level. Do not go all the way over 19, however, because such a high water level can actually damage your tank and void your warranty.

WaterRower Natural for Your Back and Knees

Check out the WaterRower in action below as our favorite politician gives it a good harsh beating. 

Want the best prices for the WaterRower Natural? Click here to visit Amazon and find amazing deals for this indoor rower. 

Unlike the Concept2, which uses a nickel-plated chain, the WaterRower Natural has a nylon strap. This means you don’t get the wheezing and sawing sounds of the Concept2 as you go into the recovery phase of your stroke. In fact, the WaterRower is practically silent in this regard. All you hear is the soothing sound of the water sloshing around the tank.

But it’s also because of the nylon strap that you might not get such a consistent stroke. Unlike the Concept2 chain, which delivers a similar stroke all throughout, you might feel that the WaterRower’s strap has a little bit of slip in it, so that if you pull slowly, the stroke becomes a bit inconsistent. It’s not much of a problem, though, because you have to pull really slowly to notice the difference. But it’s something to consider if you’re finicky about things like that.

Where the WaterRower has a huge advantage over other brands is in its flat, wooden rail, which causes less tension on the knees at the catch. This makes it a good choice for people with knee problems, although rowing in general is a phenomenal exercise for people who have issues with their knees.

And because the rail is made of wood and soft plastic, as opposed to the aluminum and stainless steel on the Concept2, you won’t notice much if little stuff such as a stray hair or dust settle on the rails. That’s a good thing if you’re particularly sensitive to things that can distract you from your workout. We know we are, since we like to focus on keeping our form and mastering the movements when we're exercising.

The seat is built just like the rest of the machine. It is sturdy, stable and doesn’t wobble as it glides smoothly along the rails. Some might also find it a little bit cushier than the seat of the Concept2—certainly a good thing if you need some extra protection for your bottom during exercise.

​Image Credit: WaterRower

If the seat is still too hard for your liking, you can use a folded towel as a makeshift cushion, or you can purchase this two-layer seat seat pad from WaterRower. 

If you have back problems, however, pay close attention. The seat on the WaterRower Natural is slightly angled backwards. While this makes it a little easier on you at the end of the drive, the backward tilt forces you to exert a little more effort all throughout the stroke, but specially at the catch.

If you maintain proper form, you really won’t have a lot of problems with this. Rowing is an exercise that requires you to keep your form in mind all the time. You’ll need to master the proper form and technique first before you can get the most out of the exercise.

But if you’ve only just started rowing, it’s likely you’ll take some time to master everything. And it's likely you'll be exerting more pressure on your lower back than you would like if you're still learning. That’s certainly something to think about if you have back problems, since the slight tilt in the seat will no doubt make it harder on your lower back.

And lastly, while we’re on the subject of possible deal-breakers, you might also need to know that the WaterRower Natural’s low profile may cause a problem if you have bad knees. Overall, rowing for exercise won’t hurt the knees, but this particular rowing machine will have you bending low to make contact with the seat.

WaterRower’s solution to all this is the HiRise adaptor, which you can buy at Amazon. It's an extender you can use to raise the rower by 8 inches off the floor. That’s an extra couple of hundred dollars, though, and the maximum weight for the extender is 600 lbs., a little bit less than the maximum weight of 700 lbs. for the WaterRower.

If none of that has derailed you from buying this exercise machine, and you're hell-bent on getting your own indoor rower, click here to go to Amazon and check out great prices on the WaterRower Natural

WaterRower Footboard

If there’s any real beef we have about the WaterRower Natural—and many people apparently agree with us on this—it’s the footpad. For an exercise machine that costs a good amount of money, you’d expect the footpad to be of the same stellar quality as the entire machine. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

You might not think the footpad is a huge issue, but it’s one of those little things that, when properly or improperly configured, makes such a huge difference. After all, it’s important that your feet stay on the footpad without slipping out throughout the stroke or developing blisters because of the uncomfortable position.

At best, the footpad is pretty much tolerable. But we’re not just looking for tolerable here. We’re looking for the same excellent quality the WaterRower brand is known for. You won’t find that, however, in the flimsy plastic footpad that makes it look as if it was put there as an afterthought.

Granted, it probably won’t come apart, since the footpad goes all around the footboard’s plank. And for most people, we'd wager that’s actually more than enough. However, it won’t hurt if WaterRower gave this another thought.

The edges of the footrest could need some refining, since most people find them sharp and too uncomfortable for barefoot rowing. Even if you’re rowing with shoes—which we strongly recommend you do on the WaterRower if you don’t want the footrest to cut into your heels or create ugly blisters—you’ll find that the heel rests won’t even cup your shoes nicely. You’ll probably have some moments when your shoes get stuck inside the heel rests.

We'd also like to see a better system for adjusting the footpad. WaterRower says the footpad can accommodate all foot sizes from small the extremely large (think sixe 25). However, you’ll have to fiddle around a bit with the adjustment button before you find an adequately comfortable position for your feet. It’s just something you have to deal with if different people use the WaterRower, though it becomes less of an annoyance once you find the right adjustment for your shoe size.

It’s an extremely minor quibble. For most people, these probably won’t matter much. After all, the WaterRower wouldn’t have become so popular if people were so miffed about the footpad. Still, it’s definitely one of those things WaterRower should start thinking about if they want to keep their edge.

WaterRower Natural with Series 4 Performance Monitor

Image Credit: WaterRower

The WaterRower Natural is accompanied by the Series 4 Performance Monitor. It is, at best, a decent monitor that gives you the basic information you need when tracking your workout information.

It’s not as fancy and doesn’t provide the same comprehensive stats as the Performance Monitor 5, which is the Concept2’s selling point. Most elite athletes and professional rowers make their buying purchase based on this one aspect alone.

However, for the average Joe who simply wants to improve his fitness or his rowing skills without necessarily knowing the most intricate details, the S4 monitor should do the job pretty well.

The S4 monitor displays basic info, including your distance rowed, time, speed, and the number of strokes. Simply push the power button and the monitor starts working. It also shows your expended calories per hour, but that’s not really the same as the total number of calories burned during the workout. You might want to know that if you’re the calorie-counting type, though most calorie-counting gadgets are not totally accurate anyway.

You also have the option to track your heart rate with the help of a Polar or ANT+ heart rate monitoring system. You’ll have to mount the receiver box inside the seat of your WaterRower if you’re using a Polar heart rate. WaterRower also sells its own ANT+ heart rate monitoring system on Amazon, but you’re better off purchasing a different heart rate monitoring system.

One really nice thing about the S4 monitor is the ZoneBar, which lets you know if you’re working within a preprogrammed zone of intensity or if you’ve gone above or below that. For instance, you can set your desired number of strokes per minute to 35, and the ZoneBar will keep track of whether you’re hitting your target all the time. If you go beyond that or if you can’t keep up, the monitor will let you know so you can adjust your stroke rate accordingly.

You can also connect the monitor to your PC, but WaterRower seems to have slipped behind in this department. While the rest of the fitness industry is scrambling to upgrade to more modern technologies, the S4 monitor still requires a good, ol’ fashioned cable to connect to your monitor. A bit old school, yes, but if you’re not as keen in going wireless, then it’s totally fine.

Once connected, you can download a few rowing programs that can help make your workouts more interactive and enjoyable. WaterRower itself is working on its own web racing software called We-Row, where you can participate in virtual races with other WaterRower owners or training sessions that give you a real-time analysis of your workout stats.

At the moment, however, We-Row is not available for customers because WaterRower is upgrading the software’s previous version. We can only hope and cross our fingers that this is going to be one awesome piece of software for indoor rowers.

There are also other rowing programs you can use with the S4, such as WebRacing Rowing and WaterCoach F.I.T. (which is still in beta at the time of writing), but I won’t go deep into that since they’ll need separate articles of their own.

I suggest you look at these programs if you’re intent on getting some friendly competition or a virtual trainer that can guide you through your fitness journey on the WaterRower. On the S4 monitor itself, there are no preprogrammed workouts. You’ll have to do your homework on that bit yourself, though you don’t necessarily have to buy some software to get workouts.

A Few More Things You Need to Know about the S4 Monitor

Image Credit: Tom Hentoff/Cropped

Sadly, you cannot set up individual profiles here. The monitor can only accommodate only one person, so if you’re sharing the rowing machine with your partner or the rest of the family, there’s no way everyone else can track their fitness stats in the long run without manually jotting them down on paper and transferring them to Excel or some other spreadsheet program.

Plus, the S4 monitor seems like it was built in the same clumsy way as the footpad. Again, it provides basic information about your workouts, and that’s all most people will need. But if you look closely, the wire brackets attached to the monitor’s frame use double-sided tape to keep them together.

Here’s another thing. It’s 2016 and the WaterRower’s monitor still has no backlight. While pretty much everyone else out there is upgrading their gadget monitors at least to LCD, WaterRower still makes it hard for you to see your monitor at night.

Lastly, the monitor will continue to count the time, even if you stop to, say, take a sip of water or change the channel on your TV. If you’re really serious about tracking your time, this is simply unacceptable since the monitor will give you inaccurate stats. Of course, you can just go on rowing without taking breaks at all, or you can continue and just estimate the amount of time you took during your break and subtract it from your total time.

We should probably point out that we're being extremely nitpicky here. You have to if you’re trying to review a thousand-dollar purchase and you really have to find all the reasons to buy or not to buy the product.

At the end of the day, what really matters is whether these small flaws in the S4 monitor are enough to derail you from laying your money down for an overall phenomenal rowing machine.

(If you’re really turned off by the S4 monitor, I suggest you take a look at Concept2’s rowing machines (Model D and Model E). Aside from being great rowers themselves, all Concept2 models come with an outstanding performance monitor that gives you more than the S4 can. Plus, it has a backlight, if you’re really just after that.)

How to Assemble a WaterRower Natural

The WaterRower Natural ships in two boxes, each containing the various parts of the indoor rower that you’ll need to put together yourself. It doesn’t take an expert to assemble the WaterRower, although you’ll need to carefully follow the instructions so that total assembly time shouldn’t take more than an hour.

Before you start putting the parts together, make sure nothing has gotten inside the polycarbonate water tank. The WaterRower comes carefully packaged, so it’s very rare for this to happen, but it’s way better to make sure that the tank doesn’t have scratches inside now than realize it later when you’re all set to row.

Start by laying the two rails side by side on the floor. Put them together via the rear spacer using the nuts and bolts that come included in the boxes. You also get a 5 mm allen wrench you can use to tighten the bolts, so you won’t need to go digging around at the hardware store for the right kind of tool.

Next, place the seat on the rails. Make sure the wheels are mounted right on the extrusions atop the rails. You might need to move the rails a bit for this. Then put the tank in position at the front end and fasten it into place with more nuts and bolts.

Now, place the footboard, making sure that the top holes are placed over the tank unit’s threaded holes. To attach the footpad, press the heel rest adjustment button, insert the footpad, then release. This will lock the footpad into place.

You’re almost done at this point. Take the wheels and attach them to the rail near the tank unit. Then pull the machine upright to hook the bungee to the recoil belt D-ring. Make sure the recoil belt passes through all the pulleys smoothly to ensure a smooth, bump-free operation during exercise. Now, lay the machine back down on the floor and you’re ready to fill the tank with water.

It helps if you keep the nuts and bolts loosely screwed during the entire assembly. Since wood can expand or contract depending on its environment, you may need to make minor adjustments and loosen and tighten the screws to keep everything in place and working properly.

Once the machine is fully assembled, go ahead and tighten the bolts into place. Just be careful not to screw them in too tight or you could damage your machine and void your warranty.

How to Fill and Drain the Water Tank

Image Credit: Kai "Oswald" Seidler

Once the WaterRower is assembled, you need to do one more thing before you can start rowing. You need to fill it up with water using the siphon that WaterRower provided with the machine.

First, place a bucket of water on top of or beside the machine. Remove the tank stopper and insert the flexible tube into the tank. The stiff tube goes into the bucket and drains the water from the bucket into the tank with a few pumps from you and with the help of gravity.

Be very careful not to go beyond the maximum water level of 19 liters. You can check out the levels of water on the side of the tank. It’s a very small scale, and if you’re slightly vision-impaired, you might need to squint to make sure you’ve reached the optimal level, but the scale is there.

Use municipal water for your tank. WaterRower recommends this because municipal water has been treated to prevent the growth of algae and bacteria. However, you’ll also need to drop at least one purification tablet into the tank every three to six months to make sure the water doesn’t turn murky. You can get purification tablets from WaterRower.

Be sure you’re not using ordinary pool chlorine. The chlorine used to clean swimming pools could easily damage the polycarbonate casing used for the tank.

If the water still ends up getting dirty, you’ll need to drain the tank and fill it up with a fresh, new bucket of water. To do so, you only need to insert the stiff pipe into the rower’s tank and the flexible pipe into a bucket. Pump a couple of times and let gravity do the work.

Before you begin rowing, you need to input the water level into your S4 monitor. This helps the mini-computer calculate your stats while also considering the water level, which contributes to the drag factor. Make sure to use Advanced Program 8 to calibrate your rower for accurate stats.

How to Store a WaterRower

Image Credit: WaterRower

Your WaterRower needs at least 9 feet of space lengthwise and 3 feet in width. That’s quite a lot of space, so you really need to consider where you put it when you do your workouts.

If you have enough space, you can easily leave the WaterRower on the floor without having to stow it away in a corner of your house, even if you don’t have a dedicated home gym. The WaterRower is such a lovely piece of exercise equipment that it will blend right in with the rest of your living room or office furniture, even when it is stored vertically in one corner.

It’s bound to be a conversation piece for sure because anyone who sees it will certainly be intrigued by what they see. (And hopefully, you can even convert a few of them to get into rowing like yourself.)

If you’d rather use the space for other purposes when you’re not working out, the WaterRower can stand upright on the tank side and take up the amount of space a regular chair would. And it’s easy to lift the machine upright from its rail end. Anyone who can do a short rowing workout on the WaterRower can also lift it up all by themselves.

How to Maintain a WaterRower

Aside from dropping a few water purification tablets into the tank every three to six months, you might also want to change the water once or twice a year. Some people have never changed the water on their WaterRower at all, and that’s fine, as long as the water remains clear.

The results actually depend on the individual environment the machine is in. For instance, a WaterRower that is more exposed to sunlight could more quickly develop algae in its water. Pay attention to how the water in your tank looks. WaterRower also offers a blue dye that you can use if you want your tank to have that effect.

The wood will also react to varied circumstances. For the first few months, the ash will have to adjust to the sunlight and humidity in your area. After your first few workouts, check out the nuts and bolts of your WaterRower and make sure they are screwed in tightly but not too tight.

Don’t be surprised if the bolts tend to loosen a bit. It’s not a sign of the product’s low quality. It’s a property of the wood, which can contract and expand depending on its environment, unlike the metal used in other exercise equipment. That’s a disadvantage of wooden rowing machines, although we wouldn’t call it a deal-breaker, especially if you can easily tighten the bolts with an allen wrench.

One thing you can do to check if you need to tighten the bolts is if you hear creaking or squeaking sounds. If you do, loosen the bolts and tighten them again, making sure to tighten them enough but not too much.

Of course, you’ll also need to dust your machine often. You won’t need anything more than a soft cloth for that. Also, give the wood some oiling every now and then. This helps bring out the wood’s natural beauty while also protecting it from scratches, stains and heat.

Oiling wood isn’t complicated. Simply use a rag to apply Danish oil liberally into the wood. Let it soak for 15 minutes, then apply some more before wiping the oil off the surface.

Is the WaterRower Natural Right for You?

The WaterRower is definitely a great investment for anyone looking to go into indoor rowing to improve their fitness. It’s a high-quality piece of equipment that’s not going to die out on you anytime soon. However, it does have a few minor faults that could possibly change the way you use the rowing machine.

For one thing, people with lower back problems may not get as much of a good workout from this because of the way the seat requires them to exert more effort with their lower back.

If it’s your knees that are causing you problems, this machine is overall good for you thanks to the way the rail extends flat on the floor. However, the low height of the seat may be an issue, so consider getting an extender or a whole new model altogether if you’re concerned with that.

Now, if you don’t have any of these problems, and you like the look of the gorgeous WaterRower gracing your living room, then there’s no stopping you from getting it for yourself.

Also, if you’re not a fan of the loud sounds coming from an air rowing machine, the WaterRower will give you a soothing exercise experience that some people even liken to meditation.

That is, if you’re like most people. Most people aren’t looking at rowing to religiously track down their stats and analyze their numbers. Most people aren’t Olympics rowers or elite athletes.

They just want to reach some fitness goal, whether it is losing weight, improving cardiovascular fitness or some other goal. Most of the time, the information provided by the S4 monitor tells them everything you need to know. In fact, a lot of people are even very happy with the even more bare-bones monitor on the WaterRower GX

One last thing, you’ll have to be 700 lbs. or lighter to be able to use the WaterRower Natural, according to WaterRower. If you’re going to use an extender, the maximum weight capacity is 600 lbs.

WaterRower Customer Service

It may seem off to talk about WaterRower’s after-sales service so low down this review. But that’s only because you really have no issue with the company’s customer service, as should be the case with all businesses. WaterRower’s customer service just nicely blends into the background, quietly and smoothly ensuring that all customer complaints are addressed.

You might take it for granted, but what’s particularly striking about WaterRower’s support service is the fact that a real, live human being actually answers the phone. In this day and age of automatic answering systems and keeping your customers waiting for someone to pick up the phone, WaterRower provides a breath of fresh air by providing the exact opposite.

And isn’t that the exact same thing we all want when we pick up the phone to call customer service? That, and a solution to our problems, of course, which WaterRower does an excellent job at.

WaterRower Natural Buying Options

There are many places to buy a WaterRower. On Amazon, you can purchase the rowing machine with free shipping. Most people get their package in two to three days. Not bad for such a bulky shipment.

This comes with a one-year warranty, but if you register your rowing machine with WaterRower within the first year of buying it, you can get extended warranties of three to five years.

However, before you fully decide to lay your money down for a rowing machine, we suggest you take it out for a test drive. The best way to do this is to find a local gym that has its own WaterRower. It doesn’t matter what wooden model the gym may have. All the wooden series are practically similar, except in the hardwood species they use.

Try to get a feel for the WaterRower first. visit the gym for a few workouts on the WaterRower to see if you and the rowing machine are a match made in heaven. It goes without saying that, if you’re a pure beginner, this is the best time to practice the perfect rowing form and technique as well.

If you can’t find a gym nearby with a WaterRower, the next best thing is to rent a WaterRower from the company itself. The rental program requires a minimum rental period of three months, and each month costs slightly more than $40 (plus a refundable deposit fee of $200 to cover for damages the machine may incur while in your hands).

If you’re not happy with the results, you can always return the WaterRower back to the company. But if you are, you can go ahead and buy the rowing machine for yourself.

Just keep in mind that you’ll be renting used rowing machines some of the time. If you decide to buy your rental unit, you’ll be buying a used WaterRower, not a brand new unit. Depending on the age of the machine, the cost of buying will vary. You can actually get a used WaterRower that’s more than five years old for as much as a 70% discount, but only if you rent the rower first.

That said, you’re still better off checking out a WaterRower at a gym than renting it. For one thing, you’ll have to pay rental and deposit fees just to rent the machine, and then pay the price of the machine on top of that if you decide to buy it.

Also, on the slight off chance that you think the WaterRower is awful, you’ll have to return it in the same condition it was sent to you—disassembled and put back in parts in the same shipping boxes the rowing machine came in. The nice thing, though, is WaterRower will send a rep to pick up the rental unit, so you don’t have to think about the hassle of dropping it at the courier’s.

If you decide to keep it, you’ll have to pay the full price of the machine as determined by WaterRower. Brand new units will still cost the full price. That’s on top of the rental fee and deposit fee you paid earlier.

That’s a pretty good amount of money to try out a machine for three months. It's not exactly a horrible deal, but it's just not as good as getting to try it out for free at the gym.

The Verdict on the WaterRower Natural

Now that you’ve seen how the WaterRower works, you probably already have a pretty good idea of whether this is going to be a great buy for you.

All in all, you really can’t go wrong with the WaterRower Natural. It’s a great indoor rower made from high-quality materials and high-quality craftsmanship. It uses durable, reliable ash wood sourced responsibly from sustainable forests. With the ability to automatically set your intensity based on your strength, you’ll be sure to get a challenging workout from this machine for a good long time.

It does, however, still has a little room for improvement, particularly in terms of the performance monitor. WaterRower also needs to listen to what people are saying about some design aspects, specifically in relation to how they may affect people with knee and back problems.

But if you’re not overly concerned with a fancy stats counter and if you don’t have major problems with your knees and lower back, there’s no way you can go wrong with the WaterRower.

And by the way, did I say it’s gorgeous? 

Want amazing deals for the WaterRower Natural? If you're ready to buy your indoor rower, click here to visit Amazon and check out great prices on the WaterRower

If the WaterRower Natural doesn't seem right for you, check out our list of top 10 rowing machines to help you find other indoor rowers that might suit your preferences. 

WaterRower Natural











  • Gorgeous ash wood design hand-made in a small factory in Rhode Island
  • Made in the USA and is extremely high-quality
  • Sound of water sloshing on the flywheel is very soothing, even Zen-like
  • Multiple levels of resistance for people of different fitness levels
  • Easy to assemble, clean, and store away


  • Seat is slightly titled back, which may cause your lower back to exert more effort at the catch
  • Has a very low profile, may not be for those who have trouble bending over
  • Footpad is cheap and plasticky

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