Last Updated: August 26, 2020
The WaterRower Natural Ash is a gorgeous wood water rower with a smooth stroke, lovely design, and soothing sound. While most fitness equipment is constructed of steel for a burly, industrial look, the WaterRower resembles a piece of hand-carved wood furniture. Water rowing has long been touted as the closest to actual outdoor rowing you can get. The feel of the catch and drive as well as the finish and recovery are all mitigated by the gentle pull of the water. Even the rhythmic whooshing sound as the water churns in the transparent reservoir is soothing. Using the WaterRower really is like enjoying a peaceful morning on the lake. The WaterRower Natural is made from sustainably harvested ash from the Appalachian mountains. The wood is finished in Danish oil for an overall organic aesthetic. In this review we cover the Natural WaterRower in Ash with an S4 Monitor. This rower is typically priced around $1000.
Who It’s For: Rowing enthusiasts who prefer the natural feel of rowing on water
The Water Rower rower is designed for those who:
- Want a stately wood rower that looks more like furniture than fitness equipment
- Have the mobility to bend and sit low close to the floor
- Are able to lean forward while exercising
- Are looking for something low impact that targets more than 80% of muscles in the body
- Want to increase core, back and arm strength in addition to the leg muscles
- Want a durable machine that doesn’t require electricity to operate
- Appreciate the subtle whooshing noise and lovely aesthetic of the WaterRower
- Footprint: 82” L x 22” W x 21” High
- The WaterRower is long and it doesn’t fold in half (it will lift vertically), but it maintains a low, narrow footprint. You can place it to the side of a room or even behind a couch.
- Seat height: 12” high
- This rower sits low to the ground. This makes it a very safe machine, since you obviously aren’t going to fall off it — but the low seat height can be challenging for anyone with mobility issues since you have to literally get down on the ground to use it. We recommend users make sure they can bend down and get up without an issue when considering the WaterRower.
- Max User Weight: 700lb, Rower weight: 67lb. (Max rower weight: 104lb full of water)
- The WaterRower has an impressive 700 pound max weight capacity. Basically, this thing is solid wood and sits right on the floor, so it is hardy and strong.
- Water Resistance
- Water resistance is unique in its ability to most closely mimic outdoor rowing. Not only does the rowing stroke feel similar to rowing through water, the noise of the WaterRower sounds like the swish of rowing oars.
- S4 Monitor display – requires 2 D-cell batteries
- Metrics for: distance, speed, pace, calories burned, and watts
- Various games, programs and rowing distances
- Designed for wired machine to machine racing
- The S4 monitor supports wired racing between rowers
- Length: 82.7’’
- Width: 22’’
- Height: 21’’
- Seat height: 12.2’’
- Max. weight load: 500 lb
- Max. water: 20 liters / 21.1 qt
- Materials: wood (ash)
- Cover available: yes
- XL-rails available: yes
- Finish: Danish Oil for raw wood look
- Color: Lightly oiled ash
- Storage: Inverts vertically
- Resistance: Water Resistance
- Machine weight: 67.2lbs
- Seat: Contoured sweat resistant and lightly padded
- Footboards: Adjustable notched overlay on wood footboard
- Pedals: Wide and textured with an adjustable foot strap
- Monitor: S4-Performance Monitor with USB
- Usable with We-Row
- Usable with laptop holder
- Usable with HiRise Adapter
- Usable with heart rate display
- Designed for machine to machine racing
- 5-years on frame
- 3-years on parts
The WaterRower is a high-end water rower constructed of natural ash and lightly stained with a Danish oil. This rower provides a serene rowing experience in the comfort of your own home. Unlike other gym equipment that is typically black or gray powder coated steel, the WaterRower strikes a stately pose and looks like a piece of hand carved wood furniture. This is not something you need to hide away in your garage gym. Water rowers are preferred by those who enjoy actual outdoor rowing as this provides the most similar experience. Rowing engages over 80% of the muscles in your body for low-impact, full body training. The WaterRower requires minimal maintenance, is easy to use, lifts vertically to save space when not in use, and is surprisingly affordable for a machine of this caliber.
In Depth Review of the WaterRower Natural Ash with S4 Monitor
The WaterRower Natural Ash has a dual rail system that supports the seat as it slides forward and back. There are four rubber feet under the wood rails that hold it securely to the floor, but these provide very little height. The seat is only 12.2” from the floor, so this is a low rower. Four wheels under the seat allow it to slide and the motion is surprisingly smooth. There are no notches or grooves in the top of the dual rails to cause issues. The rail system is measured to provide up to 37” inseam length, which should work for most users. Those needing more space can add a rail extension, but this will cost you a bit extra on the front end.
The WaterRower Natural Ash model uses a premium hardwood for longevity and dimensional stability. In addition, the wood is harvested from replenishable forests and is hand finished with Danish oil for a rich but still raw appearance. The oil protects the wood and allows the natural textures and patterns to show through.
There are dual rails with four corner wheels for seat stability. The WaterRower Natural measures 84 by 21 by 22 inches (W x H x D), weighs 117 pounds (with water), and carries a one-year warranty on the frame and components.
- Footprint: 84 by 21 by 22 inches
- Folded footprint: The WaterRower does not fold; but the base can be lifted to store it vertically
- Seat height: 12” high
- Pedals: Wide and supported with an adjustable strap
- Saddle: The saddle is molded for comfort with leg contours on the front and a cutout for your tailbone on the back
The pedals are supported by a wood footboard underneath and a molded pedal that holds your shoe securely. The double layer provides stability underfoot while still allowing for a gentle toe flex as you row. A wide adjustable strap secures the user’s feet into position. The adjustable molded overlay is ridged at the top to keep your foot from sliding forward and has several notched positions that shift the heel support upwards to accommodate all shoe sizes.
The WaterRower handle has rubber grips which are sweat resistant and can be easily wiped down to sanitize. The handle is not too large which makes it easy to hold and allows users to complete longer rowing routines without hand or shoulder fatigue. The seat slides right up to the junction between the pedals and the handle for a comfortable catch position. The catch is above the pedals to keep your spine in alignment throughout the rowing stroke. The only issue we noticed on the WaterRower is the pedal footholds are slightly closer together than other models. Rather than have the monorail run between the rower’s legs, the dual rails run along the outside of your legs, so your feet are on the inside. For larger rowers, this could cause an issue with thigh-rubbing, as the legs are positioned quite close together. Otherwise the WaterRower is quite comfortable.
The WaterRower seat is ergonomically designed with soft black padding and contoured areas for your legs and tail bone. Since users lean back through the drive and finish, the scooped out back section on the seat reduces the likelihood of your tailbone rubbing on the saddle. The seat slides gently along the monorail on large black rollers. The rail is covered with a slick plastic surface to overlay any imperfections in the wood rail. The surface of the seat is gently padded and sweat resistant. Like the handle, it can be wiped down to sanitize.
FlyWheel or Water Tank
The WaterRower features a water flywheel that has two paddles inside a transparent tank. The paddles are attached to the pulleys and belt that connect to the handle, so when you pull the handle through the drive, it also pulls the paddles which then churn the water. Resistance is determined by how much water is in the tank and how hard you pull. The pulley and belt system are surprisingly simple, so the WaterRower really has no moving parts and therefore requires hardly any maintenance (add a Ph tablet to the water occasionally and that’s it). There is no motor system in the WaterRower, all movement is user generated. As with air resistance, the harder you pull, the more water is churned, and the more resistance is created through the drive. The main difference between air rowers and water rowers however is the fact that air rowers allow for an easier finish and recovery since the blades slow down as you return to the catch. With water rowing, there is resistance on the paddles from the water at all times, so WaterRowers produce a more realistic, consistent rowing stroke. This is why these rowers are preferred by real outdoor rowing enthusiasts across the world. Add to this the sound of the water as it moves through the tank which closely simulates the sound of oars moving through water.
Water resistance not only provides a natural rowing experience, it also has a more even feel to the stroke. With air and magnetic rowers, most of the stroke power is in the drive, as the rower pulls backwards through the stroke. In the recovery phase, most rowing machines simply retract the chain back into the rower as the seat slides forward to the catch. With the WaterRower, there is a continuous pull on the handle through both the drive and recovery. You work against the water as you pull the handle through the drive and you resist the water as you slide forward during recovery. This makes the overall feel of the WaterRower smoother and more fluid. The amount of resistance generated with each stroke is determined by the strength of the person rower and also by how much water is in the tank. To increase resistance, add more water; to decrease, reduce the water level.
S4 Performance Monitor
The WaterRower S4 performance monitor provides both technical sophistication and user friendliness. The Series 4 monitor has 6 information and programming windows, 6 QuickSelect buttons, and 3 navigation buttons.
WaterRower S4 display includes:
- Intensity- shows the intensity of exercise in various units Strokerate- shows the number of strokes per minute
- Heart Rate- shows the number of heart beats per minute (optional)
- Zone Bar- shows position relative to a predefined work zone
- Duration- shows the duration of exercise in time
- Distance- shows the distance covered in various units
WaterRower S4 QuickSelect buttons include:
- On and Reset- turns the S4 monitor on and upon hold, resets the monitor
- Unit Setting- alters the units for intensity and distance
- Zone Setting- sets the zones for the zone bar
- Workout Programs Setting- sets the workout type and parameters
- Stored Program Recall- recalls historic workout settings
- Advanced Functions- accesses numerous advanced features
The WaterRower S4 Navigation buttons include
- OK- select setting
- Up Scroll- scroll units/selection up
- Down Scroll- scroll units/selection down
The intensity window displays speed (or average speed) in units (meters per second), mph (miles per hour), /500m (minutes per 500 meters), /2km (minutes per 2 kilometers). It also displays power in watts, and energy consumption in cal/hr (calories burnt per hour). Both units and zones can be changed as needed.
The strokerate window displays stroke rate per minute. Zones can be customized for Stroke Rate Zone workouts
Heart Rate Window
The heart rate window displays your heart rate (when chest strap is connected) in beats per minute.
Zone Bar Window
The zone bar window shows where you currently fall in the programmed zone settings. Zones may be set for intensity, stroke rate and heart rate.
The duration window shows how long each workout has progressed in hours, minutes, seconds and decimal seconds. The duration window may also be programmed to display time remaining.
The distance window displays the distance covered. Units may be set to meters, miles, km or strokes.. The distance window may also be programmed to display distance remaining if desired.
The program window manages advanced functions such as: manual workout program storage and retrieval, projected duration for distance workouts, projected distance for duration workouts, advanced heart rate analysis, power/recovery ratio, 2km prognostics, tank volume, and total distance rowed.
Advanced Settings Options
In addition to the basic programs and windows, there are 8 Advanced Programs in the S4 monitor:
Advanced Program #1: WaterRower S4 monitor allows manual storage of workout settings. This is particularly useful if the S4 is used by numerous users.
Advanced Program #2: Store additional manual workout settings in options 1 – 9.
Advanced Program #3: Projected duration tells you how long it will take you to finish your current workout at your current stroke rate.
Advanced Program #4: Projected distance indicates how far you will row in a set amount of time.
Advanced Program #5: This is the ratio between the power and recovery parts of the stroke. The recovery ratio is displayed instead of intensity for 2 seconds in every 10 seconds, and must be selected immediately prior to the workout and is current only for that workout.
Advanced Program #6: Advanced Heart Rate Analysis. The option is available only during heart rate zone workouts and must be used following the workout. When activated, this setting will display the amount of time a user was: in their target zone; above their target zone; below their target zone.
Advanced Program #7: Rower Prognostics. This option is only available during 2km workouts.
Advanced Program #8: Tank Volume. The tank volume is necessary in calculation of power (watts). In Advanced Program #8 you can enter the tank volume in the intensity window using the scroll button.
Advanced Program #9: Firmware/Other Rower Options. This screen displays the total lifetime distance (in kilometers) and firmware version for the S4 monitor.
There is no powered fan on the Water Rower. The water tank does not create any air flow (since it’s not an air rower).
The WaterRower makes a swishing noise as the water is churned through the tank by the turbine blades. This is a gentle, soothing sound and is one of the reasons many people opt for the WaterRower. The sound of moving water makes the WaterRower feel more like you are rowing a skull through an outdoor waterway. This rower is much quieter than comparable air rowers since the swish of the water is softer than the sound of an air fan.
Storage / Folding
The Water Rower has large black wheels on the front of the track so you can lift the end of the monorail and invert the WaterRower vertically so it takes up less floor space. There is always a risk that it could get knocked over, however, the tank sits at the base of the machine when it is inverted, so it’s pretty steady. The option of being able to lift and roll the WaterRower as needed is useful. You can store this in a closet or corner and then roll it out when needed.