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WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine Review

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine ReviewThe WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is one of the most aesthetically pleasing rowers on the market!

Not to mention, one of the best performing as well!

It is part of the “Natural” series of WaterRowers, due to it’s solid Ash Wood and stained Honey Oak construction material.

The S4 performance monitor is also considered top of the line with many advanced features.

Which is why the full name is the “WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor”

It provides one of the most realistic out of water rowing experiences and is quiet too! WaterRower rowing machines are also super sturdy and supports user weight of up to 1,000 pounds (454 kg).

This WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine review goes over all the pros & cons, so you can decide if this model is a great fit for you or not.

Table of Contents
(click a title to jump ahead!)

1. Resistance Type
2. Monitor/Control Panel
3. Build Quality
4. Comfort
5. Storage
6. Capacity
7. Dimensions
8. Assembly
9. Pros and Cons
10. Consumer Reviews
11. Warranty
12. Price

Resistance Type

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is as the name suggests, a water resistance rower.

It uses a “water flywheel” or paddles suspended in a tank of water to provide resistance for the rower.

As a user pulls the rowing handle, it spins the paddles in the water tank. The spinning paddles must displace the water in from of them which causes resistance.

The faster you row, the faster the paddles spin, the more water they must displace, and the harder the resistance becomes.

We call this ‘variable’ resistance because there are no “adjustments” to be made. To feel more resistance, row faster and to feel less resistance, row slower.

Air rowing machines are also ‘variable’ resistance but differ slightly. You can read my water vs air rowing machine comparison for more details about both.

You can also read more about all the different rowing machine resistance types by clicking here.

Resistance Benefits

There are a lot of benefits to water resistance, especially the WaterRower Natural resistance system.

WaterRower is known for providing one of the smoothest rowing motions on the market. The resistance is smooth, strong, and quiet from start to finish. No user mentioned any lag in the rowing stroke and felt resistance as soon as they started rowing.

As mentioned above, the WaterRower Natural is a ‘variable’ resistance rower that bases it’s resistance off how fast the user is rowing.

According to the WaterRower website, “a doubling of the speed of the boat will require an eight-fold increase in resistance”. Basically rowing faster requires a lot more force!

In addition to determining resistance based on your rowing intensity, you can further adjust the rowing experience by adding or subtracting water from the water tank.

The more water you add, the “heavier” the rowing will feel (like rowing a boat with passengers). The less water you have, the “lighter” the rowing will feel (like rowing by yourself).

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

The WaterRower Natural provides a very realistic rowing motion because it closely mimics the resistance felt while rowing on water. The noise created is also very pleasant and sounds like splashing water.

Many people find the noise to be meditative and it is also quiet enough so people in a neighboring room cannot hear the rowing machine.

During my research, I didn’t find any complaints from users not getting a good enough upper or lower body workout. This shows how efficient the rower is in providing a total body workout. It also highlights the machine’s excellent engineering and design.

Resistance Overall

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine provides one of the best resistance provided by any water rowing machine. It is difficult to find any complaints pertaining to WaterRower resistance

It is smooth, strong, and fairly quiet. Plus, it closely mimics the resistance felt while rowing on water!

Monitor/Control Panel

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine comes with an S4 (series 4) multi-functional fitness monitor. The monitor tracks the following fitness data:

  • Time
  • Distance
  • Intensity
  • Strokes per Minute
  • Heart Rate Monitor

The performance monitor separates all the tracked information (in addition to program information) in separate “windows” that can all be seen on the “home screen” at the same time.

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine S4 Monitor

Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s presented on the monitor:

Intensity window:

  • Displays rowing speed in meters per second, miles per hour, minutes per 500 meters, and minutes per 2 kilometers
  • Also displays power and calories burnt per hour

Stroke rate window:

  • Displays number of strokes per minute

Heart rate window:

  • *Option is available when optional heart rate monitor is used
  • Displays beats per minute

Target zone [bar] window:

  • Displays target zone readings for intensity, heart rate, and stroke rate

Duration window:

  • Displays time rowed in hours, minutes, seconds, and decimal seconds
  • Can also display time remaining in current workout (if a predetermined time for workout has been established)

Distance window:

  • Displays distance rowed in meters, miles, kilometers, or strokes
  • Can also display distance remaining in current workout (if a predetermined distance for workout has been established)

Program window:

  • This window is used to help the user navigate through the monitor’s advanced functions

There are 9 buttons on the monitor, 6 quick select (short cut) buttons, and 3 navigation buttons.

It’s powered by 4 AA batteries (included) and it’s not backlit, so you will need some light to view the monitor while rowing.

Additional Features

You can link the S4 monitor to your computer (required monitor cable not included) to use in conjunction with other computer software to train, race, and to upload your fitness data to analyze your workouts.

Popular S4 computer software includes We-Row (WaterRower’s own software), NetAthlon, UltraCoach, and Rowyo.

Monitor Downsides

There were a few users who thought the WaterRower Natural S4 monitor is too basic.  When compared to other high-end performance monitors, the S4 is definitely not up to par with the PM5 monitor on the Concept2 Model D.

This mainly has to do with water rowing machines not being able to record data as accurately as air rowing machines. This is why air rowers are the chosen resistance type by Olympic rowers and used for setting records and comparing race times.

While the WaterRower Natural S4 Monitor may lag slightly behind the best performance monitor, I still believe it is top of the line and provides more features than most people will ever need.

Monitor Overall

The WaterRower S4 Performance monitor may not be the best but it is more than enough for the average user.

If you want to compare your times to Olympic Rowers and race against people around the world, then you may be more interested in the PM5 monitor on the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rower.

However, if you are just looking to get a great at home workout and track all the necessary fitness data (plus more!), then the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine S4 Monitor is perfect.

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Build Quality

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is made of solid Ash wood, which is durable and ideal for absorbing sound and vibration. Each unit is then hand finished and stained in Honey Oak for color consistency.

Users did not complain about any annoying noises or creaking often heard on lower-end rowing machines.

I tried rowing as hard as I could to test the Waterrower Natural’s build quality and the frame is definitely rock solid. I’m far from the biggest and strongest guy in the world (I’m 175 lbs/80 kg), but you have to take my word. The WaterRower Natural is solidly built and feels like it will last a lifetime.

WaterRower even makes high-quality machines made of steel like the rowing machine featured in OrangeTheory.

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine with S4 in Ash Wood

The water tank is made of polycarbonate (one of the strongest plastics on the planet) and is virtually indestructible. The only “maintenance” required is to put the included chlorine tablets in the water tank periodically to keep the water looking clear.

One user commented that over his 10+ year ownership of this rower, while using almost daily, the only parts he had to replace so far were the performance monitor battery and the tape that attaches the monitor wire brackets to the frame.

Several users have also praised the build quality of this rower and no one complained about it. This is a testament to the excellent design and solid build quality of the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine.

Below is a WaterRower in action. The finish is slightly different than the WaterRower Natural but everything else is exactly the same.

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The molded seat has an ergonomic design and comes with extra padding to provide superior comfort while rowing. A few users commented on how this seat was the most comfortable they’ve experienced.

The handle is durable and light because it’s made of aluminum. Its tear-drop shape makes it easy to grip and also minimizes any development of wrist problems such as tendonitis because it virtually eliminates any wrist torque.

I didn’t notice anything bad about the handle when I rowed on the WaterRower and the fact that no user complained about it being uncomfortable is a very good sign about the handle design.

The foot-board has heel rests at the bottom and uses nylon straps to secure the user’s feet in place. It can accommodate practically any shoe size (big or small) and it takes seconds to change footrest sizes.

Comfort Complaints

A few users mentioned that it’s difficult to get on and get off of the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine because it sits low to the ground. The issue is minor and users suggested having a chair right next to the WaterRower to assist you if you have difficulty getting to the seat.

A few users complained that the nylon straps used to secure your feet in place would loosen up a bit in the middle of their workout.  Others mentioned that it’s nearly impossible to row without any shoes on because the heel rests are rough and will hurt the heels of your feet.

This is not good for people that like to row barefoot, but I’m sure there are ways around this issue such as adding padding of some sort to the base of the heel rests or wearing socks.

The design of the footrest may need some work but it’s completely functional and there have been no complaints about it breaking from any user.

Comfort Overall

One of the best comfort features is the rowing motion itself, which users describe as the most comfortable rowing stroke on the market.

The water flywheel provides a feel (and sound) that closely resembles rowing on water.  The spragg clutch prevents any jerkiness when the handle is pulled and the seat rolls on 8 heavy-duty wheels making the entire rowing motion smooth from the catch to the recovery.

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The rower has a fairly large footprint when in use, but can easily be stood upright for storage.

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machien Storage

Although the unit is heavy, it takes very little effort to stand it up on its base (I can do it one handed and I’m not the strongest guy in the world – believe me).

It comes with dual caster wheels to help move it when needed.

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According to Amazon, the weight capacity of the rower is 1,000 pounds (454 kg).  I contacted WaterRower and confirmed with them that 1,000 pounds (454 kg) is the maximum capacity!

The seat track of the machine is fairly long and the seat has a movement length of 43 inches (109 cm).

Users of all height levels have used this rower with no issues. I’ve seen pre-teen children to adults as tall as 6’6” (198 cm) use the rower without hitting the back end.

The WaterRower website states that the seat rail can accommodate inseams of up to 38.0″.

Based on the information I’ve gathered, if you’re taller than 6’7” (200 cm), I would try out a unit at a local fitness retailer or gym to make sure it will accommodate your size.  Otherwise, this rower should be fine for everyone else.

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine Capacity

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  • In-Use (L x W x H):
    • 83.0″ x 22.0″ x 21.0″
    • 211 cm x 56 cm x 53 cm
  • Stored/ Upright (L x W x H):
    • 21.0″ x 22.0″ x 83.0″
    • 53 cm x 56 cm x 211 cm
  • Weight:
    • 117 pounds [53 kg] (full water tank)
    • 73 pounds [33 kg] (empty water tank)

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Assembly of the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine doesn’t appear to be difficult at all, even for people not used to putting things together.

Several users even commented on how simple it was to assemble the WaterRower.

I took a look at the assembly instructions and they are very detailed (but easy to follow). There are 10 easy to read steps accompanied by detailed pictures.

There are also plenty of YouTube videos walking through the WaterRower assembly.

According to WaterRower, assembly should take no more than 30 minutes and everything can be assembled by using the provided allen wrench.

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Pros and Cons


  • Solidly built
  • Smooth and realistic rowing motion
  • Ash wood and Honey Oak finish
  • Easy to assemble
  • Dual caster wheels
  • Easy “upright” storage
  • Comfortable seat & handle
  • Variable resistance adjustment determined by rowing intensity
  • Can further adjust rowing experience by adding/ subtracting water
  • Can link S4 monitor to computer for advanced features


  • Price can be high
  • Performance monitor lacking advanced features

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Consumer Reviews

Users praised the solid build quality of the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine and loved the lifelike rowing motion. They also loved the smooth, even rowing stroke provided by the water resistance.

Minor gripes included the footrest and S4 monitor.  However, overall, every WaterRower Natural owner loved their rowing machine.

Click here to see the full WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine Reviews.

Average Rating: 4.8

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  • Frame: 5-years*
  • Parts: 3 -years*

*Requires completion of registration form.  Otherwise, warranty is 1 year.

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WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine Price

The price of the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is higher than most rowers but can easily be justified.

This rowing machine is handcrafted from solid wood and looks like a piece of home decor. These features, combined with a strong, smooth resistance makes it a high-quality item.

WaterRower sells their models on a few online retailers but they all seem to sell for the same price. Amazon usually has great pricing on rowing machines, easy to use checkout, free shipping on qualified orders, and a good return policy.

Check lowest pricing

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Final Thoughts

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is one of the best water resistance rowers on the market. It has a beautiful design, great resistance, and smooth rowing stroke.

If you are in the market for a water rowing machine, you really can’t get much better than this model!

WaterRower offers a few other models that all function exactly the same but are either crafted from different wood or have different finishes. This changes the price of the models slightly. You can visit my Compare Rowing Machine page to see the full WaterRower lineup.

One very similar WaterRower model is the WaterRower Club Rowing Machine. It functions exactly the same as the Natural but has a different finish.

If you want a slightly downgraded WaterRower for a slightly lower price, you can check out the WaterRower GX Rowing Machine model.

Of course, if you are interested in air rowing machines, you can always buy the #1 bestselling rowing machine on the market. The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5.

I hope you enjoyed my WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine review! Please feel free to comment with any questions below!

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  1. S4 easy to use? Perhaps we have a case of Emperor’s new clothes. It’s 2017, ridiculous multifunction buttons which need to be pressed multiple times to do things not even labelled on the device… this sort of interface should have gone out in the 1990’s. Since most of us have smartphones we have learned that if a device cannot be worked out without a manual, if a device hides any of its important functionality behind ‘secret’ menus, then that device is unacceptably difficult to use.
    I’m an IT professional (does it show?) and I love the waterrower but the S4 is an unacceptable POS and the good reports may be when comparing to evenmore arcane, even poorer interfaces that we’ve all seen in the past. It’s time to catch up with the rest of the world. The S4 lets down a wonderful machine.

    1. Is it a way to completley use our smartphones and bypass the S4, meaning I could purchase the AI because I wldnt be using the monitor anyway? Any other major difference with the AI?

      1. I agree about the S4, never really got friendly with it. That is why I got rid of it and bought the SmartRow pulley replacement.
        It is far more accurate, works independent of the water volume, uses the same watt to speed calculation as Concept 2, and works with an app that has quite a good UI.

  2. Hello Edwin,

    First let me say…WOW! I’ve been reading your website for over an hour now and I’ve only touched the surface. While reading your reviews, articles, etc, one feeling resonates…honesty.
    I first saw the WaterRower on House of Cards, what great advertising on their part! I never knew a rower like that existed, actually I know very little about rowers in general. I’ve read that rowers give a low impact, all over body workout. I have 2 questions:
    1. I have problems in my cervial and lumbar spine and wonder if rowing might negatively effect me?
    2. What are the maintenance instructions for a water rower? Does the water chamber need to be disinfected and water changed often?

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Hi Theresa,

      Thank you so much for the kind words! I work very hard to be honest in my reviews and I appreciate the feedback!

      WaterRower did make a very smart PR move by having their rower featured in House of Cards. I bet they didn’t realize how big of an impact it would have! I’m sure it was a nice bump to their bottom line :)

      To answer your questions:

      1) It is so hard to answer questions on whether a rowing machine will effect people with back issues. I’m by no means a doctor or even someone who knows a lot about spine injuries. I have had people ask similar questions who went on to purchase a rower and didn’t have any issues with their back. However, the lower spine is always a concern for me because rowing requires pivoting back and forth, which to me seems like a lot of pressure/work on the lower spine. I think your best option would be to find a rower locally and test it out. Maybe even join a gym for a month that has a rower and use it a few times a week. That would be better than spending $1,000 on a WaterRower to only find out it causes you back pain.

      2) The maintenance on WaterRowers is very, very low. Basically, you fill the tank with water when you first assemble the machine, then you place a chlorine tablet in the water and close the tank. You can add/subtract water from the tank to increase/decrease the “resistance” of the rower but most people keep the level the same. The chlorine tablets last over 6-months and a few come with the machine. So basically every 6-months you can add a tablet and you should never worry about any mold, etc. in the tank.

      I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions!

  3. Hi Edwin
    Thanks for a great site. Magnificient and informative.
    My challenge is, that I need a rowing machine for my wife and me. It comes down to Concept2 Model D or WaterRower Natural.
    We won’t be using the same resistance when we workout. So will it be easier for both of us to use Concept2, or can we use the WaterRower with the same amount of water in the tank without any problems?
    Best Regards
    Mads Jakobsen

    1. Hi Mads – thanks for reaching out and for the kind words!

      I don’t think switching the “resistance” on either rowers will be that difficult for 2 people. On the Concept2, it’s obviously easy and is just a lever. On a WaterRower, it would require adding/subtracting water from the tank. However, I think most people realize after rowing a few time that it doesn’t make too much of a difference and most people like rowing with it at a medium level.

      Even on a Concept2, the most common damper setting is a 5 and it’s the setting recommend by Concept2.

      I would first decide if you like air or water resistance better. If one really stands out that you like, then I would choose that resistance type.

    1. Hi Andrew – unfortunately, I can’t remember the last time I saw a WaterRower or any of the big name rowers go on sale. Your best bet would be to look for a used rowing machine. The only issue is that right now during the pandemic, home fitness equipment is selling for a premium.

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