Instead of air or hydraulic resistance, the Elite Wave Water Rowing Machine emulates actual rowing with lifelike water resistance. The paddles glide through the water housed in the reservoir, making the rowing stroke smooth from start to finish, and like rowing on a body of water, the resistance increases infinitely the faster you row. Not only does this feel like rowing on water, it sounds like water. Different stroke speeds and intensities vary water motion, resulting in realistic water resonance.
One of the major deciding factors between water and air rowers is price. Water rowing machines are often found in higher price ranges with the lowest model going for $700 and the best models starting around $1,100. Air rowers are found in every price range starting at $300 and going as high as $1,000+. The affordability of air rowing machines makes them very popular.
Outside of resistance type, we found the number-one arbiter of ride feel to be cord quality. Water ergometers tend to employ nylon cords, while air ergometers feature metal chains — a durability factor we anticipated would result in our favoring air. But while all three water rowers aced our expectation of smooth, high-tension strokes, perfecting the chain seems to be more difficult: Some tug with just a slight rumble, others feature bouncy, grinding chains that are incredibly loud, something akin to angry snoring. As for nylon, the best wind and unwind like elastic silk — no slack, no sound, no catching, just perfectly even tension throughout the stroke.