Rowing machines were first used in Archaic Greece. Chabrias, an Athenian military general in 4th Century B.C., invented wooden rowing simulators for his inexperienced oarsmen. This enabled them to learn technique and timing before stepping foot on actual water crafts. And it must have worked — Chabrias successfully led numerous naval attacks against the Spartans.
Fetch is the distance over which the wind interacts with the water surface to creates waves. The longer the fetch the bigger (higher) the waves are. If the shore (green in the diagram) is a hill, there will be a wind shadow which gives protection from the wind, but even if the shore is flat as a pancake and gives no protection, the waves become progressively smaller as you for upwind to the shore. Thus, rowing upwind toward shore is always an escape from waves.
Rowing is a cyclic (or intermittent) form of propulsion such that in the quasi-steady state the motion of the system (the system comprising the rower, the oars, and the boat), is repeated regularly. In order to maintain the steady-state propulsion of the system without either accelerating or decelerating the system, the sum of all the external forces on the system, averaged over the cycle, must be zero. Thus, the average drag (retarding) force on the system must equal the average propulsion force on the system. The drag forces consist of aerodynamic drag on the superstructure of the system (components of the boat situated above the waterline), as well as the hydrodynamic drag on the submerged portion of the system. The propulsion forces are the forward reaction of the water on the oars while in the water. Note also that the oar can be used to provide a drag force (a force acting against the forward motion) when the system is brought to rest.