I Rowed for 3 Years. Here’s What I Really Think About the Apartment-Friendly Hydrow Wave Rower

Row, row, row my boat…

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  • Value: 17/20
  • Functionality: 19/20
  • Quality & Ease of Use: 19/20
  • Aesthetic: 19/20
  • Noise Level & Mobility: 17/20

TOTAL: 91/100

As someone who rowed for about three years off and on, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the dreaded erg (aka rowing machine), spending the latter half of my daily practices rowing 2,000- or 6,000-meter races to determine our seat and boat placements. Still,  I’d never seen an erg quite like the immersive Hydrow Wave rower (was $1,695, now $1,545). An erg may not be the first cardio-based machine on your home gym list, but don’t be fooled by this narrow, unassuming fitness powerhouse: It’s one hell of a full-body workout. So, there was one question I had to get to the bottom of during my three-month testing period: Does it live up to this ex-rower’s high standards? (Spoiler: It thoroughly surprised me.)

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What Is the Hydrow Wave Rower?


Seeing the Hydrow Wave rower, I felt a pang of nostalgia. For people who aren’t familiar with crew, the rowing machine is a low-impact, full-body workout designed to mimic the experience of rowing on the water by using an electromagnetic drag technology. Its sleek design and slender build brings me back to the boathouse, where ergs lined up down the middle of the room and skiffs (hand-built wooden boats used by rowers) were stacked along the opposite walls, hanging from above.

The thing I love about the erg is that it’s meant to be stored vertically, so it takes up a sliver of space along the wall until you’re ready for your workout—that’s when it requires a space of about 7-feet-long by 2-feet-wide for a comfortable experience. Despite weighing 102 pounds, the machine is actually pretty light, since the bulk of the weight is near the front in the fly wheel (i.e., the resistance), so lifting the frame from its back leg won’t feel heavy in the slightest, plus it comes with two flexible wheels that make it easy to move about your space.

As someone who owns and is extremely familiar with the traditional Concept2 indoor rower that most rowers—including Olympians—train on, the Hydrow Wave rower’s modern gadgets and gizmos were alluring, from the immersive, 16-inch HD touch display to the Bluetooth connectivity to the access to over 5,000 live and on-demand workouts taught by world-class athletes from all over the world. Knowing how intimidating this machine can be to even the most experienced of rowers, I wanted to find out if these additions make it beginner-friendly, engaging and compact enough for apartment dwellers.


  • 80"L x 19"W x 43"H
  • 26.5″W x 30″D x 82″H (stored dimensions)
  • Free standard shipping
  • 30-day at-home trial
  • One-year warranty at no extra cost
  • 16” HD touchscreen
  • Over 5,000 workouts
  • Compatible with Apple Watch, Strava and Bluetooth headphones
  • On-the-go workouts with the Hydrow app
  • 102 pounds
  • 375 pound weight limit

The Hydrow Wave Rower Delivery and Storage


A couple weeks after my order was placed, my machine arrived at my front door with a crew (pun intended) of two men. Free standard delivery of the erg takes approximately two to five days, however, because I scheduled an in-home assembly, mine stretched to the one- to two-week mark. Scheduling was easy, too—I selected the day and time that worked best for me and was met with texts the day of delivery that were quite comical to say the least. They started as ETA texts then quickly turned into play-by-play updates, such as Update. We are stuck in traffic. then Update. There’s an accident on the 210 freeway. It has turned into a parking lot. A+ for communication.

This thoroughness was much appreciated, and when the team of two did arrive, they carried my brand-new, already assembled erg up my long staircase and into my room. The delivery team made sure the machine was correctly assembled and even walked me through the set-up, explaining how to work the home screen and access classes. This service is included when you purchase the all-access membership for $44 per month—a separate and essential cost from the rower. I know what you’re thinking: Another expense?! But think of this as your gym membership and the erg your equipment. There are on-demand workouts, including Pilates, yoga and strength, plus entry into the Hydrow app that you can access from your personal device wherever.

Testing the Hydrow Wave Rower


As someone familiar with the sport, it was important for me to take a step back and forget my prior experience and approach the machine as a beginner would. In my testing, I focued on three factors: ease of use, performance and engagement and quality and design.

  • Ease of use: After nearly a decade away from the sport, I’m as beginner as it gets, so I wanted to make sure the erg was easy-to-use and as unintimidating as possible. Are there resources that will walk someone through the machine for the first time, explain the proper technique and break down the metrics, such as split, strokes per minute (I’ll refer to this as SPM), meters, calories burned, heart rate, etc.?
  • Performance and engagement: With nearly 5,000 live and on-demand workout classes taught by world-class athletes and Olympians, I wanted to ensure that there were comprehensive classes for every level of athlete that can hold my attention and keep me accountable. So, whatever your mood, workout goals or level, whether you need to be taught the fundamentals and basics of the stroke or you’re looking to race like an Olympian, I wanted to see if this erg could accommodate.
  • Quality and design: Can this compact machine stand-up to professional ergs preferred by Olympians? As sleek and alluring as these modern features seem, I wanted to make sure they enhance the user’s experience without sacrificing on quality or safety.

Over the course of three months, I hopped on the erg regularly as a quick form of cardio. My first go at the machine was horribly rough. I attempted a 15-minute class with target intervals running from 20 to 26 SPM. I probably should have started with a five- or ten-minute beginner class, because boy I did not anticipate what time away could do to me. I had to stop multiple times to catch my breath and recuperate. Despite being out of practice, I was amazed (and thankful) that I basically had my own personal trainer to guide me through the exercise with words of encouragement and explainers. Without the visual of the water and motivation, I know I would have quit as soon as I felt the fatigue set in.

I’m always able to find classes that suit my needs since the screen face is *very* easy to use. Despite a catalog of over 5,000 immersive workouts, sifting through the content is surprisingly approachable. Whether you’re on a time crunch, destination hunt, instructor kick or climbing your way up the competency levels, the home display has it all laid out for you. I usually opt for the time preferences, but it’s really astonishing how I can choose to row in Newport Back Bay one second, on the River Thames the next and finish it off Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. There are also a slew of instructional videos on the basics of the stroke, proper movement and correct form, plus plenty of options for more experienced rowers to engage in challenging tests with higher SPM.

Speaking of strokes, the Hydrow Wave rower is designed with the brand’s patented electromagnetic drag system, which—in layman’s terms—is their ingenious way of attempting to replicate the feeling of being on the water. I find it nearly impossible to compare any erg to the feeling of being on the water, though I will give it kudos for boasting a smooth drive and recovery (aka the back-and-forth movement) and having a solid drag (resistance) slightly resembling water. I also wouldn’t categorize it as whisper thin, as the company claims, though it is noticeably more quiet than other models I’ve tried.

Another key feature that I love is the leadership board and badges, which reminds me of being on a Peloton. I use this as motivation, hoping to climb the ranks by adding more power in my drive through my legs, or not at all on days when I just want to row in peace. Overall, it’s built with a solid and durable frame that’s supportive and sleek. It took me awhile to get used to rope-like drag attachment, as I’m used to a chain, but its high-quality make is undeniable.

The Bottom Line


At $1,545 (on sale from $1,695), the Hydrow Wave Rower is a hefty investment, yes, but a smart one in my book for many reasons, especially if you’re sick of crowded gyms or live in a small space. It’s one of the most effective full-body workouts, that, as The New York Times reported, can have a positive impact on your total cardiovascular system, and there’s a 30-day at-home trial and one-year warranty, too. Whether you’re a complete and total novice who’s never touched an erg in your life or a literal Olympian, there are enough workouts to suit your fancy. Plus, that touch screen and face-to-face visual training really goes the extra meter (sorry, rowing pun).

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Associate Fashion Commerce Editor

Stephanie is a natural savant in the fashion, beauty, and dating & relationships beats. She graduated with a bachelor of arts at the University of San Diego, where she majored...

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