It’s great to see the price of wood frame water rowers is coming down. These things cost $1000 for a decent one only a few years ago. Now we can get hold of an impressive solid oak water rower such as the Runow Water Rowing Machine for around $600.

High Quality 108lb Build – Sturdy.

And $600 is a good price considering this rower weighs close to 110lb. It’s a heavy study rower. That extra weight is a telling sign this water rower is made from quality materials, but it’s not just the quality of the build these guys have got right; the essentials such as smooth rowing stroke, a long rail, and quiet resistance and drive systems are there too.

water tank of runow rowing machine

Including Comparison with Best Seller: Obsidian Surge Water Rower

It’s undoubtedly a water rower worthy of some serious consideration which is why I want to take a close look at everything the Runow Water Rower has to offer, including its drawbacks. At the end of the review, I’ll compare the Runow to the best-selling steel frame water rower in this price bracket, the Sunny Obsidian Surge, as it will be interesting to see how these two match up.

First, a quick look at the Runow rower’s product specs!

Product Specifications


Product dimensions – 82 x 22 x 21 inches


Weight – 108lb


Resistance type –  water


Max user height – 6’3″


Storage – vertical


LCD multi-function monitor – time, distance, strokes, strokes/min, room temp, clock,


Weight capacity – 350lb


Frame – Oak

Why Do We Like The Runow Water Rowing Machine?

What sells this rowing machine is its build qulaity. As I already mentioned, the weight gives us a good clue to the overall quality of a rowing machine and it weighs nearly 110lb. This machine is heavy. It’s not going to feel like some cheaply made rowing machine. It feels sturdy and of quality that extra weight will keep this rower planted to the floor, and thats exactly what you want.

Good length rail – Accommodating users up to 6’4″

Another surprising feature of this water rower is its rail length. Most of the low-cost wooden frame water rowers suffer from short rails, but the Runow boasts an impressive length that can accommodate users up to 6’4″ at full leg extension, and dont worry if you’re petite. The minimum height is around 4’11”.

Smooth Rowing Stroke

The rowing stroke is important when buying a rowing machine for home. We want it to be as smooth as possible and quiet.

The Runow includes a belt drive system; this is much quieter than a chain drive and, when coupled with a high-quality water-resistance system, will allow for a smooth rowing stroke.

Also, we need the seat to glide smoothly across the rail, there’s nothing worse than a noisy seat when rowing, and thankfully Runow has used premium ball bearings and high-grade rollers, so the seat glides effortlessly across the rail. Something I know many users liked about this rower.

Dynamic Resistance System Suitable For Any Fitness Level

The Runow rower uses water to create resistance which means it’s dynamic. Dynamic resistance systems on rowing machines are always the preferred choice because they mimic the feel of outdoor rowing more closely than any other resistance system. The faster you row, the stronger the resistance, just like rowing in a real boat on the water.

Another positive of the dynamic resistance system is the limitless resistance levels making it suitable for any fitness level, unlike a magnetic rowing machine that utilizes constant resistance, where the resistance strength has a limited amount of adjustable levels and only increases in strength when you select a higher level via a tension knob.

Almost Silent Apart From the Whooshing Sound of The Blades Through The Water

Something else I love about water resistance systems is the sound the blades make when they push through the water in the tank, its an almost soothing whooshing, and it adds to the natural feel of the rowing machine; if you haven’t tried it, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

How Much Water Do I Need To Add To The Water Tank?

I’ve already mentioned that the primary way to control resistance strength is through your workout pace. Still, the amount of water in the tank can also affect resistance strength.

You need to think of the amount of water in the water tank as people in your rowing boat. Generally, a 1/4 full water tank is like rowing with three people in a boat. If you fill the tank to just under half, it’s like rowing with a boat full of people.

I find filling the water tank to just under half full provides a smooth, strong resistance at a medium stroke rate which is great for a 30-minute cardio session.

And there’s no need to empty the water tank when storing the rower vertically. It doesnt leak.

woman demonstratiing runow water rower monitor

Basic but Easy To Use Monitor

These guys had to cut back somewhere, and if it’s going to be anything, I’d prefer they cut back on the monitor rather than the build quality. So yes, we get a rather disappointing monitor with the Runow water rower.

Still, it is nice and easy to use and set up and boasts a large screen, so it’s easy to read, but sadly there are no workout programs or Bluetooth and no way to monitor heart rate.

It tracks the essential workout stats such as time, distance stroke rate, and calories burned.

The monitor isnt heigh adjustable like most rower monitors, which is disappointing, so it might be annoying to read for taller users.

Stability – Do I Need a Rubber Floor Mat?

I always recommend a rubber floor mat no matter what type of growing machine you buy, they soak up vibrations and prevent slips.

The Runow is better equipped than most to prevent slips because it includes 8 rubber pads which is great to see. Still, it’s a heavy machine and if you’re using it in an apartment, 1/4 inch or cheaper 1/8 rubber mat will help keep your neighbors happy.

This is a study, heavy rower so stability is where this rower shines, its solid. Still, we dont have any adjustable levelers with the Runow rowing machine. Those things are great for keeping a rowing machine stable on uneven surfaces. Make sure to find an even surface for this rower to avoid any wobbles.

Contoured seat

Great Seat

I like the seat of this rower. It’s contoured for comfort, and what’s best, it’s contoured to prevent slips in the leg push phase of the rowing stroke.

Plus, the padding is made from high-density foam; the gold standard for padding its not too soft to cause stability issues or too hard to be off-putting. It’s just right.

And we already know the seat glides smoothly and quietly on its high-grade rollers and bearing, so there’s no issues there.

vertical storage feature of runow water rowing machine

Anything Else Worth a Mention?

Storage: this isnt a folding rowing machine; instead, the Runow water rower is designed to be stored vertically, which is better than a folding rower because it takes up less space, just 0.20 square meters of space when stored against a wall.

There are also transport wheels built into the base of the rowing machine just tilt and roll to move.

Im not going to say assembly is easy, this is a large machine, but most of the complicated stuff comes pre-assembled, such as the drive systems, water tank, etc. Rather than me explaining it, here’s a build video. Basic tools for the job and instructions are provided.

Runow Rower Assembly Video 

The Good

Sturdy Build – Can handle up to 350lb

Solid oak looks great

Dynamic resistance system mimic the feel of outdoor rowing – suitable for any fitness level

Belt drive system – whisper quiet

Long rail accommodates users up to 6’4″

Premium ball bearings, high grade rollers allow the seat to glide smoothly

Contoured seat prevent slips in the push phase of the rowing stroke

Space-saving design – store vertically 

Smooth rowing stroke

Built in transport wheels, just tilt and roll to move

The Bad

No workout programs or BlueTooth

Monitor screen isnt backlit making it hard to read in low light conditions

no way to monitor pulse



obsidian surge water rower in showroom

Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge Water Rower

Sunny Health are king when it comes to affordable cardio gear, they are another company with over two decades of experience, and their rowers are some of the best on the market.

The Obsidian Surge is their FlagShip Water Rower. It’s a steel frame water rower, so it’s a little different from the Runow wood rower, and because steel is less labor-intensive than wood, we can get hold of this impressive water rower for $100 less than the Runow and the Surge is equally impressive.

Boasting a 91lb build, the Sunny Obsidian is heavy for a low-cost water rower, which tells us this rower is made from high-quality materials and its study just like the Runow.

Both rowers have similar features: they both include whisper-quiet belt drives, dynamic water resistance systems, boast long rails and well-diesgied seats that run on high-grade rollers and bearings.

The main difference is the monitors. The Obsidian Surge monitor is much better than the Runow as it includes wireless heart rate monitoring, a couple of workout programs and is height-adjustable.

The Obsidian Surge outclasses all other steel frame rowers in the Under $500 price bracket thats why Obsidian is the best-selling water rower right now. And I think it looks great too. Maybe not as appealing as a solid oak water rower, but the Obsidian looks classy and modern for a steel frame rower.


To Sum Up

There’s no other wood frame rower that comes close to the Runow Water Rower, and thats because nearly all the other low-cost wood frame water rowers are built by companies with little experience. Runow managed to get all the essentials right with their water rower,  yes the monitor lacks features, but if you want to keep prices low and have a solid oak frame, a basic monitor is something you’ll have to live with. Overall it is a well-built, sturdy water rower. It’s not commercial grade, but it’s easily good enough for a home gym.