This water rower may not look swish, but it delivers tough, satisfying rowing sessions, and is easy to put together and stow away.
- Great rowing experience
- Connects to heart rate monitors or apps over Bluetooth
- Easy to build and store
- Uninspiring design
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The appeal of owning a water rowing machine is that pulling a paddle through water gives you a better sense – in both feel and sound – of splashing around on a river than pulling against magnetic resistance.
The DKN H2Oar is, at first glance, a wildly overpriced water rower – it’s listed at £1,799 on the DKN website. However, DKN is the in-house cardio machine brand of retailer Sweatband, which appears to have the H2Oar on a permanent reduction to £699. At that price it represents good value, especially since it offers Bluetooth to connect with a heart rate monitor or a training app like Kinomap. That means it matches up well to WaterRower, one of the best rowing machines.
One of the appealing things about a water rower is that there’s no heavy flywheel to wrestle into place, which you have to do when putting together rowing machines that use air resistance like the JTX Freedom Air or Echelon Smart Rower. The H2Oar is straightforward to build, with everything you need provided in the box: an Allen key and a small collection of screws, all clearly labelled and matching the instructions.
The trickiest part is manoeuvring the rail into place in the main body, but it’s still a one-person job. Other than that you just need to get the display in place and drop four AA batteries into it and you’re ready to add water.
How much you fill it dictates how heavy or light the rowing feels, and there are six levels marked on the tank. Going for a higher water level will simulate moving a heavier boat. The resistance level is dictated by how fast or slow your rowing action is.
The H2Oar is unique in that it uses a vertical tank, rather than a horizontal tank, such as those found on most other water rowers – including DKN’s more affordable model, the Riviera (£599).
We chose the maximum fill level to get the toughest rowing feel. There’s an awkward-looking utensil included to help you add water slowly and carefully to the desired level, but we found a watering can got the job done quicker. To drain it, you’ll need to use the utensil because you can’t remove the tank from the frame and tip it out.
The large footplates work well, with the Velcro straps providing a comfortable and secure fit. The angle of the LCD screen is easily adjusted and there’s also a phone or tablet holder so you can replace the display with your stats in a connected app.
While well built, the H2Oar is run-of-the-mill looks-wise. It might have been nice to make the tank more of a design feature, but perhaps it's safest to hide it away. DKN does advise that water is refreshed, ideally every six months using a water purification tablet, particularly if the rower is positioned in bright daylight, which can create an environment where bacteria and algae thrive. These tablets are readily available from sports stores and online retailers.
Like all rowers, the H2Oar sucks up considerable floor space (212.5cm x 51.5cm), but it can be stored upright (93cm x 51.5cm, but just over two metres high) without needing to drain it. There are wheels and a large stopper behind the tank to make sure it’s stable on its end and it’s surprisingly easy to move around. If you don’t have enough space to allocate permanently to a water rower, this one provides a great solution.
Rowing on the H2Oar is a satisfying experience. Unlike rowers that use magnetic flywheels, your intensity influences the degree of resistance, so the harder you row the tougher it feels.
The workout modes on offer are standard fare. The quick start mode tracks distance, speed, stroke rate, workout duration, total number of strokes and watts, and the stats are easy to read. To check the accuracy, I cross-referenced what was on the display with readings from Garmin’s Enduro multisport watch’s indoor rower tracking feature and they matched.
The buttons below the display offer interval, variable intensity, race and custom modes. That custom mode means you can set it up to target certain stroke rates or distances if you’re following a training plan.
One extra metric can be brought into the fold to judge your efforts and that’s heart rate (or pulse as it’s referred to on this rower) by connecting to an external sensor. I tried it out with Polar’s H10 and Verity Sense monitors in intervals mode and had no issues pairing either.
I tested the H2Oar with a mix of quick start sessions, Coach’s own collection of calorie-burning rowing workouts, following rowing workouts on Apple Fitness+ and sessions on the Kinomap app which can connect directly to the machine. While Kinomap does include guided workouts, these aren’t the slick studio workouts you’ll find on the Echelon or Hydrow connected rowers. The app’s MO is first-person videos of stunning rivers, shot from a boat, overlaid with your real-time stats displayed on your device screen instead of the built-in one.
The machine didn’t budge or slip on my wooden floor as I upped the intensity. The handle is comfortable to grip and the seat, while unusually raised from the rail, offered solid foundations for a good row.
As you pick up speed the splashing sound of the water becomes more noticeable. On one hand it’s soothing, on the other no-one will be able to watch TV in the same room if you’re powering through an interval session.
There wasn’t really anything to fault about the experience of rowing on the H2Oar. It felt comfortable and secure and, crucially, gave me the feeling that I was working hard.
The DKN H2Oar water rower is easy to set up, easy to store and sounds great (if a little noisy) and it delivers a tough rowing session.
While it doesn’t offer the glitzy fitness class experience, it still connects to a training app that – at less than £10 a month – is far cheaper than the likes of Echelon’s.
For the money, we’d have liked something a little easier on the eye, but it does feel like it’s built to withstand plenty of hard rowing sessions. If you’re set on a connected water rower under £1,000 then the H2Oar is a solid choice.
Buy from Sweatband | £699
More Rowing Machine Reviews
- Echelon Smart Rower review: A slick, if expensive, machine for rowing beginners
- ProForm 750R Rowing Machine review: A more affordable way to bring connected rowing workouts home
- JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine review: Simple and stylish
- Hydrow Rowing Machine: The Peloton of rowing machines lives up to its billing
Mike is an experienced journalist, beginning his career in 2008, and is a keen runner and swimmer. As a contributor to Coach, he covers swimming and reviews rowing machines.