The most basic piece of land based rowing equipment is the ergometer.
Concept II has the standard machine and if you want to ascend the ranks of rowers and compete at a significant level, you'll need to become an expert on the rowing machine.
Coaches use them in crew selection, the wise ones only as one of many tools, the less informed make decisions based entirely on erg times.
The greatest criticism of the erg - aside from pain and boredom! - would be the fact that they don't perfectly simulate on water technique. Sports scientists will tell you that fitness is sport specific and while an ergometer is a useful training tool, it will never replace or properly duplicate the feel and training on water in a real boat.
Rowperfect produces a rowing machine that is said to better replicate the feel on water, unfortunately the concept II machine is standard in so many boathouses that the Rowperfect has not made substantial inroads in this important segment of the rowing equipment market.
Concept II produces an addition piece of equipment - the slide. Ergs are places on concept II slides which enable the machine to move rather than being fixed to the ground. This makes the feel much more like actually being in a boat. Unfortunately, it is a significant additional cost and clubs are often already on stretched budgets.
On the other hand, for the individual or family wanting to add some rowing gear to their home, the cost of an ergometer is not cheap, but at $900 is far, far more affordable than buying a boat and oars at ten times that cost - and of course most people can find a bit of ground to place a rowing machine on, while few have access to water or boat storage.
If you are looking to add an ergometer to your home, then consider going to one of the many indoor rowing competitions each year. Hosts must provide dozens of new rowing machines for the racing and sell them off at significant discounts after the event is completed. You'll need to be in touch early - likely the fall - and reserve your erg as they sell off quickly.
Another great benefit of the rowing machine is the ability to work on fitness when your technique as a novice rower can be limiting you ability to get in a great workout on the water. As you learn you can supplement your on water skill development with erg training on land - where you can work as hard as you want after some very basic skills have been developed.
At the same time, having an ergometer with well-placed mirrors or even a video camera enable the rower to gain insight into their technique that can't be had on the water.
The basic rowing ergometer technique will be explored in a future post.