The Least Likely Star To Emerge From House of Cards A Rowing Machine

The Netflix original series, House of Cards, staring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright is helping a new star emerge amidst the backdrop of scandal, intrigue, and politics that the show centers around.


The WaterRower, a rowing machine known for its wooden design and a donut-shaped water tank at the front of the machine, has gained fame through repeat appearances in the popular show as the main characters turn to the machine to work out their frustrations when their plans and schemes don’t work out. The show, about to start its fourth season features the WaterRower on a regular basis and the rowing machine even appears in the dreams of Frank Underwood, played by Spacey.


Google searches for “House of Cards rowing machine” increase after each airing of a new episode and with the fourth season release in March, the searches reached an all time peak.


Director of sales and marketing for WaterRower, David Jones, call Spacey “the most famous ‘rower’ in the world.”


In the past five years, production of the WaterRower has tripled at the Warren, R.I. factory to more than 1,000 machines a week. Rowing machines have been increasing in popularity in recent years as more and more people look for total body workouts that raiser the heart rate but are easier on the joints. The WaterRower’s appearance in House of Cards simply helped bring this workout even more so into the limelight.


According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, more than 10 million people in the U.S. used a rowing machine at least once in 2015, a 3% increase from the year before. Rowing boutiques have begun popping up in the Northeast and elsewhere and gyms such as Equinox have started offering classes featuring WaterRower machines, and the classes have spread to other gyms and university recreational centers.


2010 say the launch of Orangetheory, a fitness chain that made WaterRowers a central part of its intense heart-rate based classes. With nearly 400 studios worldwide, Orangetheory is on track to open a new location every day this year, and each location features 12-15 WaterRower machines.


While fitness equipment doesn’t usually attract such a draw in other TV shows or movies, part of what sets the WaterRower apart is its unique appearance. The water tank that sits at the front of the machine provides resistance with each row, creating a more realistic workout. Not only does the paddle actually row through water, but the water can be heard moving around, creating the feel that the user is rowing on a lake or a river. Designed by competitive rower John Duke in 1987, the company was founded in 1988 and sales didn’t start increasing until 2012 when fitness clubs started using the machine in classes and the Netflix series formed a partnership with the company.


No money changed hands when Netflix approached the company prior to the 2013 premier of House of Cards, but WaterRower has seen increased success thanks to the show’s popularity. WaterRower is now the only piece of exercise equipment to be sold on the Museum of Modern Art’s Design store.  When Chay Costello, the associate director of merchandising for MoMA brought a WaterRower into the office to try it out and sure enough, co-workers immediately recognized the machine from the show.


It’s not easy to steal the spotlight from such talented actors as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, but the WaterRower has managed to do just that.

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