2020 World Rowing Indoor Championships, Paris, France
2020 World Rowing Indoor Championships, Paris, France

To start off, with you have to be perhaps a little crazy and definitely have a well-developed sense of humour. But in all seriousness, like any world record, it’s really, really hard. The only (small) concession is that there’s lots of world records to go after, no matter who you are.

Indoor Rowing World Records can be set in a range of distances: from 100m through to the marathon and ultra distances. They can also be set by time, age groups and weight (heavyweight and lightweight). There’s Para rowing (called adaptive by Concept2) World Records, National records, and records on not just the static indoor rower, but on slides and the dynamic indoor rower.

The standard, though, is the 2000m static category. This became the standard in 1996 emulating the Olympic distance of an on-water rowing race. The overall record in this category is currently held by Josh Dunkley-Smith of Australia. He set the record of 5:35.8 in 2018 and is one of only a few indoor rowers to go under 5:40. Before Dunkley-Smith, the record was held by New Zealand’s Rob Waddell who still holds the 30 – 39 year old 2000m record of 5:36.6, which he set in 2008.

On the women’s side, Brooke Mooney of the United States went 6:21.1 in 2021. Prior to Mooney, Olena Buryak of Ukraine held the record. Like Waddell, Buryak has the 30–39-year-old record with a time of 6:25.6 (set in 2019). Few other women athletes have broken 5:30.

The age groups go from 12 years old and under through to 100+ with John Hodgson of Great Britain holding the oldest category. In 2011, Hodgson set 13:32.6 as a one-hundred-year-old. Dottie Stewart of the United States is the oldest women’s record. In 2018, at the age of 96, she set the record at 14:23.1.

Concept2, the makers of rowing ergometers, track, verify and record all indoor rowing records in a database on their website.

Concept2 sets the criteria for setting a World Record and these can also be found on their website. This specifies gender, age, weight category, para rowing classifications and the rules for verifying the results. It is worth noting that recording of the record runs by season. This season runs from May 1 to April 30. So a record set on May 2, 2022 would count in the 2023 season.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw a boom in World Records being set. With more people exercising from home and competitions going virtual, the indoor rowing machine increased exponentially in usage. In the early stages of the pandemic in 2020, an incredible 131 new Indoor World Records were set. This continued to grow through 2020 and 2021, reaching 477 new records. The majority of these records were set in the less-common categories (those outside of the 2000m distance), while the 2000m records remained.

There are now hundreds of Indoor Rowing competitions around the world both virtually and in-person. The 2000m distance is predominantly the main race but many other distances and classifications have been incorporated in including team / relay events. This has developed out of the roots of the sport which go back to 1981 when Concept2 developed the first indoor rowing machine.