Fetch is the distance over which the wind interacts with the water surface to creates waves. The longer the fetch the bigger (higher) the waves are. If the shore (green in the diagram) is a hill, there will be a wind shadow which gives protection from the wind, but even if the shore is flat as a pancake and gives no protection, the waves become progressively smaller as you for upwind to the shore. Thus, rowing upwind toward shore is always an escape from waves.
Outside of resistance type, we found the number-one arbiter of ride feel to be cord quality. Water ergometers tend to employ nylon cords, while air ergometers feature metal chains — a durability factor we anticipated would result in our favoring air. But while all three water rowers aced our expectation of smooth, high-tension strokes, perfecting the chain seems to be more difficult: Some tug with just a slight rumble, others feature bouncy, grinding chains that are incredibly loud, something akin to angry snoring. As for nylon, the best wind and unwind like elastic silk — no slack, no sound, no catching, just perfectly even tension throughout the stroke.