First Degree Fitness Daytona Challenge AR Water Rower

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FDF Daytona
first degree fitness - daytona challenge AR model
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300 lbs55 lbsWaterFrame: 5 years
Tank: 2 years
Seals: 2 years
Wear: 1 year

The Daytona Challenge AR is a rower in the Horizontal series from First Degree Fitness. It’s actually very similar to the Newport model, the major difference between the two being the color of the frame. The Daytona Challenge model is painted yellow, while the Newport is red.

The FDF Daytona Challenge AR is a rowing machine featuring water resistance. However, as opposed to the WaterRower Natural or M1 HiRise for example, its overall resistance is automatically adjustable. Its water tank has a different design, with two compartments, which allows water to transfer from one to the other, in order for the overall resistance to be changed.

Technical Details and Specifications

  • Assembled dimensions: 77.8L x 20.9W x 20.1H inches (197L x 53W x 51H cm)
  • Product weight: 55 lbs (25 kg) w/o water; 92.5 (42 kg) with water
  • Supported weight: 300 lbs (136 kg)
  • Frame: Aluminum / steel / acrylic combo
  • Footrests: Adjustable, with straps
  • Resistance type: Water, adjustable (4 levels)
  • Fitness computer: Time, distance, strokes per minute, watts, calories / hour, 500m split time, HR capable, USB port
  • Warranty: Frame 5 years / Tank and seals 2 years / Mechanical 2 years / Wear parts 1 year

Frame and parts

The machine’s frame is made of a combination of aluminum, steel and acrylic parts. The main beam of the frame is aluminum made, the front part that sustains the water tank along with fdf daytona challenge AR - rower seatthe rear stabilizer are made of steel alloy, while the tank is made of a highly durable acrylic polymer. Overall, the machine has a sturdy construction, similar to the ones made for commercial gyms. It’s beam can actually support users up to 300 lbs (136 kg).

The rower’s frame is fairly long, featuring an assembled footprint of 77.8″L x 20.9″W (197 x 53 cm). This means it’s long enough to accommodate users with an inseam up to 38″ (96.5 cm), or differently put, users up to 6’7″ (201 cm). The frame doesn’t have a folding design such as the Sunny SF-RW5606 for example, however the frame can be stored in vertical position. The front part of the frame integrates a set of two small stabilizers and a set of small wheels, meant to facilitate the machine’s vertical storage and relocation. When stored vertically, its footprint becomes 20.9″L x 21″W (53 x 51 cm). Also, in case you’re wondering, the water can remain in the tank when the rower is stored in vertical position.

In horizontal position, the frame rests on 3 main bases, all of them finished with adjustable round caps, which act as stabilizers. As opposed to other rowers, the gliding beam of the seat is fully horizontal, promoting a natural rowing motion.

The footrests equipped on this rower don’t have angle-adjustability. They’re placed on a plate at an angle of approx. 45°, providing a natural position for the feet during rowing. They’re size-adjustable though, accommodating athletic shoes of all sizes and also integrate adjustable straps.

The seat supplied with this First Degree Fitness rower is made of highly-durable PVC material, featuring a molded design, for maximum ergonomics. It glides on low friction, Delrin® rollers with precision bearings, along a concealed track for safe and smooth operation.

The rowing handle features a soft curvature, designed to prevent strain on the arms, and promote a natural grip position for hands and wrists. It’s coated with rubber foam material, for a firm grip and for the prevention of any damage to the hands, which may occur due to prolonged rowing sessions. The handlebar is attached to a highly-durable nylon strap, 1″ (2.5 cm) wide, but the pulling mechanism also features a sheathed bungee cord for return.

Water tank, drive and resistance systems

To begin with, the water tank supplied with this First Degree Fitness rowing machine features a different construction from other fluid rowers. It has two chambers: the “storage” chamber and the “active” chamber. There’s a dial on top of the tank, that allows water to move betweenfdf daytona challenge AR - 4 level water tank these chambers, depending on the resistance setting. For example, if you set the resistance to “MIN” on the tank adjuster, it will take about 10 strokes to fill the central (storage) tank, leaving only a minimum amount of water in the main (active) tank, resulting in less demanding strokes. As opposed to that, if you set the resistance to “MAX”, the water will pass into the active tank, providing the user with higher resistance.

There are 4 resistance settings specified on the tank. The lowest setting generates feather-light resistance, for a light cardio training, while the top setting provides Olympic sprint resistance.

The tank’s capacity is 17 liters (4.5 gal), and in order to be functional, it requires to hold a water quantity between 2.3 and 4.5 gal (9 – 17 liters). It is equipped with a 3-blade impeller, connected to a bungee cord which facilitates its recovery. The pulling handle is attached to a durable nylon strap, designed for many years of use.

Overall, the FDF Daytona Challenge AR rower generates a rowing feel almost identical to the rowing of a real boat. Not only that its overall resistance has 4 difficulty levels, since it’s a fluid rower the resistance put behind each stroke is conditioned by how hard / fast you pull. Also, the movement of the impeller in the water tank doesn’t generate a lot of noise, such as various air rowing machines. The sound produced with each stroke is a soft, soothing “woosh”.

Fitness computer

The console unit supplied with the First Degree Fitness Daytona Challenge AR water rowing machine is similar to the one of the Viking 2 AR. It has much more to offer than a basic unit. To begin with, it features an 8-panel display, which covers time, 500M time, distance, strokes fdf daytona challenge AR - fitness meter unitper minute, calories per hour, wattage and pulse. In order to track you heart rate, a HR chest strap transmitter is required. However, this accessory is not included.

For distance, the computer offers the possibility to add 1000m for each press of the larger button. Also, this button covers the unit’s reset function. By holding it down for 3 sec., the unit will reset. It’s powered by 2x AA batteries, which are included. Also, it auto-pauses 5 sec. after ceasing the activity on the rower. It also automatically shuts down after 5 minutes of inactivity, all the values being reset to zero.

Just as the water tank, the console has 4 difficulty levels. Therefore, depending on which level you have selected on the tank, you should select the corresponding level on the console, in order for it to provide optimal tracking of the stats displayed.

One last aspect to mention regarding the fitness computer unit of this fluid rower, is its USB function. It features a USB slot which allows it to connect via cable to a PC, laptop or smart device, in order to work with various FDF apps. These apps offer the possibility to track your progress online, or even compete with other users.

Assembly and Maintenance

The machine’s water tank and resistance system come fully assembled and attached to the front metallic part of the frame. However, some assembly is still required. You will basically have to attach the seat to rower’s rail, add the rear stabilizer, then connect the rail to the front part of the frame. This shouldn’t take more than 30 min. The manual provides pretty clear step-by-step instructions and all the tools required for assembly are included.

When it comes to maintenance, there are two main aspects to mention. One, you will need to add a chlorine pill into the water tank, to prevent the formation of algae. Two, before each use you should make sure that the gliding beams are clear of any small objects that may cause them damage. In other words, wipe the gliding beams clean before each use.

The Pros

  • Sturdy frame, built by commercial standards;
  • High user capacity, up to 300 lbs (136 kg);
  • Superior aesthetics, aluminum and steel frame;
  • Can be stored vertically, and the water doesn’t require to be removed for storage;
  • Easy to handle and transport;
  • Water resistance system, providing the most natural rowing feel that you can get;
  • Dual-chamber water tank, with 4 distinctive water resistance levels;
  • Contoured, ergonomically designed seat;
  • Advanced, 8-panel fitness computer, that tracks time, 500m time, pulse, distance, strokes per minute, calories per hour and watts;
  • USB connection, for online workout data tracking, or competing with other rowers;
  • Smooth and quiet operation;
  • Rower for users of all levels;
  • Little maintenance required;
  • Easy to assemble;
  • Excellent warranty package.

The Cons

  • Chest strap transmitter for monitoring pulse is not included.first degree fitness - daytona challenge AR water rowing machine


The First Degree Fitness Daytona Challenge AR is a rowing machine with adjustable water resistance. It features a dual-chamber water tank offering 4 distinctive settings for its overall resistance. It has a solid frame, its aluminum rail and seat being able to withstand users up to 300 lbs. It’s equipped with an advanced computer unit for tracking your workout values, unit that also has online connectivity. It’s a rower designed for users of all levels, from beginner to pro, providing a consistent cardio workout that involves multiple muscle groups. It’s also great for stamina and interval training, and evidently for losing weight. Even though it’s not exactly an affordable rowing machine, due to the quality in its components and construction, and its range of features, it definitely stands up to the price.

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