Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge SF-RW5713 Water Rowing Machine

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Sunny SF-RW5713

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250 lbs81.6 lbsWaterTime/500m,
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One of the best fitness machines released by Sunny Health & Fitness in 2017 is the Obsidian Surge SF-RW5713 rower. This particular unit has quite more to offer than the other Sunny rowers available so far, such as the Sunny SF-RW5633 or the Sunny SF-RW5624. It has a water resistance system which is considerably better than magnetic resistance, a multi-function fitness meter, and an overall superior construction.

Technical Details and Specifications

  • Assembled dimensions: 78.7L x 22W x 33.4H inches (200L x 56W x 85H cm)
  • Assembled weight: 81.6 lbs (37 kg)
  • Supported weight: 250 lbs (113.3 kg)
  • Frame: Steel
  • Footrests: Pivoting, with adjustable straps
  • Resistance type: Water
  • Exercise meter: Total time, 500m time, distance, SPM, total strokes, calories, heart rate, race program, recovery
  • Warranty: 3 years

Frame construction

The Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge SF-RW5713 rower features an all-steel construction. However, it’s not a commercial-grade machine; the steel tubing in its construction is lighter than for the First Degree Fitness Neptune Challenge, for example. However, the Neptune model has an aluminum rail. With water in the tank, this Sunny rowing machine weighs approx. 81 lbs (~37 kg).

Moving the unit once it is assembled shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Its front base has a set of wheels which facilitate its relocation. The front base rests on two rubber pads which provide a good grip on the floor, while the rear base features two adjustable stabilizers.

With the frame fully assembled, this trainer isn’t extremely large. Its footprint is approx. 79″L x 22″W (200 x 56 cm), while other models, such as the FDF Apollo Pro II, are about 7-8 inches longer. Its rail offers plenty of travel for the seat, and therefore, the machine can accommodate users up to 6’2″-6’3″ (187 – 190 cm). Its weight capacity is only 250 lbs (113.3 kg), though, about 50 lbs less than for other models.

With regards to the unit’s usage space, Sunny Health & Fitness recommends leaving a clearance of at least two feet on each side of the machine and at the rear.

On the other hand, the Sunny SF-RW5713 can be stored vertically; the steel assembly around the water tank features a small stabilizer at the front. When stored in a vertical position, the unit’s footprint becomes 22″ x 33″ (56 x 85 cm). When stored vertically, it is recommended to place the unit near a wall, to maximize stability. Also, the water can remain in the tank.

The Sunny Obsidian Surge rowing machine is equipped with a seat that excels in ergonomic factors. It has a contoured surface and integrates a layer of foam padding. Its dimensions are 10″D x 12.5″W (25.4 x 32 cm), providing plenty of contact surface for a user up to 250 lbs. Its surface also offers excellent adherence, preventing the user to slide off from it during rowing. It’s set at 17″ (43 cm) above floor level in order to facilitate entry and exit.

The seat slides on three sets of wheels, which are equipped with ball bearings for smooth use and a prolonged lifespan. They’re concealed by the lateral metallic frame of the seat in order to maximize safety.

The machine’s footrests have a pivoting design. Therefore, they offer more freedom to the feet and ankles during each rowing motion which results in less overall stress. They feature a non-slip surface, heel guards and adjustable velcro straps to provide maximum foot stability.

The unit’s pulling handle is a simple, straight metallic bar, with rubberized grips for optimal comfort. The handle is attached to an abrasion-resistant mesh belt, designed to resist the stress of repeated pulling for a long time. Evidently, since it’s not a commercial grade machine, the handle is not equipped with pulse sensors. In order to have your heart rate read, you will have to use an HR chest strap.

One last aspect to mention here regards the unit’s paint finish. The Sunny Obsidian Surge rower features a black paint finish for all its steel components. This type of coating is corrosion-resistant and scratch-resistant; however, despite the fact that the frame is protected from rust, it’s still recommended to keep the unit indoors only as condensation or rain can eventually damage some of the internal parts, or the bolts that hold some of the parts in place.

Water tank and resistance system

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5713 rowing machine features a water resistance system, similar to the ones on the WaterRower models. The water tank is made of durable polycarbonate material, but it’s a bit smaller than for the WaterRower models. Its capacity is not specified, but it has 6 markings on it and it is recommended to not fill it with water over the 6th level.

Evidently, since it’s a water resistance rower, it provides a dynamic response during rowing. In other words, the resistance depends on how hard or fast you pull the handle. The water tank is equipped with a durable three-blade impeller, made of stainless steel material. However, the tank doesn’t have an adjustable resistance system such as the First Degree Fitness Newport model, for example. In case you want to adjust the overall resistance, you can add or remove water from the tank manually.

Just as for any other water resistance rower, the water in the tank requires periodic treatment. One packet of water purification chlorine pills is included with the machine. You don’t have to periodically change the water in the tank, but it’s recommended to add a purification tablet in it ever 6 months. Also, a funnel and a small siphon pump are included for filling or emptying the water tank.

Exercise meter

The meter included with the Sunny Obsidian Surge rower is a mid-range one. It doesn’t have online capabilities, not it is compatible with any online fitness apps. However, it does have two main workout modes, Manual and Race, and a recovery function.

The Manual Mode has two options. One, you can simply start rowing and the unit will simply count the values of your workout. And two, you can set up target values for time, distance, strokes, calories, and pulse, and the unit will countdown from there.

The Race mode has 15 levels of difficulty. For level 1 (L1) the Time/500m is set at 8:00, while for level 15 (L15) it is set at 1:00.

The meter unit features an LCD display which shows time, time/500m, SPM, strokes, distance, calories, and pulse. Distance is shown in meters only. The machine doesn’t have any pulse sensors, so the unit can only read your pulse via a wireless chest strap. This accessory is not included, but the unit should work with any 5.3 kHz HR chest strap transmitter.

There’s also a Recovery function on the meter. This gives you the possibility to calculate your fitness level. Based on the heart rate at the end of the workout it will give you a fitness rating between F1 (Excellent) – F6 (Poor).

Along with the aforementioned workout metrics, the rower’s console also displays room temperature, clock, and calendar. It uses two AA batteries which are included. It has a sleep mode into which will enter after 4 min. of inactivity on the machine.

Assembly and Maintenance

The rower’s water tank, with its protective frame, the other elements of the drive system, and footrests comes ready-assembled. Therefore, the assembly only requires you to connect the rail, the seat, the front and rear bases, and the meter. All the tools needed for the assembly are included. The manual provides very clear assembly and tank filling instructions. The task shouldn’t take more than one hour.

For maintenance, it is recommended to add a water purification tablet in the water tank every six months. The rail should be kept clean, free of any objects that may damage the seat’s wheels. Also, it’s recommended to periodically check for loose bolts and parts, and re-tighten them if necessary.

The Pros

  • Pretty sturdy steel frame which can support users up to 250 lbs;
  • Great aesthetics;
  • Can be stored vertically, and the water doesn’t require to be removed for storage;
  • Transport wheels for easy relocation;
  • Rear base adjustable stabilizers;
  • Contoured and padded seat;
  • The seat’s top is situated at 17″ above floor level for an easy entry and exit;
  • Water resistance system which provides a dynamic response during rowing and natural feel;
  • Mid-range fitness meter which indicates time, time/500m, SPM, strokes, distance, calories, and pulse;
  • Two workout modes – Manual and Race;
  • Clock, calendar and room temperature reading function on the meter;
  • Recovery function;
  • Smooth and quiet operation;
  • Chlorine tablets for water purification are included;
  • Batteries for the console are included;
  • Tools for assembly are included;
  • Little maintenance required;
  • Easy to assemble.

The Cons

  • Meter unit display doesn’t have LED backlight;
  • HR chest strap not included (requires 5.3 kHz HR straps).


The Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge SF-RW5713 is a water resistance rower featuring a durable steel frame, and a mid-range console which can track time, time/500m, SPM, strokes, distance, calories, and pulse. It’s not a commercial grade machine but does offer an excellent, full-body aerobic workout. It’s great for interval training, light to intense cardio training, building stamina, and losing weight. And finally, it’s one of the most affordable rowing machines with water resistance available at the moment. It costs at least a few $100s less than other models, and definitely delivers excellent quality for the price.

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2 thoughts on “Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge SF-RW5713 Water Rowing Machine”

  1. 1. Need to upgrade monitor. Distance is way off compared to the Concept 2 I tried. i.e. Concept 3 min for 500 meters, using this at similar intensity it is over 5 minutes for 500 m.
    2. better siphon
    3. chart showing how much water for each level
    4. option to include chest strap

    1. 1. The Concept 2 was lying to you. You’re not that fast.
      2. Use a pump.
      3. Until you reach the level line.
      4. Add a chest strap to your cart. $20.

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