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UNBIAS Obsidian Surge 500 Review 2022

by | Jul 13, 2022 | Pickleball

I puchased the Obsidian Surge 500 rower on January 10, 2022 from Amazon and I purchased the Concept 2 rower from Play It Again Sports in January of 2021.

I am a licensed physical therapist and I wanted a rowing machine similar to the Concept 2 rower, but with a taller seat and a lower price point.

When I searched Amazon.com, WalMart.com and other sporting goods retailers I found the Obsidian Surge 500 rower on Amazon for a great price. This rower cost nearly 50% less than the Concept 2 rower at that time.

Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine – SF-RW5713

Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine - SF-RW5713 , Black

Top 3 Benefits of the Obsidian Surge 500 Rower

1. Seat Height

This rower has the tallest seat I have found on a good quality rower. The top of the seat is 18 inches from the ground. This makes the machine easier to use for individuals with knee osteoarthritis or lumbar stenosis.

The taller seat also makes getting off the machine after a rowing session easier.

2. Build Quality

I was really impressed with the build quality of the Obsidian Surge 500 rower. The metal frame feels strong and stable. It doesn’t slide around on the floor like some of the lighter weight, lower quality rowers. The frame is used by several of my clients to lean on when sitting and pull on while standing from the seat.

The strap connecting the handle to the fly wheel is a durable nylon and shows no signs of wear and tear after 7 months of continuous daily use.

The only deficiency I find is in the velcro foot strap. It is starting to wear down after 7-months and will likely need to be replaced by 12-months of daily use.

3. Smoothness

The Obsidian Surge 500 is an extremely smooth rower. Sometimes I feel like it may be a little too smooth. Since I can’t manual change the resistance, a little more friction would provide increased resistance.

This rower uses water for resistance and the harder I pull the more resistance, but I can only fill the retaining tank so high before the tank has a chance of leaking. My tank has never leaked but I have never filled the tank higher than the recommended level.

* Tip – Rowing is a great exercise to improve your Pickleball Grip.

Top 3 Deficiencies of the Obsidian Surge 500 Rower

1. Resistance Levels

As I mentioned above, the resistance of the Obsidian Surge 500 comes from the 16 hydro-blades pushing against the water in the tank. The only way to gain resistance is to pull harder. 

I would prefer another form of added resistance. 

2. Foot Plate Straps

Unlike the Contept 2 rower, this machine does not have a heel strap to hold the heel in place during the catch phase of the rowing stroke.

I may try to retrofit a heel strap for the pedal. 

3. Timer Display

I don’t like the fact that I have no way to lock the display screen on time. The display screen cycles between rate and time or other combinations.

It is a very small problem but frustrating enough for me to mention.

In the following video I share an updated review of the Obsidian Surge 500 Rower after 7 months of daily use in my physical therapy clinic.

To watch the video on YouTube click here: https://youtu.be/qVjwVBNflvY

Overall Impressions

I personally own both the Obsidian Surge 500 Rower and the Concept 2 Rower. In general, if someone wants to save some money with the smallest drop in quality, the Obsidian Surge 500 rower is a great option. 

If price is no object then the Concept 2 Rower still provides a better rowing experience.