Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Review
Cons: No seat cushions, hard to reach and adjust foot braces, not a lot of weight capacity
Manufacturer: Sun Dolphin
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Sun Dolphin is probably one of the most recognized companies on the market due to their entry-level cost and availability in most big box sporting goods stores. We were skeptical, but then impressed by the Aruba 10's ease of transport and its respectable tracking and maneuverability. This boat's seating system lacks comfort, but with a little thought and creativity, you can make some modifications with a little foam or a seat cushion.
As an introductory boat, this inexpensive, stable kayak makes most beginner paddlers feel comfortable and confident paddling from day one. Sundolphin chose to go with a planed hull to promote better stability compared to the rounded hull of the Wilderness Systems Aspire 105.
These flatter style bottoms don't do much to help the boat's glide. They have more surface area to push through the water than boats with V-shaped hulls, which slice through the water. To compensate, the designers added a semi-upswept, pointed bow and stern to help the kayak track, which translates to a smoother and longer glide. But even with these attributes, this kayak takes extra strokes to get and maintain glide.
Longer boats are better for tracking and gliding. In contrast, shorter vessels tend to handle better when turning. With these planning hulls, you won't have to fight lateral hull resistance under the waterline when turning the way you do with longer boats like the Perception Tribe 11.5 and the Ocean Kayak Malibu 11. These vessels have a keel or harder chines that cause friction as their edges catch water when turning.
In fact, the Aruba is one of the most maneuverable boats in the test, second only to the much higher end Wilderness Systems Aspire 105. In our maneuverability testing, we were able to spin the Aruba 10 around 180 degrees remarkably well with just two fairly easy sweep strokes. It carved up the slalom course, finishing with a high score. The angled bow helps the flat hull pierce through water and waves, aiding the kayaks ability to handle well while maneuvering through friction that would hinder the boat.
One of the biggest tradeoffs when shopping for a lower-cost, lower-end kayak is in its outfitting. Seating systems, foot, and thigh braces, and other extra features are usually stripped down. When comparing the Aruba 10 to another sit-in model like the Aspire 105, it's evident that you get what you pay for. It's not terrible, but your posture, comfort, and performance will suffer.
The Sun Dolphin line offers little in the way of padding on their seats. You sit in a cupped plastic seat that is made from the same plastic as the boat. It's just raised up a bit off the cockpit in case you take on water. The only support and adjustability you get is a thin, padded back strap.
The foot peg braces seem to be sturdy enough, but one of the downfalls of this design is having to reach in and under the cockpit to the bottom of your feet to move the levers. This can be a cumbersome and difficult process, especially for larger paddlers. It may knock you off balance.
There is light, thin padding provided on the cockpit to brace your knees and thighs. There is no additional outfitting to make it more comfortable. The Sun Dolphin includes a simple water bottle holder, bungee cord paddle holder, and carrying handle on the bow and stern for transport.
For a sit-in hard shell kayak, the Sun Dolphin is an extremely light boat. Of the five non-inflatable boats we tested, it's the lightest overall. The thinner plastic construction, lack of heavy-duty quality outfitting, and the overall shorter length keep the boat weight at 40-pounds. This makes it one of the most portable boats we tested.
This lightweight boat is noticeably easier to pick up and shoulder than the others. It's also easier with two people, one on each side using the carrying handles. Testers were able to lift the kayak onto a car's roof rack and then take it off with little to no difficulty. Dragging the boat around rocky portages did not require much effort. We all agree it was the boat we preferred to carry to the water's edge.
Sun Dolphin's UV-fortified Fortiflex polyethylene build isn't as sturdy or well-built as some of the other boats we tested. The material used in the construction scratches more easily than most of the other kayaks, leaving lots of little dings and curly plastic pieces on the hull. These will increase drag and slow down your boat's glide.
There is definitely less plastic used in the construction of this boat, which helps keep its weight low, but it can't carry as much weight as some of the other kayaks do. The Wilderness System Aspire 105* is only 6" longer and is heavier by about 8 pounds. Its sturdier plastic hull, and extra length translates lets it carry an extra 150 pounds.
On the up side, although the foot brace system is hard to access, it seems reasonably solid. And the one strap adjustment for the backrest feels dependable.
The Aruba 10 is an admirable beginner's kayak and is a solid entry-level boat for those transitioning from a sit on top to a sit-in boat. The kayak's flat bottom promotes stability while the wide-open cockpit eases entry and exit. This is a great kayak for a pond or small lake and, at only ten feet long, this boat is very maneuverable for even the youngest or most novice paddlers.
The Aruba 10 is an option for the beginner who wants to make sure they will enjoy flat water kayaking and still have plenty of fun for their money. Thankfully, Sun Dolphin keeps that in mind with this entry-level and inexpensively priced boat that is sure to keep you happy paddling. Even after you become hooked on kayaking and ready to upgrade to a more advance model kayak, you'll have fun playing in your Aruba 10. Keep in mind though, it isn't as durable as the pricer boats, so you may want to spend a little more to have your kayak for years to come.
Taking the plunge and getting into kayaking should be a fun and exciting time. It can also be nerve-racking as you gather information to make the best choice on something that you plan to enjoy for years to come. Good thing Sun Dolphin has made some quality, beginner-level kayaks at a very accessible price. This makes it a lot easier to get into a boat and test the waters of kayaking without sinking your ship and wallet.
— Dan Kramer