This is a review of the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS sit-on-top kayak.
The Bali SS kayak is an entry-level kayak that’s popular with kayakers on a tight budget. I’d recommend it as being one of the best beginner kayaks due to its low cost and ease of transport and storage.
Its small size makes it maneuverable and a great option for paddling on small lakes and rivers. It also has more storage space than other similar kayaks.
In this Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS review, I look at the pros and cons of this budget kayak and its key features.
Keep reading to find out if the Bali 10 SS is the best kayak for you.
Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS Pros and Cons
Pros & Cons
- Good kayak for paddling in shallow water and tight spots
- Plenty of storage, including dry storage for clothes and valuables
- Lightweight and easy to transport for solo kayakers
- Inexpensive, making it a great first kayak for beginners
- Looks great and is available in different colors
- Poor tracking, though you can improve this by adapting your paddling technique
- Less stable than other sit-on-top kayaks – this is less of an issue for lighter people
- Not designed for speed, so slower than other kayaks (but this is fine for leisurely kayaking on calm waters)
Should You Buy the Sun Dolphin Bali SS Kayak?
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS is a great budget kayak with all the basic features for paddling in shallow, calm water. I’d recommend using the Sun Dolphin Bali SS on small lakes and slow-moving rivers and streams, as it’s less easy to control in the surf or on choppy water.
The Bali is a good choice if you’re looking for a sit-on-top kayak for your child. Compared to heavier kayaks, it’s easy to maneuver both in and out of the water. You also don’t need to worry about damaging an expensive kayak when they drag it over sharp stones or get stuck in the rocks.
While the Sun Dolphin Bali SS is adaptable for most users, if you’re especially tall or heavy, you may find it cramped and tippy. The 12-foot version of the Bali has a higher capacity and might be more comfortable for long trips.
Features of the Sun Dolphin Bali SS
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS is marketed as a budget kayak, so I wouldn’t expect it to have the same performance and features as professional kayaks. But is it good enough to be worth buying?
Let’s find out.
a. Adequate Stability
As the Sun Dolphin Bali SS is a sit-on-top kayak, I’d expect it to be more stable than a traditional sit-in kayak. And it is – to a point.
You don’t have to worry about it completely rolling over. Unlike a sit-in kayak, it would take a lot of effort to get the Bali to flip. However, some people do find it quite sensitive to side-to-side motion.
What does this mean in practice? Well, if you’re confident in a kayak, you shouldn’t end up in the water. But if you’re less experienced or heavier up top, then you may find it unnerving to paddle.
b. Easy to Maneuver
One of the big advantages of a short kayak is that it’s easy to maneuver. The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS is snappy to turn and a great choice if you’re going to be paddling around rocks or having to avoid vegetation. A word of warning, though, the tracking of the Sun Dolphin Bali is pretty poor – but if you paddle smoothly then you should be OK, or you could try fitting a retractable skeg.
Durable Build Quality
If you’re looking for a durable and unbreakable kayak, the Sun Dolphin Bali SS should be near the top of your list. It’s made from Fortiflex® High Density Polyethylene treated with UV stabilizers to protect the plastic from the sun.
As it’s a lightweight kayak, the plastic isn’t as thick as on other models, but it’s robust enough to cope with accidental encounters with sharp rocks.
The Bali 10 SS has a weight limit of 250 pounds, making it suitable for kids and adults of all sizes. If you’re a larger person or carry a lot of heavy gear, you may want to check out the Sun Dolphin Bali 12 SS, which has a 395-pound weight limit.
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS looks great and is available in various colors including lime green, hot pink, purple and tangerine orange. Not only are bright colors fun, they’re also safer if you’re paddling on water frequented by larger craft or high-speed powerboats.
Easy to Transport
If you kayak on your own, then ease of transport may be a key factor when deciding which kayak to buy. The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS weighs just 44 pounds, making it easier to transport than heavier kayaks.
It’s also one of the shortest kayaks you can buy, measuring just 9.5 feet in length. Though the legroom isn’t bad, if you’re over six feet tall, you may find it too cramped.
A Comfortable Ride
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS is minimal when it comes to comfort. There’s a padded backrest, but no seat pad, and the protective thigh pads actually protect your lower leg rather than your thighs.
If you’re in and out of your kayak a lot, this won’t be an issue, but if you want to sit comfortably for long periods, then I’d suggest either getting a seat pad or replacing the padded backrest with a stadium seat.
Ample Onboard Storage
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS has ample storage at the bow and stern and a small storage compartment to store accessories in front of the seat. There’s also a handy cup holder for your water bottle or afternoon coffee.
a. Portable Accessory Carrier (PAC)
One of the unique features of the Sun Dolphin Bali SS is the portable accessory carrier – a removable dry storage compartment that sits in the stern of the kayak. It’s a little fiddly to open the built-in sealed hatch when you’re sitting in the kayak, but it’s a good place to keep emergency supplies safe.
You can also remove the PAC and tow it behind the kayak. This leaves the rear cargo area open for a cool box, dry bag or canine companion.
b. Bungee Cord Rigging
There’s bungee cord rigging across the open bow storage and on top of the portable accessory carrier. You can use the bungee cords to secure fishing accessories, spare clothes, or other equipment.
a. Self-Bailing System
Like most sit-on-top kayaks, the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS comes equipped with scupper holes that allow excess water in the cockpit to drain out.
However, as two of the holes are drilled through the seat, this means your butt can get wet if water splashes up the holes. This is more likely if you’re heavy and the kayak sits low in the water.
It’s worth picking up a few scupper plugs to seal the holes if you’re paddling in cold water or want to stay dry. They don’t come provided, but they’re inexpensive to buy.
b. Adjustable Foot Braces
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS has adjustable foot braces, allowing you to position your feet exactly where you want them. I found them easy to adjust and had plenty of room to stretch out my legs. If you need a bit of extra legroom, you could remove the foot braces, but if you’re over 6 feet, you may want to upgrade to a longer kayak.
c. Carrying Handle
The Bali 10 has carry handles at the bow and stern, but no side handles. This means it’s tricky to load and unload from a vehicle, especially if you’re on your own. It’s pretty easy to add a pair of carry handles to the kayak – check out this video for instructions – but it could void your warranty.
d. Paddle Holder
I can be pretty clumsy at times. Having dropped my paddle in the water on more than one occasion, paddle holders are a must for me. Fortunately, the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS comes equipped with paddle holders, so there’s a safe way of stashing your paddles when they’re not in use.
What People Are Saying About Sun Dolphin Kayaks
Sun Dolphin kayaks get mixed reviews on sites such as Reddit. Experienced kayakers criticize the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS for its poor tracking and slow speed and suggest saving up for a more expensive kayak.
However, as I mentioned above, the Bali SS isn’t designed for an experienced kayaker. It’s an entry-level kayak for people who are on a budget and, in most cases, just want to have a bit of fun paddling around on calm water.
When you look at reviews written by this type of user, they’re a lot more positive.
A newbie kayaker on Amazon bought the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 to get some exercise and build muscle mass. She’s had a lot of fun using it several times a week and was impressed at its toughness. After a year of dragging it across rough gravel to the lake, the kayak only has a few light scratches.
Another user was concerned about the Bali’s stability but has found it to be untippable, even when pulling her dog back onto the kayak after he’d been for a swim.
The Sun Dolphin Journey – An Alternative to the Bali SS
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS is a fishing-specific version of the Bali SS. The design of the hull is almost identical, giving a similar level of maneuverability and stability. The Journey 10 has all the features of the Bali plus some additional features that make it a better kayak for fishing.
If you’re planning on fishing from your kayak, the first thing you need is a fishing rod holder. The Journey 10 has three rod holders in total. There are two flush-mount rod holders behind the seat, which can be used for storing a fishing rod and for bait fishing, plus a swivel rod holder located in front of the cup holder.
Neither kayak has an anchor trolley system, though this could be retrofitted. You could also add a fishing rod holder to the Bali SS, but it would mean cutting into the hull, which could invalidate your warranty.
There’s one other notable difference between the Sun Dolphin Bali and The Journey. . Whereas the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS comes in a dazzling array of bright colors, the Journey 10 has a much more muted color palette that’s designed to blend in with the environment.
As the two kayaks have similar performance and a lot of the same features, it’s not really a case of which one is the best, but more, which one best meets your needs. If you want to use your kayak for fishing, then go for the Journey 10. If not, then the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS may be a better choice.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Sun Dolphin makes a 12-foot version of both the Bali and Journey kayaks. These have a higher weight capacity and may be more suitable for larger users.
If you’re an infrequent paddler or want to give kayaking a go to see if you like it, then you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a top-of-the-range kayak. You need a cheap, reliable kayak that’s easy to use.
The Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS is a top kayak for beginner kayakers on a budget. It’s lightweight with all the features needed to paddle smoothly on small lakes and rivers. The rugged plastic is tough enough to stand up to years of use with little need for maintenance.
Convinced? Find the best price for the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS here.