Reviewing the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem kayak is not the hardest thing to do. Why?
Because within Sun Dolphin’s range of kayaks, there are a number of more attractive and handy choices. That statement, however, should not be misinterpreted to mean that this sit-on-top kayak is not up-to-par to its sibligns. In fact, it’s far from it, as this boat provides much more than you would expect from just taking a glimpse at it.
Let’s take a look at what that means in the following Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem review.
Frame of the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem Kayak
As you might have guessed already, the 13.5 in the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem denotes the length in feet. With that length, it is okay for any prospective owner to expect more than a handsome looking cockpit. Measuring 34 inches in width, the boat has enough wiggle space, comfortably accommodating up to three people. However, it works best when used by 2 people, and can function as a solo kayak with just the middle seat.
The Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem’s hull is made of UV-protected HDPE (high density polyethylene), as are all Sun Dolphin boats. This material protects the kayak from big scratches and dents. The use of polyethylene goes a long way in granting the user a lightweight, yet tough vessel, making it ideal for all categories of kayakers.
Rinsing it off after use, especially in salt water, will make the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem retain it’s strength and it will therefore last longer.
The kayak’s hull is well shaped to cut through the water with acuity. At a hull depth of 17″, the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem’s overhang is commendably done and leads to an upraised bow area. As such, when paddling in rough waters, the kayak’s bow area sheer lines are still retained way higher than the waterline. This negates the need to get skirting to prevent front water splashes. Additionally, the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem’s angular stance while in water gives it a self-bailing capability, which enables the ejection of water from the cockpit.
The cockpit area is not dull either. Even before rigging, the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem provides a glimpse into a well thought out style. For starters, the three seating areas are done in a stress-free fashion, perfectly situated.
There is a long depressed area that sits up to two people. The stern section, on the other hand, is a little raised to provide for the last kayaker. Also within this last area is space for an open cargo holding area.
Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem Features
The Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem is sold as a three person kayak, but its maximum capacity threshold would not be conducive to carry three adults on a serious fishing expedition. The kayak is only able to accommodate up to a maximum of 500 pounds, which translates into three average weight adults without fishing gear and other items. As such, it is safe to assume that the third seat could accommodate a child, dog, or extra gear. Fully rigged, the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem weighs only 70 lbs.
The seats that come with this boat will serve you pretty well. The adjustable foam padded seats are accompanied by a wide backrest. To hold them in place, they are restrained by strong shock absorbing straps attached to D-rings that are fitted on to the hull.
With the understanding of how tiresome paddling can be, the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem has two pairs of adjustable foot braces. Should you wish to go on a solo adventure, you can detach one seat and set your seat in the middle position.
Sadly, the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem only comes with two seats. If you want to add one more person, you need to purchase an extra seat. Also, the bottom padding is not that thick, so if you want extra comfort, you’ll need more padding as well.
Rigged onto the boat’s hull are four carry handles, with two of them located on either side of the hull. The kayak’s posterior and anterior are also fitted with low slung horizontal bar handles. Thus, carrying the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem does not present a challenge to its users.
The Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem is fitted with three storage points plus the molded in storage platform. The front storage hatch is located just in front of the forward kayak seat. The middle storage compartment, which offers a larger space for more gear, is situated close to the middle seating position. The rear hatch follows the same suit as the front hatch positioning, being situated in front of the last seat.
The stern storage platform is fitted with bungee straps to make sure that your nets, damp wetsuits and bags hold during turbulence. Unlike a good number of similar sized kayaks, the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem’s storage platform is a little smaller. So you might be forced to be economical. Both storage hatches are accompanied by tightly fitted flip lids. Conversely, the middle storage compartment is fitted with an easy turn-and-lift lid. This makes it idyllic to use even in rough waters.
As for extras, you get a nice pair of retrofitted paddle holders. The paddle holders are situated on either side of the hull next to the front and back seats. In addition to the holders, each seating section on the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem has a single molded cup holder.
- Easily accommodates tandem and solo usage
- Offers a fast means of rigging, with very little additional effort
- Perfect way to introduce your children to kayaking with the third seat available
- Sufficient storage space for a light fishing expedition
- Comfortable, easy to use and maneuver, even for inexperienced users
- Not an optimal fishing kayak, lacks devices like transducing spots, fish rod holders, etc
- Prepare yourself for water splashes, common for sit-on-top kayaks
- This Sun Dolphin kayak may prove to be less watertight than expected
Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem Review Conclusion
Just to reiterate, the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 Tandem is not the superstar of its league. However, functionally, this 13.5 feet will be great for a good time out on the water for a few hours. It is made for the type of person who embraces high impact kayaking, interspersed with some light fishing.
If you are the angling, ‘basket has to be filled’ type, then the Sun Solphin Bali 10 sit on kayak might be a better choice for you, although it is not a tandem. But since we all have to start from somewhere, this particular Sun Dolphin kayak gets the green light, especially for beginners.