First Degree FItness Pacific Challenge AR Rowing MachineThe First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR Fluid Rower looks like a damn fitness tank ready to kick your butt!

From First Degree’s ‘Horizontal Series’ of rowing machines, it is a water resistance rower that is fairly compact.

Although more compact than other water resistance rowing machines, it still packs the same kind of punch the other bigger (and pricier) models have.

It has a sturdy design, which is backed by a solid manufacturer’s warranty.  The resistance is suitable for all ages and fitness levels and it provides a very smooth rowing experience.  

Overall it is a solid rowing machine that leaves little to be desired, but it does have a few shortcomings.

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Table of Contents
(click a title to jump ahead!)

1. Resistance Type
2. Monitor/Control Panel
3. Build Quality
4. Comfort
5. Storage
6. Capacity
7. Dimensions
8. Assembly
9. Pros and Cons
10. Consumer Reviews
11. Warranty
12. Price
13. Overall Review

Resistance Type

The First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR is a water resistance rowing machine that uses a water flywheel (paddles suspended in a tank of water) to provide resistance for the machine.

This means, when you pull the handle, the paddles spin in the water, thus creating resistance.

To find out more about water resistance rowers and how they compare to the other resistance types read the following article: rowing machine resistance types.

As mentioned in the previous article, the resistance is similar to air rowers because the amount of resistance is determined by your rowing intensity.

If you row with low intensity, you feel little resistance. If you row with high intensity, you feel more resistance. It’s that easy.

Scientists call this the “Rule of Cubes” because to double the speed of the paddles requires an 8-fold increase in resistance!

The First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR Water Rowing Machine comes equipped with their “fluid technology” and “dual chamber” tank. Now this sounds a bit confusing but it is actually quite simple.

The ‘fluid technology’ allows for a smooth, even stroke throughout the entire motion without any jarring or jerkiness.

The ‘Dual Chamber’ tank allows you to adjust the amount of water that is actually being ‘used’ in the rower. This enables you to adjust the resistance even further than just rowing fast or slow.

By turning the yellow knob from ‘Max’ to ‘Min’ you move the water between the ‘Active’ and ‘Storage’ chambers. This will increase or decrease your overall resistance.

First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR ReviewIt’s very similar to a weight stack on various workout machines in the gym.

For example, let’s say you’re working out on a weight machine at the gym and you get to choose the amount of resistance based on your fitness level.

Before you start your workout, you select the amount of weight you want to use by pushing a button or moving a little metal key.

The weight that is not being used during the workout remains attached to the machine (kind of like it’s in storage for future use by another user) while the weight you are using moves along with you because the weights are being used.

Same principles apply with the adjustable water tank. It gives the rower the ability to choose how much water is being used in the tank for their workout; while the remaining water that’s not being used is put in a separate storage compartment for future use.

Users also commented on how the rower is ideal for interval training such as HIIT (high intensity interval training) and Crossfit.  The transitions from intense rowing to a slower rowing pace is extremely smooth and seamless.

People would expect the First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR Rowing Machine to be noisy but that’s far from the truth.  Most water resistance rowing machines provide a relaxing sound of splashing water and that’s the case with this rower too.

Although you can hear the water, the rower is still very quiet. Plenty of users commented on how they’re able to watch television with normal volume while rowing or just enjoy the pleasant sound.

Users of all ages and fitness levels have used this rower and commented that they were able to get the perfect workout they were looking for.  Whether it was to push their body to the maximum level or just get a light sweat going, the First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR Water Rowing Machine fit the bill with no issues.

Here is a great video explaining the “Fluid Technology” a little further:

Monitor/Control Panel

The First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR has a multi-functional performance monitor that tracks various fitness data such as:

  • Time
  • Distance
  • 500m split time
  • Strokes per minute
  • Calories per hour
  • Watts
  • Interval training
  • Optional heart rate reception

First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR Rowing Machine MonitorAll fitness data is displayed separately in their own windows on the face of the workout monitor.

The size of the text is fairly large so you shouldn’t have any difficulty reading the data while you’re working out.

There are three buttons on the monitor, ‘add 100m’ (also serves as the ‘reset’ button when held down), ‘level up’ and ‘level down’.

The ‘add’ button makes it simple to add additional meters to your targeted rowing distance right in the main window.

The ‘level’ buttons are used to record what resistance level the rower has chosen on the adjustable water tank.  This is done to make sure the performance monitor knows the resistance level and takes that into account to properly calculate calories burned and other fitness data.

Although the performance monitor doesn’t automatically detect your resistance level, at least it uses that information when calculating various data points.  I’ve seen a handful of performance monitors on rowing machines (usually the lower-end models) that don’t account for resistance level, which doesn’t allow for an accurate calculation of data.

At least that’s not a concern for First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR owners!

The performance monitor is compatible with most heart rate monitors and has a built-in USB interface that allows the rower to be attached to a computer so you can analyze and keep track of your data.

The best part in my opinion is you get to race other rowers from around the world that have their rower hooked up to a computer!  It’s not only fun, but it will push you to row hard, even on days you initially planned to take it easy.

Not many rowing machines have a built-in USB interface which is a shame given how far along we are in technology.  It’s good to know that First Degree made sure they weren’t left out of the party.

The unit is powered by 2 AA batteries (included). It will automatically turn on once the machine is used and automatically shut off after 5 minutes of inactivity.

Unless you’re looking for advanced features, the performance monitor on the First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR has everything you need to help keep track of your fitness data.

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Build Quality

The First Degree Fitness Challenge AR Water Rowing Machine is a solidly built rower made of steel with an anodized aluminum seat rail.

Although it’s not classified as ‘commercial grade’, the machine is heavy-duty and is constructed to take a beating.

First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR Water Rowing Machine

It’s made of premium parts so it feels like you’re rowing on a machine that should cost much more!

The water tank is made of polycarbonate (which is pretty much indestructible) and the internal components are made of marine grade stainless steel.

The belt drive is durable, which provides a smooth and quiet rowing session for the user.  This is also great because it requires practically no maintenance to keep the rower running at tip-top shape.

I’m all about high quality products that require little-to-no maintenance!

Users praised how quiet the machine is and didn’t mention anything about any creaking or other odd noises often heard of on lower-end machines.

The strong build quality limits the amount of miscellaneous noise you will hear from the Pacific Challenge AR.  Besides the expected noise you will hear such as the somber sound of the water splashing in the tank and the wheels going up and down the seat rail, you won’t hear too much of anything else.

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First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR ReviewThe seat is padded and runs on precision bearings, which makes the rowing experience smooth.

However, a few users commented that the seat wasn’t too comfortable. Primarily due to the ridge in the center of the seat, which rubs on your rear and makes it numb after a while.

Users found a simple fix for this issue by using a cushion, folded towel, or something to ‘level’ the seat more.  Most users were unaffected by this issue, but it’s still good to know there’s a simple fix for it.

The handle has an ergonomic design, which prevents strain on the wrists and hands.  It’s comfortable, but completely ‘round’, so it would be best not to row while wearing any rings on your fingers.

NOTE:  [This applies to most workout machines in general].  If you have sensitive hands or are just starting to workout, it might be best to use workout gloves to prevent your hands from developing calluses for the first few weeks.

The foot rests on the First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR function well.  The nylon straps quickly secure your feet by easily pulling the strap.  The footboards are easy to adjust and can accommodate practically any foot size.

The heel support system secures your feet solidly in place while you row and it’s perfect for people that like to row with shoes or barefoot.

The footrest doesn’t pivot, but your feet are still able to comfortably be in rhythm with the rest of your body while you row.

The rowing motion on the First Degree Fitness Challenge AR Water Rowing Machine is very fluid and smooth.  The seat glides up and down the seat rail smoothly and the handle and nylon strap provide consistent resistance with no “lag”.

Overall it is a very comfortable rower.

The video below highlights all the great features of a First Degree Fitness Fluid Rower. While the machine in the video is not the Pacific Challenge AR, all the components talked about are the same on First Degree Fitness Rowing Machines.

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First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR ReviewThe First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR has an easy-tilt frame that allows it to be stored standing up on its base (with the water tank at the bottom).

While in ‘storage mode’, the rower can be stored in the corner of a room or in a coat closet.

The rower also has dual caster wheels that make it easy to be moved around when needed.  All you need to do is pick it up by the opposite end of the water tank and push it like a shopping cart.

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According to First Degree Fitness, the Pacific Challenge AR rower has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds (136 kg).

That’s a solid weight capacity for a home rowing machine.

Users that were fairly close to the maximum capacity were able to use the rower with no issues and still felt very stable.

Shorter people (5.0’ [152 cm] or shorter) won’t have an issue with the First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR, but taller users need to take note.

The length of this water resistance rower is a little shorter than the higher-end models, which is fantastic for people with space issues. However, the shorter length also means a shorter seat track.

This means that it’s not ideal for very tall rowers. The Challenge AR rower is not ideal for someone taller than 6’6″.

If you’re taller, I suggest you try out the rower at a local fitness retailer or a gym first before purchasing. Also check out my article on the Best Rowing Machine for Tall People.

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  • In Use:
    • 78.0″ x 21.0″ x 20.0″ (198 cm x 53 cm x 51 cm) (L x W x H)
  • Storage/ Upright:
    • 21.0” x 20.0” x 78.0″ (53 cm x 51 cm x 198cm) (L x W x H)
  • Weight:
    • ~60 pounds (27 kg)

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Assembly of the First Degree Fitness Challenge AR Water Rowing Machine is fairly simple according to users.

The instruction manual seems to have very clear instructions with supporting pictures.  An added ‘bonus’ is the rower can be put together with the provided allen wrenches and multi tools.

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Pros and Cons


  • Realistic rowing motion
  • Easy to assemble
  • Dual caster wheels
  • Easy “flip over” storage
  • Variable resistance adjustment determined by rowing intensity
  • Footrest design allows comfortable barefoot rowing
  • Built-in usb interface allows rowers to race other rowers and further analyze workout data
  • Patented adjustable resistance water tank makes it easy to ‘adjust’ water resistance


  • Performance monitor is basic
  • Seat can be uncomfortable
  • Some users had trouble ordering replacement parts- follow my instructions under “warranty” and you will be ok :)

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Consumer Reviews

The First Degree Fitness Challenge AR Water Rowing Machine is regarded as a solidly built water resistance rower that can provide a solid workout for all users.

Users loved the ability to use the rower for interval training and the added feature of an adjustable resistance water tank.

A few users were not too fond of the seat design, but the same users also commented that the issue was easily fixed with a cushion or folded towel. Other users were not happy with the customer service but I believe First Degree Fitness has sorted this out.

**There are some reviews of older versions of the Pacific Challenge AR that show pictures of the old machine. The photos in this review are updated for the newer model.**

Read more First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge Rower reviews here.

The Pacific Challenge AR Rowing Machine is also the exact same model as the Newport Challenge AR Rowing Machine except in a different color. You can also see my review of that rower for more information and a better variety of consumer reviews.

There is one listing on Amazon that shows photos of the older model of the Pacific Challenge AR. While these reviews can definitely be taken into consideration they may be outdated and for the old rower.  Look at the newer model or go to the Newport Challenge AR which is the exact same rowing machine.

Average Rating: 4.4

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  • Frame: 5 years
  • Tank and Seals: 3 years
  • Mechanical Components: 2 years
  • All wearing parts: 1 year

To request a ‘Service Inquiry’:

  1. Fill out the service inquiry form on the Contact page
  2. Go to the distributors page and find your local distributor
  3. Email all the people listed
  4. Call the phone number of the local distributor

I believe First Degree Fitness has changes some of their distributors and have found more reliable companies who are better at customer service.  Each time I have contacted the distributor I have received a response within a few hours.

There were period where customers were not getting reliable customer service but I believe some of those issues have been sorted out.

If you are having issues please let me know at . I will be glad to help.

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Pacific Challenge AR Price

The Pacific Challenge AR Water Rowing Machine is a competitively priced water rower. For some reason the price fluctuates greatly based on the distributor but you should be able to find it for about $800.

I checked the top fitness equipment retailers online and Amazon tends to have the lowest available price and great consumer protection.

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Overall Review

Overall the Pacific Challenge AR is a solidly built rower that feels like you are actually rowing on water.

There are many great features and the price is good for a water rowing machine. Many users choose to buy the First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Rowing Machine because they enjoy the red color.

When comparing the Newport Challenge AR vs. Pacific Challenge AR they are functionally exactly the same.  You can read my review for more information and see this rower has a lot more reviews and accurate consumer feedback.

Other users may choose to go up in price and look at the WaterRower GX or WaterRower Natural.

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I hope you enjoyed my First Degree Fitness Pacific Challenge AR Rowing Machine review! If you have any questions leave them in the comment section below

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