I have had the Delphin out in surf, tide races, and strong winds (30 knots). It is an excellent boat for those conditions: stable, maneuverable, relatively wind neutral. I like the cockpit for my long legs and I like the outfitting for contact with the boat.
I’ve also tripped out of the Delphin from class 2 river to open coast. My longest was 10 days on the west coast of Vancouver Island. On that trip, I packed very light and resigned myself to the Delphin’s slow speed. What I got in return was a boat that was easy to launch/land in surf and handled rough, exposed conditions well.
So it’s a great little boat. Now for the downsides. First, it is a complete beast to carry. Heavy and awkwardly balanced. Second, the day hatch is a leaker. Finally, that flat hull will oilcan. I don’t know if that affects performance much - it can’t get much slower!
It surfs (forwards and backwards) and side-surfs very nicely, is easy to roll, and apart from multiple scuffs and scratches, is lasting well. Nose-stands are more comfortable standing on Yakima pegs than the flexible P&H pegs.
Conclusion - great surf kayak and playboat but be prepared to get rid of the breakable frilly bits that only look good in the showroom.
Water Conditions & Location
I paddled the Delphin 155 in Tubbs Inlet on the west end of Ocean Isle Beach, NC in the surf & tidal races. The wave height was from 2 - 3 foot rolling and dumping surf.
The Delphin is almost "out of the box" ready. It comes with hip pads, a ratcheted back-band adjustment, molded seat, and foot pegs that can be adjusted while sitting in the kayak. I like a tight fit, so I replaced the stock hip pads with adjustable ones and installed a foam brace under my knee and a foam heel pad. The molded seat really holds your bottom in place and I did not slide around like you would in a non-molded seat. I really felt like I was part of the kayak. The retractable skeg is rope deployed via an ingenious bungee system, which translates to easy field repair and a skeg that will easily retract back into its slot when you forget it is deployed during a beach landing.
The two bulkhead compartments stayed dry during all surf sessions and after a couple of rolls. The mini-hatch in front of the cockpit is a great place for snacks, H2O proof camera, etc., though items need to be protected.
Note: The rubber rand spray skirt I had did not get a good seal due to the external seat anchor screws on either side of cockpit rim; therefore, you will need a bungee rand spray skirt or a rubber rand skirt with a thin rand to get a good seal.
On The Water
The Delphin feels very stable on flat water and just as stable in rough. It had good speed on flat water despite its more aggressive rocker and I had no problem paddling against the current. The hull design allowed easy ferrying across tidal currents and surfing tidal races. Punching through the surf was only surpassed by surfing in enjoyment. The bow planed to the top of almost every wave and required little effort punching through 2 -3 ft. surf. When caught off guard, paddling the stern into surf was just as successful.
The Surf Zone
Surfing the Delphin is where this kayak excels. When I thought I was going to nose dive, the bow would plane to the top of the water. The Delphin has good wave speed and could surf a swell well before it broke. The flat hull below the cockpit allowed the kayak to be spun on the wave foam to easily change directions. The hull was responsive to edging, which made it easy to carve wide turns on the wave. The Delphin was so much fun to surf; my whitewater kayak did not make it out the entire week. The high profile bow will be prone to weather cocking, though the skeg should alleviate this. This is a link to the surf session in the Delphin 155:
The Delphin was easy to roll and its low deck behind the cockpit permitted good laybacks when finishing the roll.
With the cockpit just aft of the center, carrying this 58 lb. Corelight kayak will take some adjustment. So if weight is a concern, the Aries, which is the composite version, will shed 3 lbs. and more as you choose lighter composite material.
After a week of paddling this kayak, I did not want to give it back. The Delphin is a good all around kayak that is stable enough for beginners, yet it will take a while to grow out of this kayak. For the intermediate/advance paddler, it will provide a new level of enjoyment in rough water and surf. A weekend paddling trip, with careful packing, is possible in this kayak, though do not expect to maintain the same cruising speed as a true touring kayak, like its cousin the Scorpio.
You do have the option of having a rudder system, but I do not suggest it. The skeg, along with edging and correct paddle strokes, should keep you on track in the roughest conditions. If you choose the Aries, you will be able to truly make your new kayak unique with 20 different composite colors, which can be different for the hull and deck. If budget allows, the Aries will be the path I will go when purchasing this kayak design, though the plastic version will serve just as well.
It would come to no surprise that the boat does not track overly well. That being said the boat is not really designed for this purpose. On longer "A to B" paddles I have found deploying the skeg has improved the tracking significantly. The boat certainly performs very well in rougher water paddling and I have tested it in ocean surfing, tidal races and rock gardening. This environment is certainly where the boat shines. The rockered bow certainly increases manoeuvrability and the back of center cockpit provides a better surfing experience.
The only con for me has been the foot peg and assembly. I have replaced with metal foot pegs as the manufacturer plastic foot pegs felt flimsy and have "slipped" at inopportune times.
All in all a great ocean play boat.
My only concern is the relatively flimsy plastic foot pegs, one of which broke during a pitchpole. This has been remedied with the introduction of a surf version of the boat, but why does a surf kayak need the addition of a surf model?
While the speed is more than sufficient for catching waves, I wouldn't want to use this for an expedition kayak. But, for all around fun, it's hard to beat.
This is a play boat that has crossed whitewater with sea kayak attributes to make a very unique kayak. It is not a "do everything" boat, but is exceptional in the rough stuff. It is a bit slow in flat water, but hey, that's not what it's made for. The primary is such that a beginner can paddle this comfortably. The high end designs also allow for the skilled paddler to do things that may not be possible in more traditional kayaks.
Take one for a test paddle, in rough conditions. If you can't paddle this in rough water, you should stay out of rough water because this kayak is the best I have ever paddled in conditions. I say this having paddled the Romany, Pintail, Chatham, Zephyr and a host of other rough water boats.
Try the Delphin.....you won't be disappointed.
P&H Delphin is a chimera of sorts which fits into the new and exciting "play-the-sea" class of sea kayaks. The vision for this class was to fill the gap between sea kayaks and surf kayaks by producing hybrid craft capable of handling rough, ocean and surf conditions.
My first impressions in one word: WOW! Paddling the Delphin on flat water was surprisingly enjoyable. It’s definitely much faster and tracks a whole lot better than any whitewater play boat or traditional surf kayak that I've ever paddled. Surfing the Delphin on some light beach-break really brought out the best of this kayak. It excelled in catching the 2-3ft waves and resisted broaching but I was most blown away by its unbelievable secondary stability and "righting moment." Superb, Pyranha Whitewater-inspired cockpit outfitting really connects you to the Delphin for maximum performance during surf sessions!
There's no getting around that this is a niche kayak that's best suited for "play the sea." The Delphin does not perform as well as a sea kayak on flat water or surf quite as well as a true surf kayak. The short relative length (15ft), aggressive rocker, and spin disk add up to a general decrease in tracking performance when compared to a traditional sea kayak. The $1900 MSRP is a relatively high price point for a polyethylene sea kayak but the uniqueness of the Delphin may be worth it!
The P&H Delphin is a very special sea kayak that hangs out in a class of its own. One must appreciate that hybrids are never the best at both worlds. However, the Delphin performs exceptionally well in its "play at sea" niche.
It has been a few weeks since I sold my WS Zephyr 15.5 (the Z) and bought the P&H Delphin 155 (the D). During this time I paddled the D half a dozen times: open water in strong winds and steep short-period waves, open water with longer period waves, pool-session rolling, and Class II white water a couple of times. Below are some notes as my first impressions, in case someone else cares -;)
My first outing was at the Chesapeake Bay in about 30mph winds and 3 foot steep breaking waves. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the D in this environment compared to the Z: the D was more affected by winds when on top of steep waves (to a point it feels it lee-cocks) and it was pushed a bit more by the "surf" making it harder to maintain my heading. The D felt faster downwind on waves, making use of wide planning bottom and good volume distribution so it does not pitch up or down needlessly.
My second "outing" was actually indoors ("ining"???), during a 2 hour pool session for rolling. While the D is easy to roll, I felt the Z clearly had an edge over the D for me in terms of easy rolling: especially easier to hand-roll, easier to lay-back. After seeing my video of that session I noticed that the Z had allowed me to use sloppy hand roll technique, where the D objected to it -;)
My main use of the D is on the Potomac river in Class II and III rapids. There the D performs very well. In rapids the D is giving me a bit of edge compared to the Z. The D surfs better (catches waves more easily and is more controllable), attains better, has higher initial stability, and is less affected by currents.
Mind you, the above differences b/w the D and Z are not huge, but I feel are enough to choose one or the other kayak, depending on the primary use for it.
Below are some additional notes of what I have found so far...
The Delphin 155 is first and foremost a sea kayak created for playing in rough and moving water. It can be used just fine to get you to the play spot and back in comfort. With its great stability and maneuverability it can be used for teaching and learning. The WW-style outfitting provides good contact with the paddler and is somewhat adjustable for fit. It will also work as a day boat or for short (a few days) touring. But it is heavy and feels a little boring: it is relatively slow and not "lively" on flat water and probably should not be your top choice if you only play in moving/rough water occasionally. For just paddling in waves and wind (as opposed to playing in surf or moving water) I feel there are better boats out there with less hull slap and windage that track better in demanding conditions and that are faster. The bow has some yaw at each stroke even with the skeg down. Cruising speeds are relatively low compared to some more slender and round-bottomed craft, however top speed (short sprints) feels higher than the chubby design would suggest at first glance. The heavy weight makes the kayak feel sluggish to accelerate or change direction, but it catches waves well and is fast once on the wave. The 3-layer plastic construction offers decent scratch-resistance but does not feel any sturdier and is heavier than the single-layer on the Zephyr for instance. The high-volume bow catches wind gusts when on top of waves and demands a bit of extra effort compared to lower volume and better-tracking kayaks to keep pointed where you want it. Workmanship and overall quality can be good or not so good (my first D had serious defects, enough to get a replacement, and my second one is nearly flawless) – check yours when taking delivery.
About me: 6'4", 185-190lb, size 15 feet, 35-36" waist.
(+) Positives in more detail ===============:
Flat planning hull makes catching and staying on waves easy. Side-surfing in a WW hole feels like doing it in a planning-hull WW boat – the hull actually planes over the water and maintains maneuverability and ability to spin around while in the foam and being pushed over the fast moving green water sideways. I was able to control the D to maintain position on top of the wave or to zig-zag left to right on a relatively steep pour-over play wave where several WW playboat folks (in 6 foot boats) also front-surfed.
The strong rocker and flat-ish hull profile make the D very maneuverable.
Turning into eddy lines requires less attention to perfect edging (fewer instances of upper edges of the rear deck catching the still water in the eddy as you exit the main current). In fact, compared to a WS Tempest or a Zephyr, I almost miss the "catch" of the bow when exiting or entering an eddy – instead of the familiar bow-pull downstream when exiting an eddy or stern-push while entering an eddy, the D almost needs an extra stroke to make it turn since the bow and stern do not catch the currents much -;)
Strong initial and secondary stability – important when things get squirrely. It comes from the wide flat hull section and decent above-water volume. Interestingly, the hull edges are rounded near the seat, so when on the top of a wave this gives a reassuring feel, while the edgier bow and stern give some bite when on edge while surfing.
Long cockpit – room to paddle with knees together and to enter seat-first (carefully, one leg at a time for someone with extra-long legs that only wears XXL size garments). Of course, the foot pegs do not allow good positioning of the feet in the center, so knees together paddling is not the same as in a boat with a full-width foot bar (the surf-spec Delphin that is being released now, will cure that with its full foot plate!)
Backband ratchet system offers secure grip on the backband straps and they stay put after adjustment (see also negatives). The thigh braces feel solid and P&H has glued (but not very well) soft cushions on the hull for comfort.
Good volume – does not submarine easy and when on edge surfing, water does not wash over the side of the cockpit or rear deck too much.
Good foot and leg room for even tall paddlers. Comfortable seat. The seat width may not accommodate extra wide-hipped paddlers (the hip supports may need to be removed). When barefooted my 36" inseam and size 15 feet have plenty of room, but with shoes I could use another inch of length on the rails.
Front center hatch compartment is very convenient and can hold a 16oz water bottle plus some other small items.
Watertight front and rear hatches (small hatch leaks a bit), large size rear hatch makes loading easy. On this version of the D – easy to close and open.
Very neutral in currents (does not catch edges easy). Bow/stern can slide over currents due to flat bottom (softens the abrupt grab by the current when peeling-out from an eddy).
Easy to balance brace and roll for me. Full rear deck layback is possible without lifting my rear end off the seat, but only barely so and only with a PFD that sits high-up and the move requires good flexibility in the lower back to do it (shorter folks may not be able to layback flat on the rear deck). Sweep and screw rolls work effortlessly.
Outer plastic appears to be a bit more scratch-proof than the single layer boats I've had (WS Zephyr, Wave Sport Fuse). Where I would see a deep gauge on my single layer boats from sliding over a submerged rock, I got small scratches or scuff marks on the 3-layer. The bumpy surface hides scratches better than a smooth one (can see that on my own scratches that span both areas on the D) but creates lots of friction when sliding the boat over my Mako saddles on the roof rack.
The skeg is easy to use and effective in planting the stern (except as noted below).
(-) Negatives in more detail =============:
Cockpit rim has sections with only little curve on the sides and on the rear. My guess is that there is not enough smooth curvature to tension the spray skirt evenly or probably it needs a slightly smaller skirt than my 1.7 seals sized skirts. I have two neoprene skirts that don't let any water in on my two other plastic boats with similarly sized cockpits: the D is not as water-tight as it could be and I get small leaks when green water rushes over to my waist or during rolling. Not juge quantities, but a bit of water tends to get there, especially when the weather is warmer and the neo skirt stretches more easy – my guess is that a slightly smaller skirt may be all that is needed.
Foot pedals mounted too low for large feet. The actual pedals are good size but the rails are mounted lower than optimal for me (again, take it in prospective - size 15 feet). Still more room than in the Z - I can wear my white water shoes in the D where I can't in the Z even with rails moved forward on it. The foot rails on the D are bolted 1" closer to the seat from where they could be (there is a 1"inch area where they could be screwed and they are screwed in the rear of this area instead of the front).
Non-vertical rudder holder hole on my particular Delphin (luckily, not many would put a rudder on a Delphin).
The thigh braces are a bit too forward - with long legs I feel they are about where they should be for me, but I imagine for shorter-legged folks they may fall too far forward and over the knee instead over the thigh. While they are adjustable fore and aft, the range is relatively small and they are not adjustable sideways or for angle (as are the ones on the Z), thus giving relatively limited options to adjust to your liking.
To retract the skeg into the hull completely requires attention, at least initially, until you get used to the skeg. It is relatively easy to miss the last notch on the slider and then the skeg would hang about an inch below the hull instead of being fully retracted. This is an annoying issue if your skeg is not perfectly adjusted as one notch off is all it takes for it to drag instead of retract. The skeg is non-kinking so dragging is not a big deal, unless you are being slid sideways or backing-up against something underwater, that is. Adjusting the skeg rope off the water is somewhat of a pain in the neck (but luckily, this is a one-time task, I hope – mine seems to hold well for the past month or so). The knots have to be tied very precisely in just the right place for the skeg to retract/drop down as desired and I don't see this being an easy task with cold hands on a remote beach somewhere.
Flat front bottom causes slap against steep wind waves. While P&H would like you to believe their 3-layer plastic is stiff, I find the single layer plastic on the Zephyr both lighter and about as stiff if not stiffer. The stuff in the middle layer is actually somewhat squishy and flexible compared to the outer layer (there was a large shaving in my D from manufacturing so I could see what's in the middle layer). Perhaps a function of hull shape and size to some extent, but the Z in plastic is at least 6-8lb lighter while it feels at least as solid if not more so in terms of overall hull stiffness on the water and when handling it off the water.
Front center hatch leaks a small amount of water (not much, but enough to get things wet inside).
Very stable when upside-down. Hand rolls are more difficult in this for me for this reason but also due to slightly more volume above water. Rear of cockpit rim is also a bit closer to the seat back than compared to the Z and thus makes laybacks more demanding (you need a low profile PFD, a flexible lower back, and a tall torso to do it well).
Tall bow with flat bottom is affected by strong winds (30+ mph with steep waves on relatively small bodies of water). The result is that the entire kayak is being pushed downwind, creating a feeling for lee-cocking in waves and wind that requires extra effort to counter (even with skeg fully retracted). To be honest, such winds and choppy seas will blow around most kayaks and I did not really struggle much with the D, so this is not a huge thing and should not be taken out of proportion. But in the Z, with a skeg fully retracted, I would end-up with slight weathercocking and with some skeg I would go downwind, or I could balance b/w the two; where in the D I felt I had to work extra to keep it pointed at an upwind angle with the skeg fully up. Not a problem in flat water and strong wind – it will weathercock then, but in waves and strong wind it tends to leecock a bit.
Backband ratchet straps can slip out during adjustment and are hard to put back in place without looking carefully (effectively, no backband while out of the ratchet mechanism).
Heavy hull (close to 60lb). Susceptible to deformations from its own weight when stored on stands or on the floor. I had to work with heat at home to bring my D back to shape, after it was displayed over some padded kayak racks in the store.
Does not track particularly well (zig-zag/yaw), so somewhat inefficient to paddle in a straight line for a long time. Takes effort to maintain high speeds (even though top speed is good for short sprints). But the D is not intended for such use, so not really a huge thing here.
No day hatch behind the seat, so items that do not fit in the small front day hatch that I would typically like to have at hand during day paddling but protected from water in the cockpit (more water, food, cellphone in case etc.), will need to be placed either directly behind the seat (where they could possibly get lost) or in one of the large compartments (so they are hard to access on the water).
I have been paddling the Wilderness Systems Zephyr 15.5 (plastic) for the better part of a year now. And having paddled it many times on the rapids of the Potomac below Great Falls (at levels ranging from 2 to 8 feet at the little falls gauge), having learned my first hand-rolls in it, and being generally quite comfortable in it, I thought it was time to see if the P&H Delphin can offer something different in the same conditions.
Me: 185lb male at 6'4" with US size 15 shoe and 36" inseam (hard to measure, but it seems a bit longer than most folks my height), waist 35-36" but apparently my hip bones are a bit wider than my waist line suggests. I'd say I'm an intermediate in that I feel comfortable in WW and surf and wind and waves and have taken a few classes along the way to show me that my technique needs work -;)
The Delphin is supposed to be a lot of things if we are to believe P&H's marketing. On paper (or rather on-line), it is supposed to offer some unique handling characteristics. And if true, this can potentially make it a preferred choice for my kind of paddling: mainly moving water paddling (class II/III) on a wide and relatively easy to navigate section of the Potomac river, some windy days on the Chesapeake Bay with nice sized wind chop, and the occasional short day trip on open or protected flat water with a group of local kayakers at a slow to moderate pace.
So what did I find after a little over an hour at my favorite play spots? The short answer: in my opinion, the design seems to live-up to its stated goals, for the most part. And, if there ever was a mass-produced sea kayak that can claim it can surf, this has got to be it.
Below is a summary comparing the P&H Delphin 155 (the "D") to my WS Zephyr 15.5 (the "Z").
The D has higher and unmoving primary stability compared to the Z. It starts solid and grows into a good secondary stability. The Z seems to have light primary, which immediately begins to progressively and smoothly grows into solid secondary (higher final stability than the D). I can lay-back on the deck of the D and (even though I have to lift my butt to do it), it would sit square on the water with no effort needed to balance it (e.g., using only its primary stability), where with the Z if I shift a little, it tilts sideways and the secondary stability kicks-in. So, a rather different feeling.
Speaking of layback, the Z is one of the nicest boats for this – very low rear deck and the seat is far away from it. The D feels like it has a slightly higher deck but mainly the seat is closer to the rear edge of the cockpit rim, thus interfering with a full layback. I can’t lay-back flat on the D without lifting my butt off the seat a bit, where it is no problem at all in the Z. Regardless, the D is not difficult to roll but the Z I find is marginally easier for me (especially for laybacks).
The bow of the D is easier to move side to side with a bow draw/rudder (due to the relatively flat bottom and that the sharp front edge is out of the water on flat water). The stern is harder to slide (without edging). In contrast, the stern on the Z is easier to slide in turns, where its bow is harder to shuffle left or right with a bow rudder (still easier than most other kayaks of similar or longer water line, due to a decent amount of rocker and full ends that reduce lateral resistance).
Speaking of the D's bow, it is noticeably less affected by cross-currents compared to the Z, which in turn is quite civilized in that regards. I did not expect it (due to the more vertical sides) but in fact, the D is more reassuring and stable in moving water than the Z. Both the bow and the stern are less affected by currents and eddy lines. So much so that a peel-out does not result in the expected sweeping action and hull rotation downriver and thus requires less attention and less speed to clear an eddy line.
The cockpit is longer and I can paddle with knees together even better than in the Z. There is a bit more foot room (the deck at my feet is narrower but taller than the Z) – I can wear shoes! Still a bit lower than ideal for my size 15 shoes, it should be plenty big for most "normal" sized feet. For me the D is a tighter fit (seat feels narrower), with a more connected feeling (less room on the outside of the knees). The width also feels narrower at the catch (where the paddle enters the water).
The D is faster by a little bit compared to the Z (confirmed by my GPS). Not a whole lot in terms of maintaining a speed over a distance, but may be 0.2 mph or so for the same effort that would allow me to paddle for miles on end. However, it seems to have a bit higher top speed due to full ends and longer waterline and more pronounced swede form of the hull. Bringing it up over 6mph with my short white water paddle was not a problem and I could go faster (did not try since I did not really care – it is not meant to go fast for long).
Flat water speed is not the D's strength. For me it is a 4.5mph cruiser, may be a bit faster if you put the power down. However, I found that I could attain against currents on lumpy rapids much easier in the D than I can in the Z. On the first try I managed to climb over one particular section of a rapid that I have never before been able to do in the Z at the same water levels. I tried it an hour later with the Z and could not do it by a long shot. So no question, the D is capable of higher bursts of speed. The D can do that and the Z can't due to a difference in the hull shape – on the D the rear is wide and buoyant with a flat bottom and does not sink down nearly as much as the rear of the Z when climbing over a pourover for instance. The bow does not lift as much either (unlike the D, the Z feels like it is climbing up-hill on the same water and stalls – the rear sinks down and the bow lifts up).
The D also planes easier so less of the hull goes through waves rather than over them. It has cleaner and faster release of the stern when surfing/submerged, which seems to make it more nimble and more eager to jump on a wave.
The D surfs better: catches waves easier and is faster down the face. In fact, it feels so fast that it can be more difficult to keep on top of the foam pile because as it wants to slides down the wave face.
The stern is well planted so stern rudders on steep short period waves felt ineffective. But bow rudders worked better than in the Z and were in fact effective in changing direction even when surfing small standing waves (about 1-2 feet high), as long as the bow was not cutting into the front wave.
The nose is harder to submerge underwater compared to the Z, but in steep waves suitable more for short WW playboats, it was not a problem to bury it all the way to my waist and it would have gone deeper was it not for hitting the river bottom. The Z gains volume faster from the bow back and has more dynamic lift at a steeper angle (the D has more vertical sides), so while it submerges easier and goes deep, it does not seem to have much problem coming out of the water nicely either.
The D has the famous P&H 4th hatch b/w knees. On some other models it has been in my way but in the D if is not in the way of knees together paddling. Still, my legs need to be positioned just so or my shins will make contact in a rather unpleasant way. But the convenience of a front hatch is undeniable.
The hull is stiff. But it is heavy! The tight braces do not appear to be adjustable, but maybe mine were just stuck (I did undo the pair of bolts and the braces wobbled, but they would not slide fore and aft – maybe I just don't know how to do it, maybe they are not movable). They were mostly in the right place for me anyway.
The Kajaksport hatch cover (large) I thought was harder to close than the current WS design with the hard plastic center. I also felt like the D's hatch covers were softer and yielded more easily in the center. Still, neither kayak had leaks in the hatches at all after an hour and a half each in the rapids with several rolls each. The D seems to have more storage room in the stern area due to more square profile and the smaller skeg box.
Speaking of the skeg, I found it hard to operate (depending on position). Very difficult to rise back up from fully deployed position (even with "proper" push action/no pinching). Worked fine from mid-way (maybe tension maybe friction prevents if to work smoothly from all the way down). Because the bow is so lose, dropping the skeg did not feel like stiffening the tracking as much as expected on flat water (but I could tell it works and makes the stern even less willing to release)
Without the skeg I thought the D tracked just fine. It felt balanced and would go in a straight line if I stopped paddling.
My WW-style full neoprene sprayskirt with a sticky rubbery layer at the rim, and that is watertight on the Z, leaked quite a bit on the D. That was from the two front sides (due to cockpit rim angle against gushing green water when the bow was submerged or I was deep in a foam pile on a wave).
There are fewer elastics on the front deck. They also start farther forward by several inches, which some may find too far (just fine for me - I still could hit my fingers on the sides, the only difference being that on the Z I hit the second set of fittings and on the D I do it on the first).
So did I like it enough to replace my Z with a D? Hard to tell. For the kind of paddling I described above, the D is slightly better in almost all respects: surfs better (I can imagine it will be even better on longer smoother faster waves), it attains better, is more reassuring/less affected by currents. The leaky skirt can probably be remedied with a different skirt design/manufacturer. And if the D was 10lb lighter, $500 cheaper, and the rear deck as comfy as the Z's, I'd say yes, I'd buy one on the spot. As it is though, I won't do it immediately but am still thinking about it. However, I more and more begin to question if I should transition off paddling WW in a sea kayak and increase the use of my dedicated WW boat for this. It just makes sense – the WW boat is more enjoyable and easy to carry to the put-in. So I am beginning to question if I even need a heavy plastic sea kayak to play in. But that's another topic…
As for the rating, it is mostly influenced by the relatively high price, heavy weight, and inability to do a full layback (especially for a shorter person).
The boat was fun to paddle in waves but the negatives are the deal breakers for me. It is no faster than my old Pungo, doesn't track as well, and has very inferior "moving parts". I will keep looking...
I rented the of these and paddled Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, CA with it. My goal for the day was to paddle windy conditions and start getting comfortable with leans and braces. This boat was a surprise, was worth the time, and gave me confidence. I think the version I paddled was a prototype, as was the seat. The renter mentioned it and I believe he meant the boat and seat.
The winds on the harbor were between 6 and 12 MPH. This boat weathercocked a lot for me at first, as the area ahead of the cockpit was much higher than the lower profile of the Easky. Once I got the feel fopr the boat and got the skeg deployed she tracked better.
The skeg on this boat uses the UK sliding lock design on the port side of the cockpit. The mechanism was very stubborn to use. Once the skeg was down, tracking in the boat was excellent!.
The seat design is OK. The pan feels OK and the back rest did not adjust easily. I mentioned this was probably a prototype, so enough said on the seat. I had no issues with it.
Turning this boat on edge was brilliant and easy. As a novice I got this boat to turn on a dime in windy & chppy conditions. I am still getting comfortable with leans and edging. This boat pushed me out of my comfort zone, as my Prijon definitely feels beamier, less playful, and I have not leaned in it as much. Breaking the keel free to turn tight was easy work compared to the Easky. I went to a zone of the harbor with 1' breakers and stayed sideways to them, bracing through them for practice. The responsiveness of the boat made the practice session well worth the risk of getting wet.
Water did not come over the desk at all as I paddled into the wind/waves. The bow is well cut for quartering or straight approaches on small waves without shipping any water.
As with the Easky, aesthetically I liked the lines of the boat, while the color, hatches and lashings were all unremarkable to me. The day hatch in front of the cockpit is a welcome and familiar feature for me.
The boat was light and easy to carry on my own, as easily I lifted it out of the water and carried it uphill and back into the rental area. My Prijon is a bit heavier and harder to manage.
Overall, 8 out of 10, using my other experiences in a Touryak, a Easky, and a Necky Looksha 14.5.
I would buy this boat new or used, but definitely customize the seat.
This boat handles best on flatwater when you are underway, creating a bow wave. If you are a lollygagging paddler, the combo of aggressive rocker under the bow and a cockpit that has been pushed back a bit will result in the bow being out of the water. This shortens your waterline and results in being more prone to weathercocking. Once underway, with some vigor, this becomes much less of an issue. I also found it very easy to roll. The outfitting in the cockpit makes the boat an extension of your body and she quickly responds to your movements. I really liked this body/boat connection, it's quite noticeable.
Overall, it is a well made, British boat from a company with a strong and well deserved reputation. There is one fly in the soup however… the skeg system. They recently redesigned their skey system to eliminate potential kinking problems with a skeg cable and to make field repairs much easier. That they have successfully done. This system also allows you to trim the skeg and lock in whatever position you choose.
Unfortunately, the system does have some issues. The click slider slides along the slider bar, push it forward to unlock it, slide it forward to retract the skeg and backward to deploy the skeg. The slider has a release button in it that catches on a notched system allowing you to trim the skeg to any degree of deployment. Retracting the skeg is where the problem is. When you push the slider forward, the skeg retracts, however, when you release the slider button the bungie tension pulls the slider back a bit before it locks on a notch. This results in the skeg being partially deployed even though you have pushed the lever all the way forward. The more tension on the bungie (in the skeg box) the more the skeg remains deployed. The only work around is to push the skeg slider forward without touching the click slider button. This requires some special focus, you need to push the slider forward with your finger tip (finger pointed straight and used as if a pencil or stick). You can also do this with your thumb tip. This works, but is not ideal. Versus not having to look at what you are doing, you need to be very deliberate and focused, likely not an issue for the vast majority of situations. Doing this if you are wearing a neoprene glove is much more challenging as the space you must push on with your fingertip is not big enough to accommodate a digit inside a neoprene glove without hitting the click slider button and resulting in a partially deployed skeg. Obviously, this will compromise your maneuverability.
If my description sounds confusing watch this video which features the skeg system in detail:
You can decrease the tension on the bungie cord in the skeg box by moving the bundie knot back, but I've found this does not resolve the problem as in order for it to eliminate the issue I've described you need to eliminate almost all tension and you end up having a floppy skeg.
An annoyance to an otherwise fine boat.