Gear Review: P&H Hammer Sea Kayak
Value Rating: 7
Durability Rating: 9
Overall Rating: 8
Location of Test: Pool session, Cape Kiwanda, Canoe Pass on ebb tide
Duration of Test: 15 hours
Product Name: Hammer
Product Brand: P&H
Best Use: Surfing, big water multiday river trips (eg: Hells Canyon)
The Full Review:
The Hammer is a weird looking boat. it is a strange hybrid of a sea kayak and whitewater kayak. The deck looks like a short sea kayak and has all the needed sea kayak goodies: 4 deck hatches, perimeter lines, bungies, and solid grab handles. The hull of the boat looks like someone took a whitewater rodeo boat and stretched it out to 13 feet long. Strange looks, however, mean great performance in this case, IF you're a good enough boater to use it.
This is not a beginner or even an intermediate friendly boat. It demands constant attention and aggressive paddling, and it rewards that with long, controlled surfs and quick, single sweep stroke 180º flat spins. But if you are lazy, you will spend a lot of time upside down, and it's an absolute pig to roll!
The boat is designed for ocean play like "Rock Gardening"(running pour overs and slots around the rocks close to shore) and surfing waves. To that end, it has a flat, planing hull for most of its length, and a very slight keel at the bow to prevent pushing much water while paddling in flats. It has a skeg, which is needed when paddling flat water (only needs to be dropped down about 25%). The deck is rounded and has a LOT of volume (too much, in my opinion), which makes it pop up like a cork after punching through waves on the paddle out through the surf line. It really doesn't punch through them as much as glides over them.
The flat-bottomed planing hull makes this boat the best surfing, most controllable long boat I have ever used. It handles more like an HP or IC class surf kayak or wave ski than a sea kayak. Once it gets on plane, it absolutely TEARS. IT. UP! You can drop down the face of a wave and crank a bottom turn without the boat washing out and spinning sideways.
That same planing hull and sharp edges though, make for a very twitchy, unforgiving boat when rock gardening!
If you have the skills to keep the hull aligned with the current, eddy lines, and boils in a rock gardening or tiderace environments, it will reward your attentiveness with instant response, but it's a very tiring boat to paddle in those conditions for long periods of time. It demands your full attention and absolute feel of what the water is doing underneath you. If you feel a boil forming underneath you and don't switch your edge fast enough, you're going over, and the Hammer is a major BE-OTCH to roll on those conditions. Paddling this boat will make you a better paddler because it is in no way forgiving. To me, at my level of paddling, it's worth it for the surfing (OMG!! THIS THING SURFS LIKE A DREAM!!!!) and I happen to like boats that you need to paddle aggressively. If you have the skills to paddle a planning hull whitewater playboat in Class IV or V runs, you will love this boat in the ocean's version of creek boating!
It's also heavy!! 62 lbs!! You don't feel it while paddling, but getting to the car from the water, or vice versa, is a chore! That weight though is because it's built like an oversized whitewater playboat. It's not going to break very easily, if at all.
The outfitting is all typical P&H/Pyranha, which is excellent, in my opinion. "Connect" seat and bracing, front pillar, bulkhead foot plate, well-sealed foam bulkheads and non-leaking Kajaksport hatches!
It's a niche boat, but if you paddle that niche, it's awesome! ... as long as you don't slack off!
Proper sea kayak safety rigging (perimeter lines, bungies, grab handles)
Flat spins quickly
Excellent primary stability
Unforgiving of mistakes
The Bottom Line:
I want one! I spend enough time in the surf that its quirks and unforgiving nature are worth it because IT SURFS SO FREAKING AWESOME!!!!