The New P&H Hammer

My thoughts after 2 days in the Hammer 
by Bill Vonnegut

This boat is not on the market yet, but I had a chance to take out the pre production model.
P&H's Hammer comes across as an effort to blend the best of the P&H Delphin and Pyranha Fusion and I think they did a wonderful job. 

I will start by saying that I own and have been using both these boats for the past couple of years and am an avid lover of both. The Delphin, in my opinion, is the best all-around sea kayak on the market. And I have been having lots of fun paddling the Fusion as my go to rock garden boat for the last couple years.
Hammer and Delphin
Last week I picked up the Hammer from California Canoe & Kayak, where it is living right now, if you want to see it live. And had the opportunity to paddle it over two days, logging over 10 hours in the three categories that I wanted to try this boat in:
1) Surfing and ocean wave play
2) Rock Gardening
3) Tide rip play

So here is my take on what I thought about this boat...

The short version:
1) Caught waves nicely and very maneuverable, though if you catch the wave to late the high rocker that makes it surf so well also tends to let it quickly broach.
2) While surfing, once speed is introduced the boat starts planing, takes off and is easy to control by putting it on edge
3) It will effortlessly punch over about any wave you dare try, and you don't get the body slam that you would feel with other boats
4) It will do a 180 flat spin with just two strokes (1 forward 1 reverse), I put it on edge and its about the same but seemed to spin better flat
5) It's not fast, but will get you where you want to go
6) Tracks straight-with some skeg
7) Super stable, even when getting tossed around in chaotic white water
8) Edge turns on a dime, similar to the Delphin if you lean back slightly put a little extra weight on the rear outer corner it turns much sharper
9) Good primary, secondary and a bonus stability point where it locks in on its side, I have never seen a boat with such a solid feeling on its side.

The long version:
I met my friend Mark Boyd out at Bolinas last Fri for a day of surfing. This is a great place to catch long rides on days when the swell is large, as it was that kind of day. It faces south so the large north swell tends to wrap around nicely.

We started the day playing around in some small nicely formed surf, about 2-3 ft. The waves were clean and slow. The Hammer caught the waves nicely and maneuvered quite well.

After a while in this spot we decided to head to the outer reef and wait for the tide to drop, Bolinas really needs low tide for the kayak surfing to be good. 

Photo by Mark Boyd

We paddled out to see mostly reformed waves from the 10 footers that had plunged on the outside reef. This is where I had my "ah ha" moment for this boat. I was able to catch a fairly large and steep wave and found the Hammer loves to go fast! The boat has a sweet spot where it starts planing and turns into a different animal. I would have to describe it as just a light feeling. It just flies down or across waves and turns more into a surf kayak rather than a sea kayak. The boat just goes wherever you decide to edge it.

Punching through surf:
Did I say this boat surfed well? Wait until you have to punch out through a big set. I found myself paddling through very large piles of foam that I regularly do with my Delphin. Where I would normally build speed, jam the paddle in the back of the wave, and take the hit as I pull myself over. So it took a while to get used to just gliding over waves that I normally have to be very aggressive with. This boat just rode over anything I hit with it. It was so effortless that I would just paddle and try coasting over some decent size waves just to see if I would make it. I made it every time I tried this. 

Photo by Mark Boyd

Rock gardening:
Saturday Steve Lidia and I had a Tide Rip class to teach for California Canoe & Kayak. I needed to be there by 9 then I was going to pass off the boat to Steve after the class. I really wanted to get this thing in the rocks before I let go of it. So that morning, I arrived at Horseshoe cove at 6:30 am, geared up and did a sunrise paddle out the Golden Gate.

I found this boat super stable and tracked great while running some pour overs.

I also did some playing on a couple of ledges, one where the water flows up then back into a deep hole, and the other where it slammed against a wall and bounced back creating a large reflecting wave. I found myself driving deeper into these spots and getting tossed around more than I normally would on a solo trip. The boat was so stable and easy to control that I could not stop pushing it harder and harder and it was hard to find a limit.

One of my favorite things to do in my Fusion is ride up on a ledge spin 180 and paddle off. The Hammer does that with ease. It spins just as fast as the Fusion but at the same time, does not get thrown around as much. It really goes where you want to be and it does not let the ocean push you around.

Photo by Mark Boyd

Tide rip:
Later that morning we headed out into Yellow Bluff, our local tide rip that resembles a large washing machine where random surfable waves roll through whenever they feel like it. I found the boat to be as I expected, super stable and I was able to catch some waves and turn from one chaotic wave to the next, working my way up the rip. I did find as I was lightly paddling forward the waves coming up behind me would turn the boat 90 deg as they hit. But this boat turns so easy, a quick stoke and I was back on track. I did not have any problems when I was paddling harder and working my way up the rip.

I really can't think of anything negative to say about this boat. And the only small advantage I can see to the Fusion over the Hammer is it's shorter, so may be friendlier in tight spots and small caves. But if you have a good reverse stroke this wont be a problem.

Recently my Fusion was stolen and I need to replace it. There is a good size cost difference between the two boats but I am thinking, it's Hammer time!

I am still a big fan of short boat play for rock gardening and I consider the Hammer more of a short Sea Kayak. Now that I will have something to travel distance and play hard, like the Fusion. In addition to the Hammer I am going smaller to my true white water boat for short boat play in the rocks. Watching Jeff Laxier up in Mendocino flow through the rocks in his Jive makes using a true WW boat very appealing.

I just spent 3 more days in the boat and still like it very much. Here is a little more on it.

 As I stated above that the boat tended to turn sideways when hit from behind by a wave in Yellow Bluff.
I have also found this happens as a wave comes up from behind while running a higher volume pour over. But as in the tide rip, this can be easily compensated for by paddling a little aggressively.
Next time out I am going to try stowing my gear in the front hatch instead of the day hatch. I would like to experiment with a little more weight in the front of the boat. It may help resolve this issue. Also I wish it was a little lighter as to make it respond faster. But at the same time I do like the strong lay up.

I would have to say overall the boat maneuvers very well through out the rock gardens and is allot of fun.
I should also add that I did not mention the outfitting, because it will be different in the production model.

Now how about some video of the hammer:

We just headed up to Mendocino for my first big trip since I picked up my new Hammer. This boat is fantastic. I have a new video shot from the Hammer, it only shows the bow, as I filmed it. But really shows what this boat can handle.


  1. Nice review Bill. I would love to play on (with) the hammer sometime .

  2. Nice writeup, Bill! Sounds like P&H did a great job with this boat. Looking forward to paddling it.


  3. Great review Bill. I'm looking forward to paddling it myself!

  4. I plan on getting Hammered this weekend. 10ft @ 17sec, or 11ft @ 15sec?

  5. Great boating in the videos, man. As a WW paddler, I'm now interested in trying one of these things out. Looks fun!!

  6. A step in the right direction for sure. Many positives whats important is whats wrong with it.
    The skeg control is well located however the Skeg fell apart after 30 mins of use. Nice control but the mechanics are very poor P and H seem to be having many problems with the skeg system. There is a dedicated help form you can submit to get assistance with the skeg system which is nice but no other manufacture I know needs to provide this the skeg design is flawed and unreliable.

    Its very heavy. Needs a little more volume in front of the paddler its too narrow here as opposed to the mountains of volume in the stern. Its difficult to roll given its aimed at novice paddlers. Why does a dayboat need 4 hatches.

    The deck is well designed its comfortable possibly a little narrow around the knees.
    The finish on the hull is rough. The friction caused by this reduces top speed. Compare the finish with other rotomoulded plastic boats.

    A good development in ocean play but it needs tweaking. Its trying to be too many different things and is master of none.

    Please sort you skegs out P and H I would have bought a Cetus also but the skeg alone has cost you another Sale.

  7. Just getting a used P&H Hammer in yellow/white/black from a guy who just took it down the Colorado River...can't wait for it to get here!! First one with the Pyranha "color scheme" I have seen so pretty excited to get it out on the water! Thanks for an awesome review and these film clips, Bill.

    Scott L

  8. PBW and the blue jandal experienceApril 10, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    Just sneared me one of these here critters. Hope to ride it for more than 8 seconds.

  9. Picked me up a Hammer primarily to surf. I also have a 14 ft Boreal Kasko but it didn't have the rockers or flat hull the hammer does. So far I have been riding "wind waves" ( 3-5 ft) and not ocean swells. Even got some video for Utube. However I have been able to put it on its side and ride the rails along the wave face, something I could never do with the Kasko. The other great thing with the Hammer is doing a surf launch from cobble beaches, flat hull equals stable seal launch. Im vary happy with it and although the skeg has come uncoupled from the shock cord a few time, I plan on adding a "cage" on the skeg to stop the cord from slipping off the side. Dont know why P&H hasnt done anything like that.


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