P&H DELPHIN 155 RM
($1,799 in roto-molded polyethylene, phseakayaks.com)
L: 15.5′; W: 22.5″; 58 lbs.
The British design philosophy: You need speed to play. This tenet rings true for the Brit-made Delphin, the popular new plastic cousin to P&H’s composite Aires. “We wanted this boat to handle like a traditional sea kayak on the flat,” says P&H designer Richard Taylor. “But come alive when it hits moving water.” The hull midsection planes out flat like a whitewater playboat, so it spins easily, but since the stern is squared off and the cockpit placement is positioned closer to it, straight hull speed and tracking are not greatly affected as the stern stays engaged. Frankly, it took some coaxing to get our testers to paddle anything else once they tried it. “It’s fun to paddle,” more than one tester said. There’s enough storage space between the three hatches for day-tripping or shorter overnight trips, but it’s not meant for longer expeditions. You’ll be too busy playing in the surf to make much distance anyway. The aggressive bow rocker and water-shedding deck resurfaces the boat quickly when punching through big waves, and the combination of hard chine in the bow and soft chine in the stern make for both fast edging and a more forgiving ride for beginners. Combine that with comfortable, easy-to-adjust outfitting and a low back deck for smooth-as-butter rolling, and you’ve got a whole new breed of play-specific sea kayak.