Long known as one of the three premier United Kingdom-based sea kayak manufacturers—and instrumental in reintroducing sea kayaking to modern recreational paddlers—P&H Sea Kayaks has a legacy that dates back over 50 years.
P&H Kayaks was founded in 1968 and quickly became known for their design, innovation and quality. Initially, the brand built boats for kayak and canoe slalom and kayak surfing. Original designs, such as the Phazer and MKII, are still fondly remembered today by industry veterans.
In the late 1970s, P&H Kayaks applied their expertise crafting river and surf kayaks to manufacturing fiberglass sea kayaks. Designed by late industry legend, Derek C. Hutchinson, P&H sea kayaks soon became popular on the open coastal waters around the United Kingdom, as well as North America and other world markets.
The mid-‘90s saw P&H Kayaks pivoting once again, bringing rugged and affordable rotomolded polyethylene kayaks to market with the introduction of the Capella sea kayak, one of my all-time favorite designs.
In 2004, when founder Dave Patrick retired, P&H Kayaks was acquired by Pyranha Kayaks, a leader in whitewater kayaking also based in the United Kingdom. The two companies enjoyed a long history of partnership dating back to the 1970s, collaborating on designs and co-manufacturing for each other, so the merger was a natural transition.
Recent years have seen P&H Kayaks lead the market once again by developing kayaks that continue to reflect what customers want. A great example of this is the trend toward shorter and smaller sea kayaks suitable for day trips and more playful conditions. P&H models like the Aries, Delphin, Virgo and others have quickly gained favor among those who love river and ocean surf play, while still having enough storage capacity and versatility for multi-day trips.
P&H Kayaks set themselves apart not only through their industry-leading designs, they also offer buyers the opportunity to customize every kayak to suit their unique needs. Customers can choose from various composite materials such as fiberglass and Kevlar, as well as several hull thicknesses ranging from lightweight to expedition-grade for increased durability.
You can also choose from a palette of vivid colors to create a one-of-a-kind look for your kayak’s deck (top), hull (bottom), cockpit coaming, decklines and bungees. P&H will even install accessories like compasses, bilge pumps and custom graphics to make each paddler’s kayak truly unique.
P&H Sea Kayaks has always remained true to its goal of producing paddler-tested designs for avid kayakers. The result is a lineup of P&H kayaks that perform well and are comfortable to paddle, meant for kayaking enthusiasts who take the sport seriously and are willing to invest in a quality boat to achieve their paddling dreams.
Whether you are looking for a kayak for multi-day expeditions, kayak surfing, day tripping or one that has multiple uses, P&H Kayaks has a model for you.
Our picks: Best P&H kayaks for 2022
Paddling Magazine has had the distinct honor of not only test paddling and reviewing every P&H Kayaks model, we have also bestowed many with our industry leadership awards. These include the P&H Virgo, which won the Paddling Magazine Industry Award for Best Touring/Recreational Kayak 2019, and the P&H Valkyrie, which won a Paddling Magazine Industry Award for Best Sea Kayak 2020.
Use our P&H Kayaks best-of list to narrow your search, compare different models and gauge your paddling aspirations. All this will help you find the perfect kayak match.
Shop P&H kayaks
Our Paddling Buyer’s Guide features every P&H kayak on the market. Filter them by type and click on specific models to see specs, prices, reviews and where to buy.
Shopping for a used P&H kayak?
Like any high-end kayak, P&H Kayaks will hold their value for a very long time. This is especially true of composite kayaks that are kept in good shape. You may discover the P&H kayak of your dreams listed for sale on a buy-and-sell website like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or Kijiji. If you’re lucky enough to track down a used P&H kayak, there are some things you should keep in mind before you buy.
First, examine the overall condition of the P&H kayak. If the kayak is made from a composite material like fiberglass or Kevlar, look for gelcoat wear on the hull (bottom) and deck (top). While scratches and “spider webbing” (faint cracks that don’t penetrate the gelcoat) are generally cosmetic rather than structural, you can use this as a bargaining tool to save up to a couple hundred dollars.
This type of wear is also easily repaired by a skilled hand. More serious damage, like punctures or deep gouges that expose the fiber weave, can also be repaired professionally so this may not be a deal-breaker if you’re able to get a good bargain.
For plastic P&H kayaks, look for wavy deformities or indentations (called “oil canning”) in the kayak hull. These speed-sapping dents are an indication the kayak has been stored improperly or strapped too tightly to a rack for extended periods. Plastic kayaks stored outside with prolonged UV exposure are the most likely to show oil canning.
Again, this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but it could mean the kayak will wear out more quickly than one without UV damage. Deep gouges in the hull can be repaired by someone experienced in plastic welding. Plastic is an exceptionally robust material, and most scratches and wear will be superficial. A well-loved boat will have some hull dents and dings, but most of these won’t affect how the kayak paddles.
Also examine outfitting like decklines (non-stretch cords that run around the perimeter of the deck), bungees (stretchy cords laced across the deck that are used to stash maps, water bottles and other small items) and hatches. If these parts are worn out or damaged, they can be easily replaced at a nominal cost. Expect to spend a few dollars for new decklines, while replacement hatches can cost up to $75.
Pay particular attention to the seat pan, foot braces, rudder controls or skeg (retractable fin that drops out of the stern), as these parts may be manufacturer-specific items that are not readily available for older, out-of-production kayaks. If you feel some of these larger items need to be replaced, contact P&H Kayaks or one of their dealers regarding replacement availability and costs for replacement parts.
Buying a used kayak in 2022 is a very different exercise than it used to be pre Covid-19. The pandemic has caused people to enjoy activities closer to home, and one of those activities has been kayaking, causing the new kayak market to be almost entirely sold out. Which in turn has increased the value of kayaks in the used market.
It used to be that used kayaks would sell for about half their new retail cost. Now, kayaks that are several years old are frequently listed for close to new kayak prices. My 17-foot-long fiberglass sea kayak that I purchased in 2009 for $2,000 would likely fetch very close to the same price in the current used market. Buyers also need to be cautious of predatory pricing tactics by some used sellers.
Cross-check prices in our Paddling Buyers Guide, and if a price seems unusually high, call a P&H Kayaks dealer for their opinion on the used kayak price.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.
P&H kayak buying advice
P&H Kayaks are sold at paddlesports retailers across North America. The brand produces a reasonable number of models in various categories, making it easy to figure out the right P&H kayak for your needs. The current line-up of P&H Sea Kayaks features 16 different kayaks across eight models ranging in length from the playful Virgo at 14 feet long to the expedition-ready Cetus HV at 18’3”.
To find the perfect P&H kayak match, first decide what kind of kayaking you want to do, or more realistically, what kind of kayaking you plan to do most of the time. This will determine where you should be focusing your research efforts. There’s no sense in buying an ocean play kayak if you plan on spending most of your time on calm waters, or in buying an expedition kayak if the majority of kayaking you plan to do is short day tours.
P&H kayak types
P&H Sea Kayaks are available in four categories: Day/Weekend, Ocean Play, Fast Sea and Expedition, with some versatile kayaks straddling two different categories. Here’s an overview of the models available and what type of paddling each is best suited to:
- Day/Weekend: Leo
- Day/Weekend & Ocean Play: Virgo, Volan
- Ocean Play: Aries, Delphin, Delphin II
- Expedition: Cetus, Scorpio II
- Fast Sea & Expedition: Valkyrie
Day/Weekend kayaks are generally shorter kayaks at 14 to 16 feet in length and are ideal for those wishing to take the kayak out for day trips or shorter overnight trips. Day/Weekend kayaks provide less storage space for supplies, but are highly maneuverable and well suited to navigating meandering waterways. This agility also makes some models equally suited to Ocean Play.
Ocean Play kayaks are 14 to 15.5 feet long and have more rocker than a dedicated Day/Weekend touring kayak. Rocker relates to the curve of the hull from bow to stern, or the amount of upsweep from the middle to the ends of the kayak. The more rocker, the more maneuverable the kayak.
Paired with a flatter hull profile at the mid-section, this allows Ocean Play kayaks to excel in rough water activities like surfing and rock-hopping (paddling among wave-washed rocks).
Expedition and Fast Sea kayaks are 16 to 18 feet in length with a primary purpose of multi-day trips and longer expeditions. The longer length provides an increase in storage space for provisions.
The increased length also equates to better glide, higher speed and superior tracking (the tendency of a kayak to paddle in a straight line) for a fast and efficient touring kayak.
P&H kayak volumes
Many P&H kayak models are available in different sizes, or volumes, to fit various body types.
Low volume (LV)
Low Volume kayaks are designed for shorter, or more petite, paddlers. Those wanting a tighter fit with more contact between themselves and the kayak, providing increased boat control, may also opt for a LV kayak.
Mid volume (MV)
Mid Volume kayaks are best suited for the “average” sized paddler. At 5’11” and 210 lbs, this is the size that I would opt for in most designs.
High volume (HV)
High Volume kayaks are intended for larger or taller paddlers. They also have more storage volume for camping and tripping gear. Paddlers with more girth or wider hips may find more comfort and better fit in a HV kayak. Several friends who are in the 6’4” and 225-lb+ range would likely enjoy the fit of an HV kayak.
Remember, online research will only get you so far. The best advice we can offer is to always test paddle before buying any boat. The more time you can spend on the water in a similar style of kayak, the better the purchasing decision you will make.
P&H kayak materials
Finally, the material the kayak is made from will likely weigh into your purchasing decision, in terms of both performance and price.
P&H offers different materials on different models. Kayaks designed for surf play and rock gardening are typically manufactured with their proprietary CoreLite X polyethylene plastic. Some expedition kayaks are also available in this material. P&H plastic kayaks can take a beating and keep on playing. This strength comes with added weight; a composite kayak of the same length may be 4.5 kg/10 lbs lighter. However plastic kayaks are typically cheaper than comparable composite kayaks.
P&H Kayaks has several composite layups available for customers to choose from: Kevlar, Diolin or Kevlar/Diolin and Kevlar/carbon blends. These composite materials make the kayaks lighter and also allow the customer to take advantage of the P&H Kayaks customization program. Choose from loads of different color combinations to make your kayak a one-of-a-kind showstopper.
Along with being lighter than plastic, composite kayaks are sleeker, more rigid and faster. While plastic may be more impact-resistant, composite layups are also very durable and can be mended in the field by a well-equipped kayaker with the appropriate repair kit and training.
Each material definitely has its pros and cons and it is worth talking to your dealer about the type of paddling you wish to do before settling on a model and material.
P&H Kayaks are priced at the higher end of the new kayak market. Expect to spend from $1,400 USD for a plastic Day/Weekend touring kayak, up to $4,550 USD or more for a composite Expedition kayak. In my opinion, P&H kayaks are very much worth the cost.
The quality of construction is top notch, as are the industry-leading outfitting and designs. Investing in a P&H kayak assures many years of paddling pleasure. And if you do decide to sell, a P&H kayak will hold its value far better than a cheaper entry-level kayak.
Want to know more? Find our answers to the most common questions about P&H kayaks below.
P&H kayak dealers
P&H Kayaks are only sold through authorized dealers. Visit the P&H Kayaks website and consult their dealer locator to find one near you.
Where are P&H kayaks made?
P&H Kayaks are made in the United Kingdom. They are designed in the UK and the USA.
P&H kayak reviews
Paddling Magazine editors and reviewers have test paddled the entire P&H Kayaks line-up throughout the years. Find our reviews and impressions below.
- Boat Review: P&H Scorpio MKII LV Kayak
- Boat Review: P&H Delphin Kayak
- Boat Review: The Easky 15 By Venture Kayaks
- Sea Kayak Review: P&H Virgo
- P&H Hammer Kayak Review
- Boat Review: The Bahiya by P&H