Photo: Bill Vonnegut Paddler: Bryant Burkhardt

The Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium organized by Matt Palmariello and Sean Morley continues to be one of my absolute favorite events to attend.  It, along with other recent rough water instructional based symposiums, are continuing to grow and shape the sport in exciting ways.  The students and coaches these events draw always make for a high energy and enthusiastic atmosphere that is intoxicating and contagious as hell.  Safety and FUN is the name of the game and it shows.  What a BLAST!   

Fellow team boater Matt Nelson, 8 sea kayaks perched high atop the P&H rig, and I all managed to make the trip down to San Fran. from the Pacific NW for the event’s 5th year!  Matt and I have both been going to “Golden Gate” since the beginning, but this year we had something extra special to look forward to.  We were both eager to get our hands on the latest proto-type “concept boat” introduced at The Outdoor Retailer show late last year. We couldn’t wait to “put the Hammer down!”  It was definitely time…

Leading the charge, P&H Custom Sea Kayaks has stepped up and is introducing a boat that is proving to be what I think is the first true Play / Freestyle boat built for the sea!  It’s due out soon, but is still being tweaked and updated as the team gets to paddle it and offers their feedback.

Photo: Bryant Burkhardt Paddler: Paul Kuthe

We put “business before pleasure,” as we both take coaching the courses seriously, but still managed to have our cake and eat it too!  I had first crack at it while leading a Rock Gardening 101 course on Friday and Matt had it during Long Boat Surfing.  After the symposium we headed North to the Mendocino Coast to REALLY put the Hammer through it’s paces!

The boat’s shorter length, unique volume distribution, carving edges and flat planing hull gave it solid stability, speed on the wave and spin on a dime maneuverability; While the drop skeg, 3 bulkheads, and proper sea kayak rigging and outfitting including a day hatch and convenient 4th hatch up front, made this boat sea worthy ready for some serious salt water action!

The fit was just OK for me at 5’10” and 175 lbs, but some seat alterations are being considered to allow more knee and thigh space.  The “Connect 30” whitewater style outfitting offered a familiar, comfortable and adjustable fit maximizing contact and control without getting in the way.  The Hammer’s precision performance and open water range came together beautifully to allow for a super enjoyable paddling experience.

This is not just a park a play machine.  It was able to cruise right along with most standard sea kayaks for short journeys and felt quick and snappy on the water.  It only took a few strokes to match wave speed and start shredding.  The boat surged forward on even subtle waves making it capable of paddling longer distances using swell energy assuming a following sea.  I could tell it wanted to surf.  Paddling into wind chop I noticed waves were slapping at the bow a bit, but this disappeared once surfing down wind.

Photo: Bryant Burkhardt Paddler: Paul Kuthe

Set flat on the wave, the Hammer was loose as a goose and willing to go almost anywhere I liked.  Once on edge, it drove the line and was capable of cranking wicked bottom turns with major thrust and speed.  Amongst the rocks, it felt cushy and confidence inspiring.  Never feeling locked into any certain boat angle made it possible to commit to bigger waves, tougher slots, and more massive pour-overs.  It was predictable and easy to manage in turbulent tidal races and was manageable in the wind with use of the drop skeg.

The Hammer has the volume, safety features, and capabilities of a sea boat in a shape that could change the way we all think of sea kayaking and open up new possibilities for our sport as a whole.  I have a feeling there will be a waiting list to try it at Baja Fest, Fundy Bay, Lumpy Waters, and the UK Storm Gathering all happening later this year! Be sure to check out The Hammer at these upcoming events and at your local retailer starting this Spring!!

Thanks again to Sean and Matt for another great GGSKS!