The P&H Delphin has shaken things up in the world of sea kayak play over the past couple of seasons and the new Aries is sure to do the same. What do you get out of P&H’s newest composite sea kayak? Lets take a look.

Why the Aries?

Many of the people that I have talked to at shows and symposiums over the past year have asked me “Why the Aries?” Why would you want a composite playboat when the Delphin performs so well? And is the Aries really that much different than the Delphin? The short answer is, yes, it is and yes, you want one.

Aries at Play

I had a chance to paddle the first Aries out of the mold last February. A group of us from P&H headed out to Anglesey Island in Wales to meet team paddler Olly Sanders and put the Aries through its paces.

We didn’t get to paddle the big Anglesey races. There was a storm blasting in off the Irish Sea that put the west side of Holyhead out of bounds. Our group had enough trouble just walking around on the clifftops overlooking Porth Dafarch. The wind was gusting well over Force 8–you could lean into it and it would hold you up!

Given less than ideal conditions on the outside, we decided to head over to the Menai Straits in search of more protected moving water conditions. We found a nice standing wave with eddy service next to the old fish trap on Gorad Goch Island and settled down to paddle the Aries head-to-head against the Delphin.

Jumping from the Delphin to the Aries the first thing that I noticed is how much more dynamic the Aries felt. Compared to the Delphin, the Aries accelerated faster and was more nimble. It was much more responsive to weight shifts and was easier to throw around on the wave. I found myself catching the wave easier and staying on it longer than I had in the Delphin. Bottom line is that, for me, the Aries surfs noticeably better than the Delphin.

John Carmody making it look easy somewhere on the coast of Maine. Marty Naggot photo.

Aries as an All-Arounder

I had my own team Aries for all of a month before leaving it with John Carmody up in Maine. In that time I paddled the boat enough to decide that it was going to become my everyday sea kayak.

For the past couple of seasons I’ve been using a Cetus MV for my everyday boat, and the Cetus is a great choice for this. It is way more nimble and fun than most expedition-capable boats. So, why switch to the Aries? Because I don’t see myself getting away for a two-week trip anytime soon. And, nimble as the Cetus is, the Aries is whole lot more fun when you get a chance to play.

The Aries is plenty fast. It has a long waterline–longer than a Capella 167–and that translates to more speed than you’d expect from a boat so short, quick and maneuverable. If you have the opportunity, take an Aries out and sprint it next to a conventional 16-foot sea kayak. I think you’ll be surprised. The boat is fast. Faster than the Delphin and every bit as fast as most of the boats that people consider to be weekend tourers.

How does the Aries compare to more conventional short touring boats? Speed is about the same as most 16-footers, but the Aries has a lot more maneuverability. The Aries will go where you look as soon as you turn your head and shoulders. This is a big advantage when you are playing but it may take a little getting used if you have only paddled longer touring kayaks. Of course, dropping the skeg stiffens the tracking right up. The Aries is surprisingly neutral in the wind under most conditions due to the slight stern-weighting of the seat placement. It will weathercock a bit in a cross wind, but no more than most shorter touring boats.

Is it Tough Enough?

Yes, of course it is tough enough. The Delphin opened up a lot of high-impact rock play that we just hadn’t explored up until now. But that doesn’t mean that a composite kayak isn’t a good choice for playing on the sea. If you are planning to boof a rock in the impact zone, you probably want to opt for the Delphin.  But for anything short of that the Aries is plenty tough. Most people I know aren’t interested in sea kayaking with elbow pads. And if you don’t wear a full-face helmet on a day tour, you’ll will appreciate the improved performance that the Aries shows over the Delphin as an all-arounder.


If you paddle like this knucklehead, you might need a Delphin, otherwise the Aries is plenty tough. John Carmody Photo.


Why the Aries?

By now you can probably guess that I think this question is a bit backward. For most paddlers the Aries wins hands down. The real question should be, why would you choose a Delphin instead of an Aires, not the other way around.

As I see it, there are only two reasons to choose the Delphin instead of the Aries. The first is the very real difference in price between the two boats. The second is the increased impact resistance of the Delphin.If your budget doesn’t accommodate the Aries right now, or if you’ll be in the rocks a lot, by all means, go for the Delphin. But if you are looking for one boat to do everything, or a playboat with a little more performance, the the Aries is the boat to choose.

Proof is in the Pudding

Obviously the only way to decide if the Aries is the right boat for you is to go out and paddle one. Preferably in comparison to other playboats and weekenders. And preferably in some real-life conditions. Our dealer network is a great resource for arranging a test paddle and we’ll be out at demo days and symposia all across Europe and North America this season. Get the boat out on the water, give it a try and see what you think.

Here is a link to the Aries on P&H’s web page.

Brian Day works for P&H in the US and occasionally gets out for a bit of paddling. You’ll probably see him out and about at events this season in the US and Canada.