P&H Kayaks made in China

-- Last Updated: Sep-23-05 2:02 PM EST --

I was just wondering if anyone else had heard that P&H will be having their kayaks produced in China next year and if so whether this has affected other people’s purchase decisions?

A friend was at the recent European Kayak Show and apparently P&H has told some of their dealers that part of their composite range will be made in China next year, nobody seems to know exactly what models/constructions they will be having made there but presumably it is a cost saving measure. Are they closing UK production?

A P&H Capella had been on my short list and I’m not sure how this makes me feel about that decision. Know one has seen any of the products so I have no logical reason to doubt the quality but as a prospective consumer I have obviously based all my thoughts connected to this purchase on the British made kayaks I have seen and demo’d. Additionally there are all the other concerns over a company making a new (to them) product and teething problems that are bound to arise. Do people think they will have there own quality control staff out there? If I do buy a Capella and get one of the Chinese ones will it be the exactly the same spec. as the genuine British one and will it state clearly the country of manufacture?

Anyhow I just wanted to get other peoples thoughts, possibly someone from P&H can give us the heads up!

Happy Paddling, John

I’m not sure what to think of that. Speaking as a very LOYAL P&H boat fan and paddler. I think maybe I’ll stick with buying a P&H boat that is a year or two old.

I’m too content with the boats(2) I have bought from them previously. Will have another soon…



I’d pay more for a product built in the USA by companies that conform to clean air and water standards, and pay a living wage to their workers. But I’m a minority. You just have to look at the outdoor equipment industry and bike industry to see the pattern. Once the kayak companies figure out the shipping issues, it’s a done deal. If you look at what’s happened to the industry the last few years you’ll understand why a smaller outfit like P&H may be forced to find cheaper labour. I’m thrilled to see companies like QCC approach the market the way they do with quality product sold direct. I hope companies like Impex, Eddyline, Epic, etc. can continue to differentiate with quality products, low overhead, and great service. I hope the specialty dealers weather the plastic storm.

half the things you buy now …
you aren’t aware of it perhaps but much of what you already buy is probably made in china or other eurasian countries. and they’re made very well. alot of patagonia and northface stuff for example.

yes, we’d all like to buy ‘american’ but the fact is that it’s business … it can be manufactured alot cheaper somewhere else. this translates into less expensive for you to buy as well, so all is not lost.

will not be a problem. Just look at the furniture industry. Lumber is shipped from Canada to China to be made into furniture. It’s then shipped back to the US and sold here for less money than a locally-logged-and-made piece. Simply amazing


My company manufactures
plastic products (not kayaks) in the United States. We manufacture 97% of what we sell. We import 3% from the Far East. My experience is that there tends to be initial quality issues upon introduction of a new mold or process to a Far Eastern source.

Trying to be objective because I am a pro-American manufacturer, I would not initially purchase a yak whose manufacturing facility has changed countries.

If I would purchase it at all, it would be after the product reached a fair degree of maturity in that foreign country.

That said, it depends upon how rigorous the QC standards are at P&H and how they will monitor foreign production and the quality of the plastic resin used in the process.

I believe I heard Greg Barton say Epic kayaks are made in South Africa. The quality is good, as long as the workers are paid a living wage I am ok with that. I have a hard time buying outdoor clothing that is not made in China, one of the reasons I buy Kokatat when I can, because their products are made in the USA.


Much of my Kokatat gear says “Made in Canada.”

I own a lot of Kokatat. I think it is some of the best available. Canadians have good labor practices and so much made in Canada is the best.

Is it still a Brit boat?
Is a Birt boat made in China still a Brit boat?

It is a shame if the Brit kayak manufacturer with the best QC reputation decides to have their boats made in a country notorious for abusive labor practices.

Maybe you could email Peter Orton, who left P&H for Valley and get a sense of what is going on at P&H. From what I’ve heard from Peter, I can fully understand why he left P&H.

It is true, but!
I confess to being in a bit of a dilemma over this one, yes I have inside knowledge due to friends within P&H and its parent company (not to mention my 13 years at P&H) and therefore feel I can clarify the situation. However equally, as I will be seen as a competitor I don’t want to appear to be attempting to gain advantage from my post. How I have balanced this in my own mind is to only clarify and comment on the things that I know are already privy to people outside of P&H and that are therefore relatively public domain, this information coming from a mix of mutual suppliers, dealers, customers and associates. Also to separate what I believe to be fact from my own experience and opinion I will deal with both separately. Finally I would welcome direct comment from P&H/Pyranha to clarify or correct any mistakes or omissions I make.

The facts as I understand them: Yes there is intent for both P&H’s and Pyranha’s lower end products to be made in the far east for the 2006 season. Composite in China and Poly in Thailand, moulds are certainly in place in Thailand, boats have been sent to China. Higher end production will currently stay in the UK. I believe the cut off in the P&H range will be Easky’s/possibly Capella’s, others will remain in the UK. Although there is talk of this being extended to most standard Diolen construction sea kayaks at alater stage. To the best of my knowledge no composite product is yet in the distribution chain. Poly I don’t know.

Comment and opinion: Again these are purely my personal views. Yes if done correctly there are cost advantages to production in the far east. Yes other industries have done this very successfully with very high quality product being produced. However there are big challenges. If you are the size of Nike the amount of business muscle you have is huge, you are effectively taking over entire factories for these factories to screw up and loose Nikes business would be catastrophic, plus nike is big enough to have a team of their own out there full time ironing problems out. The problems as a small (and all kayak companies come under this banner, P&H is approx 12-15 employees total) customer are two fold: Firstly you can’t afford to have your own QC people out there on a permanent basis and with shipping etc it is often a couple of months before you discover something has changed and you do have a problem, problem causing changes in composites can be as simple as a different batch of materials/new staff etc. Secondly as a smaller customer you will often find the company who takes on your work then subcontracts it out to another company without even telling you.

These problems happens all the time, a friend of mine (in the soft goods trade) was all set to visit the factory he was dealing with in China, had already booked his flights, days before leaving he got the message “why do you come to China your products are now made in Taiwan!” a total shock to him. Again not a problem in itself, especially on a more simple product but with such a complex product as a composite sea kayak, where training of staff takes time (we had employees come from motorsport and aerospace backgrounds who months later still were not up to speed with what was needed for our kayaks) the challenges are that much greater. My prospective has always been the simpler the product the easier and more likely the success and that any company attempting far east production should not see it as an easy or cheap option, there will be issues and these take time and money to put right. It is certainly not something Valley is considering.

I wish them all the best


Heard somme talk of Current Design doing some of their composite rec boats in China also. I hate to think of these boats as just another industrial product.


Perhap there is a company in China…
…that’s courting the composite kayak industry?

Nice post, Peter
You summed up the issues well without being overly biased. Perhaps you have an alternative career as a tightrope walker. :wink:

I’ll consider it
I’ll consider that if I ever fancy a career change!

I was speaking
with a friend who has been in the bicycle retailing business since the early '70s. He has watched manufacturing move from Europe to the US to Japan to Tiawan to China. He feels that the next move will be to India and Vietnam. Manufacturing seeks out low-cost labor, and the third world has lots of that. I suppose the next move after Vietnam will be to the aboriginal peoples of the rainforest.


Thailand is hot now
We call this “following the sun” when a company shifts operations to lower cost sources.

What is wrong with China? Do you know they have electricity and water distribution now? They are producing their own cars now? I live in Boston, when I go by MIT it is almost all Chinese. I work in biotech- again alot of Chinese. Do you truly believe Chinese people cannot make a FG kayak? Is quality a company issue or Chinese people dont have enough brains? Shoddy workmanship is not endemic to Asia. Is it?



– Last Updated: Sep-23-05 2:04 PM EST –

I don’t think either myself or anyone else in this thread was demeaning Chinese peoples ability to produce dam good products in almost any product sector. I suppose my concerns are connected with a company with a very long history of producing a proven product switching production to a company and workforce potentially unfamiliar with its requirements.

I think I would have the same concerns if I had heard that they were switching production to another factory in England especially if I thought none of the current workforce was involved and that the management were trying to run the new production facility remotely.

Sorry if I caused offence, it was not intended

It is not a question of standards
or intelligence or motivation. In our dealings, with several different sources, the modus operandi is not to produce the highest quality product at the outset of a new venture or product cycle. If it does not meet the prevailing acceptance criteria, it is then upgraded in increments until it is accepted at the lowest tolerable cost.

No apology neccessary-Im not Asian nor was I offended by anyone. I was making more of a general statement on “Made in China” being thought of as a bad thing. Quality is a problem that falls on the companies shoulders. Im sure working conditions in China are horrible and its wrong. However, so were the Ford plants and the textile industry in this country- things were worked out eventually. The desperation of poverty makes it acceptable to these people to work under those conditions. It is up to them to change those conditions- like it was up to Americans or English or whoever- to improve conditions.

If P&H still considers quality important then nothing should change. If they de-emphasize quality then it will be obvious and we dont buy their kayaks.